Covid-19: How Can Ecommerce Businesses Adapt

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we live. Things that we used to do only once in a while, such as working from home or ordering food online, have now become a routine. We’re experiencing difficult times, and while some people are seriously struggling to adapt, others have been able to find opportunities in all this chaos. 

How are businesses holding up?

While some companies are facing bankruptcy or have already shut their doors entirely with no chances to recover in sight, others are taking a leap of faith and starting new businesses. 

My newsfeed is constantly being bombarded by ads from recently launched stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables organically grown in local farms. I’ve also noticed an increase in food delivery platforms and wellness subscription boxes filled with self-care and relaxation products. Some people are seeing the glass half full and acting on it. 

Covid-19 is shifting consumer behaviour

Because of isolation, social distancing and restrictions, thousands of brick and mortar stores have closed down and consumers have no choice but to stock up on essential goods from online stores. 

The ‘lucky’ businesses that are selling food, medications, personal hygiene and cleaning products are experiencing a boom in sales, while others are struggling to survive. 

Amongst the fastest growing ecommerce categories in the US we have: disposable gloves with a 670% boost in sales, bread machines with a 652% growth rate, medications for cough and flu with 535% increase in ecommerce sales, long lasting food items (+397%), fitness equipment (+307%) and dishwashing supplies (+275%). 

On the other hand, the fashion industry is experiencing a huge decline. Products like suitcases, cameras, swimwear, wedding dresses and gowns saw a significant decrease in online orders, since travelling has been suspended, and weddings postponed. 

How can ecommerce stores adapt to the prevalent Covid-19 crisis?

For those of you who aren’t selling essential goods online, there are still a few things you can do to keep the business running and get through this crisis in one piece, so to speak. 

1. Empathize. Listen to your customers and learn what they need

In the midst of a global crisis customers have changed their priorities in order to adapt to new rules and restrictions. Implicitly, their shopping behaviour has changed as well. They have other fears and doubts, desires and motivations. 

In order to keep the business running, your job is to listen closely to your customers and adapt to new demands. Get to know them all over again. In this context, user research becomes crucial. It’s time to take the pulse of your audience and adapt your messaging and marketing approach based on your findings. 

You can do this by setting up heatmaps and session recordings, launching polls on pages with low conversion rates, sending out customer surveys or going through your chat transcripts. You can find more details on our dedicated page on user research in time of pandemic

2. Be responsible. Ensure a safe and seamless delivery process

In order to avoid close contact with a potentially infected person, make sure all packages are being delivered to your customers’ doorstep and implement contactless delivery as a safety measure. 

Also, make sure that the persons in charge with delivering the items all wear protective equipment such as disposable gloves and masks to avoid exposing customers to unnecessary risks. 

It’s also essential to communicate with your customers regarding the way they should handle the packages received. Since the virus can linger a few hours on different types of surfaces and up to 24 hours on cardboard, it’s your responsibility to remind customers that it’s vital to wash their hands upon touching the packages, as well as clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and tables. 

3. Be transparent. Let customers know if you’re facing logistical challenges

If you sell products that are in high demand these days, you’ll certainly be facing logistical challenges. Delivery times could increase even if you have in-house logistics or you collaborate with shipping companies. 

Work closely with your team and shipping partners to find prompt solutions and more importantly, let customers know the steps you’re taking and the efforts you’re making to fulfill their orders. 

Trust and communication are key nowadays and how you choose to communicate with your audience in times of pandemic it’s a make-or-break point. It could cost you your entire business, but if you play your cards well you can come out of this crisis with even more loyal customers by your side.

4. Be understanding. Ramp up your customer service and offer prompt support

Think about the fact that older people are now ordering things online, since they can’t go out anymore and do their shopping. These people have questions they need prompt answers to, since they are new to shopping online. Show understanding and reinforce your customer support services so that your new customers could benefit from proper help at any time. 

Because you could be experiencing an increase in demand and thus, an increase in delivery times, your customer service team will most likely be swamped with calls. Hire more personnel or train your existing staff to deal with stressful situations in this period. 

Your customer service should remain positive, helpful and easily accessible for all customers, even if we’re all going through hard times. It’s the only way to keep customers close and have them return to your site to order more.

5. Be efficient. Reevaluate your checkout process and optimize if necessary 

Now more than ever you should optimize your checkout. Make sure that it’s easy to use, payments are secure and you’re being transparent regarding shipping and delivery times and costs. 

Remove any distractions from your checkout pages and minimize friction. Customers are already on the edge considering all that it’s happening, so they might not be as patient as before. You need to have a seamless checkout process and they need to be able to order quickly, without having doubts or being stressed out by the lack of trust or security. 

Simplify your order process and make sure that even new customers who have no experience with online shopping can effortlessly place an order on your website. 

Final Notes

It’s hard for everybody. The Covid-19 outbreak is changing everything. But if you act promptly and spruce up your website and services, you should be fine. And we’re here to help you do just that: be fine. 

If you feel you could use some help with understanding your customers or optimizing your website to meet new market demands, know that we’re here. Just drop us a line at contact@ontrack.agency and we’ll talk about it.

By Cristina Neagu

I am a CRO specialist with a focus on consumer psychology & behaviour.

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