How Coronavirus is Affecting E-Commerce Businesses, and How They Can Adapt
As consumers are sheltering in their homes, the detrimental impact from the COVID-19 virus is affecting brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce retailers alike.
During this unprecedented situation, some e-commerce merchants are finding their products are selling faster than average and are having issues keeping up with demand, while most retailers offering “non-essential” products have seen sales sharply decline.
Conducting work and school from home has pushed the demand for computers, phones, printers, and other office products as people adapt to this way of life.
Other items selling well are home gym equipment, cooking utensils, and home improvement products. To subdue cabin fever, board games, streaming media, and some hobby products are selling more than average.
Bidets are selling like hotcakes due to the repercussion of panic, which has, for some reason, caused an odd shortage of toilet paper in local stores. Since when did homes need a three-year supply of this precious paper? But other brands selling non-essential products, like luxury goods and high fashion, are suffering across the board.
How Can Small Businesses Adapt to This New World of Retail?
We've all been watching the news interviews of small business owners scared of the uncertainty of the future, with daily business stopping dead in its tracks. All I can think while watching and listening is, “WE MUST ALL ADAPT” — and as soon as possible. Business owners must find ways to adapt and adjust their business models to survive these uncertain times.
Here are some examples of great adaptation that I have seen recently:
- Food Service: One of my favorite local restaurants has been able to adapt by offering takeout and delivery exclusively. The wait staff has begun taking orders over the phone and delivering food, and the restaurant is able to sustain a level of sales to justify staying open.
- Cosmetics/Personal Grooming: My local salon has started selling home color touch-up kits, tailored to your existing formulas on file.
- Classes: A Tennis Academy is now doing video consulting and creating videos of exercises and lessons you can work on at home to keep your skills sharp. Instead of running face-to-face lessons, scuba training centers are offering online academic courses and cold calling customers recommending they ship their dive equipment in for servicing.
- Subscriptions: E-commerce companies which usually sell paid subscriptions are offering FREE access to their premium services, such as online workouts or classes, for a limited time. Giving away these services during this time for free can be a great strategy by building a base of users who take advantage of your free offer who will eventually convert into paying customers.
Some tips for e-commerce businesses on how to make the best use of this time and adapt:
- As more people are home and spending time online, content marketing is essential. All companies should pay attention to their email capture strategy and consider writing blog posts, creating YouTube videos, and other content to engage their customers.
- Focus on having great products, trimming costs where possible, treating customers well, and maybe even adding new products or focusing marketing on current products more geared to this new type of lifestyle. Work on your website's performance. Site speed is more important than ever as internet service providers are getting overloaded.
Lastly, no matter what your business is, spend some of this “extra” time reaching out to your customers personally, even if it's just to check up on them. This personal contact will make a difference once we're past this, and your customers will choose to return to your store.
Mark Lewis is the CEO of Netalico Commerce, a specialized e-commerce development and design firm for Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce e-commerce development.
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