Navigating eCommerce in the Current Climate
We don’t need to remind you that these are volatile times. As more businesses adapt to Business-Not-As-Usual, we’re here to confirm that eCommerce is playing an integral role in shaping how we interact online. It’s now more important than ever to adapt how you participate in this evolving landscape and strategically plan for what happens next.
You might be a merchant that’s experiencing a spike in sales. We’ll guess that you’re in the essential product or services category and your concern right now is perhaps how to meet the increased demand that is burdening your operation. On the other hand, you might be the merchant who is experiencing a dip. The kind that you (and your forecast) were not expecting. Your concern right now might be how to stay relevant, or worse, how to stay afloat. Things might feel overwhelming, but we’re here to narrow your focus and help you work out what to do next while keeping the bigger picture front and centre.
What we're sure of
We know that the status quo is rapidly changing. We also know that while it’s important to stay informed, it’s more important to stay aware of your own pulse and adopt a proactive approach to how you manage your business. The sooner you plan your next move the better you’ll weather this storm. Remember, eCommerce has been here before; Alibaba grew significantly through the SARS crisis in 2002. If you use this time wisely, you can leverage whatever position you’re in to do the same.
Make yourself available
As we’re urged to isolate and practice social distancing, more consumers than ever are turning to online shopping to avoid crowded, public places. This habit won’t disappear when the virus does. So focus on building relationships with your audience and make yourself available where they need you the most. Review what channels you have available to connect with your customer. Are you reaching them by email? SMS? Push notifications? Facebook messenger? Live Chat? All of the above? This is a great time to assess your ecosystem and consider whether you need to adjust, automate or consolidate your communication. Systems like Gorgias will help you consolidate your communication touch points into a single platform – think of it as a multichannel customer service tool that brings all your customer communications into one place. So you can be present where your customers are, but only work with a single tool. Another way to make communication simpler is through marketing automation – platforms like Klaviyo, Dotdigital and Emarsys are important tools to include in your eCommerce arsenal to ease the burden of communication. If you work with Shopify Plus, you have a myriad of options for automating functionality, so talk to us to learn more about what you can do here.
Also consider if your desktop experience has received the attention it deserves. With more users working from home, expect desktop metrics to increase. Which means, it’s time to update your User Experience to focus on your desktop interaction.
Honest communication is key
Build credibility and trust with your audience by leading with integrity. Proactively address customer frustrations and operational business changes. If you expect to see delays to the delivery window you normally offer – adjust your shipping terms & FAQ’s. Update order confirmation emails and perhaps set up a marketing automation sequence that sends customers an email if they have not had their order dispatched within your ordinary time frame. If your customer service is impacted, be transparent about the challenges you’re facing to maintain goodwill and minimise damage to brand loyalty. Increase your customer support resources if you can. And remember, if something happens that is out of your control, jump on the front foot. Nothing is business as usual right now – your customers will understand and appreciate your humanity.
Focus on engagement & alternative conversion goals
Marketing may feel irrelevant right now. But the market will settle. Ride out the uncertainty by focusing on all the meaningful interactions that you can foster through your digital channels. Be aware of the climate and conversations around you. As more people are directed to socially distance and isolate, their online activity increases – providing you with a more captive audience.
If your offering is non-essential, don’t be discouraged by slowing revenue, rather start to consider alternative conversion goals – like growing your customer email database. Also consider reducing social media ad spend while social media conversations are centred around the evolution of the virus. If you’re a non-essential product or service, step away from cluttering news feeds and save your marketing dollars for where your customers actually want to see you – Google and email. And of course, consider implementing your eCommerce roadmap to prepare for when this whole thing blows over.
Rethink the online experience
A key eCommerce prediction for 2020 was the consolidation of the online and offline experiences. What we didn’t anticipate was this concept flipping. We’re now looking at how to bring the in store experience online. The Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its stores during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. By moving all beauty advisors from those stores to the online space through social media, they achieved 200% sales growth compared to the previous year. So if you’re a bricks & mortar retailer who’s had to make changes to their retail strategy, consider how you can offer a similar service and experience virtually.
Finally, it’s important to start thinking about what happens next – when this crisis is over. This is a great time to plan your recovery strategy. If you’re investing in new omnichannel strategies to support your business now, how does the evolution of these channels look? What new strategies will you keep? Equally important is to consider what you will drop. Start planning for product or brand launches. Work through that technical debt. Accelerate that digital transformation while you have time to focus on it. Scope out that new web project. All the housekeeping that was not possible before. When the downturn is over, you need to be ready and you just might be grateful for the time you have now to prepare. If you can invest now, do it. The future of your business may depend on it.
*Convert Digital is staying respectfully aware of the current climate and adjusting to support our staff, partners and clients. In the coming weeks, we will be announcing various initiatives designed to keep our community connected, informed and inspired. We invite you to follow us on LinkedIn to stay in the loop and encourage you to participate.