Five Realities that eCommerce Businesses Must Adapt to During the COVID-19 Crisis.

During this time of uncertainty, we are seeing major shifts in the buying habits of consumers, especially online. Some of our clients’ sales are soaring right now, while others have taken a major hit.

While we can’t predict what the months ahead will bring, or even tomorrow, there are things businesses can do now to help guard against potential declines and build future success. This isn’t business as usual, and your messaging and marketing tactics shouldn’t be either. 

Our team is proactively strategizing with each of our clients to help them weather this season well. We want to share more about our approach to marketing strategy at this time and offer some tactics that we believe can be helpful for other eCommerce businesses.

What’s Happening Today

What’s true about the present times? Identifying some of the current trends will help us identify better solutions. For the structure of this blog, I’ll define a present trend and follow with some tips based on it. 

People are Spending More Time at Home

Most of us are spending more quality time than ever with our family and furry friends. Those who can are working from home and those looking to stay fit are needing to get resourceful while their gym is closed for the foreseeable future. Social gatherings are replaced by social networking and puzzles are now a shameless Friday night activity.

Show How Your Product is Still Useful

With most of the nation at home, do you have products that can be utilized to help fill their time? Don’t assume people will put two-and-two together. And don’t be afraid to directly address families being home and having more free time available. 

Our client, Tombow, knew there would be many crafters at home looking for a new project and hosted a free workshop for their site visitors. More than 9,000 Tombow followers registered!

Many people are using this time to learn new things or take on at-home projects. Create content with DIY project steps, how-to articles, and videos, that show your products in action. Send links to this content through email, social media, and even add it to product pages. 

If your primary products do not fall into a category that would be useful during this time, focus on secondary products. For example, if you sell clothing and/or shoes, data is showing purchase declines in this industry.

Slow marketing efforts for those products, and lean instead into other secondary products that may be a lower price point. Consider updating your messaging and content by gathering user generated content (UGC) such as “Your best mailbox looks”, or posting articles such as “What is the best way to clean your shoes?”

People Are Spending Less Money

The stock market is down and unemployment is up, so it makes sense for people to be a bit more cautious about making a non-essential purchase. I know that sounds a bit grim, but the good news is that this isn’t going to last forever.

Build Customer Relationships

Now is a great time to improve customer relationships through social media and email. Capture those email addresses and get new followers.

Do you have email pop-ups on your site? Offer a discount on their first purchase after sign up! 

Do you have cart abandonment emails set up? 

Are you asking people to follow you on social media? 

This gives you more opportunity in the future to upsell, cross-sell, promote new products, sales, etc. far beyond the current environment. This holds true whether your industry is booming right now, or sales are declining.

Build brand awareness and capture new potential customers for when they are ready to purchase again. 

Get Creative for Deal Hunters

While it’s true that most people are spending less right now, there will always be those who see the downturn as an opportunity to “buy low”. If your company is in need of cash, consider some deep cuts to prices to help attract deal hunters.

Offer bulk pricing, or create kits or grouped products at a discounted price. This will help move more product and increase average order value.

Another idea is to promote gift cards and give shoppers a free gift with their purchase. They may not need your product right now, but give them incentive to buy a gift card to get something later. For example, for every $30 in gift cards they purchase, give $5 for free for a future purchase. 

Shipping and Fulfillment is Backed Up

Amazon isn’t shipping non-essentials for weeks, and Prime is no longer promising two-day shipping. Even many smaller companies are struggling to keep up with shortages in manpower, packing materials, and product. For the businesses that are seeing an increase in sales, the delivery and supply chain are quickly becoming areas of challenge.

Be Transparent

If your fulfillment times are affected, get in front of it. Be transparent about shipping estimates and potential inventory issues early in the buying process. Don’t let customers go through the checkout process only to see in the last step that the product will not be available. This can cause them to become frustrated and choose a different company. Transparency with consumers builds trust.

Adapt Quickly

Much of our nation’s workforce is being confronted with layoffs as businesses are being forced to close. Would hiring temp workers help get your product packaged and shipped faster? Or contracting with another company to aid in your efforts?

Additionally, communicating these efforts will not only help you keep up with sales, but also signals to consumers that you are a business they would want to support now and in the future. 

Many businesses are struggling to meet demand due to packaging issues. Are you able to update the type of packaging you are using? Are there US suppliers, particularly local, that can provide a variation of what you are currently using at least temporarily? 

Focus marketing efforts on products you have a heavy supply of. Particularly if you know these are items that are getting harder to find in physical stores. Likewise, reduce or stop marketing efforts on low supply items. This can increase your ROAS (return on ad spend), and keep products moving through your doors. 

People Are Afraid of Catching the Virus

Shoppers are taking many precautions to avoid situations that could put them at risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. Of course, that means more people are going online for items they would have typically bought in store.

But we’re still learning about how the virus is spread and many fear the risk of transmission even by their packages. That’s why many warehouses and fulfillment centers are taking extra safety measures to protect both their employees and customers.

If you’re taking extra precautions, communicate this to customers! Share about the new practices your company has in place and how you are pro-actively responding to this situation. Our client, Marlow White, created a dedicated landing page with a helpful infographic to reassure their customers.

We Only Get Through This Together

Don’t be afraid to be open and transparent about how your business is weathering the storm and how you and your employees are doing. People want to feel connected, especially during this time. They want to know that your company cares about their employees, about the consumer, and that they are experiencing the same things at this time.

Let them know you are there to help them make this time a little bit easier. 

People want to feel good about their purchase, and feel good about the company that they are purchasing from. Has your business hired more employees? Given bonuses or pay increases? Kept paying employees despite layoffs? Let people know!

Are you able to donate a portion of your profits to a local charity that is supporting those out of work or medical professionals with food or other necessities? If so, choose a vetted local charity, and let your customers know. Our client, Jasco, gives 50% of their net profits to nonprofits. Right now, they’re highlighting groups aiding with COVID-19 response.

Data shows that charitable giving increases average order value because consumers feel as if they are directly donating to a cause. 

As Fred Rogers once said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

As you and your business are navigating this difficult time, look to be a helper. Consider what you can do for your employees, your community, and your customers. People are looking for you, and they will remember you when things get back to normal. If you can be a helper now, you’ll be a business they’ll want to support when we all get through this.

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