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How eCommerce Businesses Adapt to the Pandemic

eCommerce
Nathalie Nilsson eCommerce business analyst and author
| 7 min read
ECommerce businesses adapt to the pandemic blog preview
ECommerce businesses adapt to the pandemic blog preview

The SARS epidemic of 2002-2004 is often credited as being a driving factor behind China’s rapid adoption of eCommerce. Now in 2020, COVID-19 is having an even greater impact and on a global scale. The future of online shopping seems bright and many eCommerce businesses adapt to the pandemic by making significant changes.

So what can you do to improve the odds of your eCommerce success?

Ensure the safety of your employees

One aspect of the widespread digitalization of business is proving to be particularly advantageous in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic: the ability to work remotely. At Forbytes the entire company are socially distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As our work is purely digital, we are still able to work and reliably deliver results from our homes.

However, eCommerce is not a purely digital endeavour. There are people working in the supply chain that cannot do their jobs from home.

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that relies on donations and their eCommerce store to keep running their writing events. While most of their staff can work from home, they still have a warehouse to run. In response to the pandemic the company reduced the staff in the warehouse to just one employee on-site at a time. Making the most of a bad situation they then sent an e-mail to all their participants and in one swoop achieved four things:

  1. Showed that they care about the safety of their staff.
  2. Reminded their participants how important their eCommerce store is for NaNoWriMo.
  3. Informed customers of potential delays ahead of time.
  4. Offered a discount on all products.

Compassion, promotion, information, and a call to action. All delivered with the usual good cheer and friendliness that is on-brand for the company.

Your eCommerce store may be too big to reduce the number of on-site employees to this extent. However, consider if you can provide protective gear, hand sanitizer, or rearrange how people work to ensure that your staff can keep a safe distance from each other. Once you have done everything that you can to ensure the safety of your people, don’t be afraid to let your customers know. It sows goodwill towards your company, while also encouraging others to do the same for their employees.

Reallocate employees

Hotels, restaurants, and cinema have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has led to layoffs. For many eCommerce companies, however, the increased demand for their products means an urgent need for labour. Some eCommerce companies, such as Alibaba owned Hema, have chosen to cooperate with these particularly vulnerable businesses to kill two birds with one stone.

Reallocating employees from empty restaurants to delivery and warehouses not only prevents layoffs. It provides quick support for eCommerce companies that find themselves struggling to meet the sudden increase in demand. It also improves the odds that the staff can return to their original job once the dust settles.

Update your inventory

Another way that eCommerce businesses adapt to the pandemic is by offering new products that are truly needed in times of quarantine.

Son of a Sailor typically makes handmade gifts such as jewellery and accessories. However, luxury items such as these have seen a drop in sales due to the coronavirus. The company has responded by adding a product collection page called “boredom busters”. By also offering puzzles, cookbooks, and card games they broaden their target audience significantly. What’s more, the new customers who may only have been interested in keeping boredom at bay are likely to check out what else the company offers before placing their order.

Consider alternative suppliers

As the coronavirus changes eCommerce both in terms of supply and demand, the supply chain has proven to be particularly vulnerable. Once the virus hits the region where your supplier operates, production slows down or even comes to a halt. The solution may be to not put all your eggs in one basket. By diversifying your production and spreading it out over different regions your eCommerce business becomes less vulnerable to local complications.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that the future of online shopping relies on eCommerce stores having alternative suppliers at hand. Some businesses have turned to India to replace their Chinese based factories. However, many eCommerce businesses adapt to the pandemic by looking closer to home. For companies in the western hemisphere, this can be a costly alternative. Nevertheless, it is easier to keep on top of local developments than global ones. By keeping your production domestic, you are also less likely to be affected by transportation-related complications.

Review your ad spending

Many companies are reducing the amount of advertising that they do. This is not just to save money, but also due to concerns about the supply chain. Advertising a product that you don’t have is a waste of money after all. On the other hand, as there is less competition, ad costs are going down. At the same time, people are spending more time online. This means that digital ads can be a good investment if your product is relevant to people in quarantine and you are confident in your supply chain.

When eCommerce businesses adapt to the pandemic, they must also remember to review any ads that they are running. Are your ads still relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic? Amarex Group manufactures outerwear and swimwear. As international travel has plummeted, they have re-evaluated how they market their products. Today, suggesting that their swimwear would be great for a day at the local beach is going to have more success than any mention of holidays abroad.

Expand your reach

Brick-and-mortar stores are seeing a decrease in foot traffic, even if the products that they sell are still in demand online. For some customers, this can prove a major hurdle. Many live in areas where companies don’t deliver, such as the countryside. However, when the customer cannot come to you, you must be willing to deliver to the customer.

The supermarket Tesco has previously offered 660,000 home delivery slots to its customers. Now that the coronavirus keeps more people at home, the company has found themselves unable to meet the sudden increase in demand. Tesco responded by expanding their online shopping capacity by over 20%. The number of home delivery slots has increased to 805,000, with an aim to prioritise delivery to the most vulnerable.

Providing easy and reliable online shopping is going to be essential for many companies going forward. If you need help setting up or optimizing your eCommerce website, please contact us.

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