As if the high street wasn’t struggling already. The COVID-19 virus, more popularly known as the coronavirus, is wrecking the most instant havoc on the globe since the Second World War. As more and more countries enforce nation-wide lockdowns, larger swathes of the world’s population are quarantined indoors. Sales in brick-and-mortar establishments have dive-bombed almost instantly. However, a combination of boredom and stockpiling has driven a surge in online orders.
Although the coronavirus disruption is unprecedented in recent years, there is data that shows global pandemics can be a boom for ecommerce companies. In 2002 and 2003, the SARS virus ran wild internationally. During this time, China’s largest online retailer JD.com and Alibaba saw massive growth.
The key in a crisis like this is to be flexible. The food industry is a fantastic example of rapidly altering behaviour. While sit-in dining is going downhill, many food establishments are ramping up home delivery and drive-thru operations. Ecommerce has come a long way since 2003 so it’s in a much better state to handle a global viral epidemic. Here are some top tips to remember:
Monitor the situation closely
Things are shifting abruptly day-to-day. Nobody knows what will happen and how long COVID-19 will take over the news. Keep checking your country’s updates on national legislation and recommendations – they change fast. Keep your staff informed as much as possible and provide any extra support if necessary. It’s imperative that you speak to your suppliers regularly. Find out how they’re handling the situation and if there are any possible concerns on the horizon. Learn about their plans for both likely and worst case scenarios.
Map out risks and concerns
Identify what falls within your control and how you can help things along. Create a detailed worse case scenario plan, establish who does what and at what point this plan is triggered. Map multiple responses for different outcomes so if one thing doesn’t work, you’ll have something to fall back on.
Ensure product quality control
Your supplier may have fewer members of staff working. There could be horrendous supply chain issues. If sales shoot up, it’s likely your supplier will be working faster to fulfill more orders. This could unintentionally result in mistakes being made and corners being cut. Discuss with your supplier how they’re managing changes and steps they’re taking to maintain quality control.
You want to be prepared if that huge uplift in orders arrives. Remember that Amazon’s organic search and advertising algorithms will penalise you if you don’t have the right stock levels. If you have an item that’s out of stock for more than 30 days, its sales history will be cleared when you restock it. It’s possible that your supply chain will be affected and in this case, order additional stock as soon as possible. Also ask your suppliers if they can release their stock early.
You’ve probably already received COVID-19 emails from companies you’ve subscribed to or ordered from. If you haven’t already, let your customers know what you’re doing to minimise coronavirus-related disruptions. For instance, can you still maintain your delivery times? Have you disinfected your entire warehouse? This transparency tells the customer that your company is proactive and constantly thinking about them.
This year won’t be like last year or any before it. As there are so many unknowns, you may want to revise your sales, budget and return-on-investment targets for the quarter and even the year. Do you want to reallocate spend into different channels?
Perhaps you’re already learning now is the time to have contingency suppliers. Maybe your supplier is struggling to cope with this coronavirus environment and they’re slowing down, increasing their prices or straight-up going bust. It’s worth looking at how other suppliers are doing and diversifying your income sources. Things could be okay for now but another globally disrupting force could emerge in the future with similar or even worse destabilising effects. It’s always best to be prepared.
In a time of necessary social isolation, ecommerce can really make a positive difference in people’s lives and even save them. Monitoring the unfolding coronavirus situation and planning for changes is the best way you can manage it. Be flexible and make sure your staff, customers and suppliers are informed of all changes. This could last for quite a while yet. testing about some data