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eCommerce and Corona Virus

March 20, 2020
By now you have read plenty about the current health crisis, known as the Coronavirus or COVID-19, that is gripping the nations around the world. Our DotcomWeavers team is right there with all of you, wondering what is the next regulation to be released and what this all means for our businesses (specifically the small and medium-sized business (SMB) marketplace that we work with most – because we are ourselves an SMB).

The current global crisis has and will continue to change the world’s economy for weeks and months to come. If initial reactions by many people rushing out to buy as much from the grocery store as possible are any indication (did you get your toilet paper?), any sense of returning to a consumer shopping normalcy is a long way off. Just look at China, where retail sales dropped by over 20% since the virus started spreading.

The one thing that is certain, is that people will be eager to get back to business as usual. In some cases, the public is already finding ways to discover a new normal that is sustainable in any economic and public safety situation. We have already seen changes in the eCommerce marketplace, in many cases for the better. Shopping for goods and services online provides the public at large a connection to their favorite businesses, products they need, and a view of the outside world; all from the safety/comfort of their homes with quick (and safe) delivery or pickup.

In many cases, having an eCommerce infrastructure for your business may help you weather the storm better than if you don’t have one. Just look at the changes that are currently happening with how businesses operate:

While these changes are reactions to the current climate, they are likely changes that will continue long beyond the COVID-19 virus’s effect on the public’s health. Every business that is living through this is redefining its normal for themselves and their customers. The key is not to be afraid of this new normal, but rather adapt and overcome.

So what can you do as an organization? How can you weather the storm, and come out the other side stronger for it? We have a few recommendations to help:

  • Offer e-gift cards – Social media is filled with locally-minded people urging their friends to buy gift cards now to keep businesses afloat, knowing that services will be delivered after the health concerns have lessened.
  • Easy product returns – give your customers a way to easily print labels at home through your site, and have the shipping company pick it up from them.
  • Subscription-based discounts – one of the easiest ways that you can forecast sales and help consumers always have what they need is subscription discounting. Maybe you sell sanitizing wipes and your supplier has a limited supply. Subscriptions help you predict the necessary stock and more easily prepare. Your supply chain will thank you!
  • Special pricing – the best motivator is always the price. Maybe instead of discounted products, you offer a gift card incentive to visit in-person at a later date. A great way to build relationships now while cultivating future shopping trips.
  • Pickup/discounted shipping – make sure that your store gets noticed now to build a reputation for your future. Offering free or discounted shipping, curbside pickup, or even your own delivery may be a great encouragement for shoppers that helps them look beyond the fear by giving them a safer experience.

But be careful to not act in such a way that communicates a perception that seems self-serving. You should still follow your brand standards, and approach any ‘in crisis’ change in a way that communicates social responsibility. Simply put, don’t forget to give back during this time. The right idea might both be an incredible form or outreach and provide you with some great in-kind promotion through the media. Have you seen that distilleries around the country are brewing hand sanitizer instead of liquor, and giving it to organizations that need it? This is a big departure from the companies that are raising prices on common goods to take advantage of people.

Ultimately, this is all made easier with a good eCommerce platform that allows you to be flexible and ready for anything. If you have something like Magento, Shopify, or a good eCommerce plugin on WordPress, you are in good shape. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be concerned, but you should be ready to act on getting something. Start small with a basic e-gift card module and cart. We have designed many integrations that can help you quickly get up and running. Or, if this is the motivation you needed to do a full eCommerce launch, we can also help you with that. Building an end-to-end eCommerce solution is our specialty, with some of the best designers and support professionals in the industry.

Kris Pursel is the Director of Sales and Marketing for DotcomWeavers.

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