The entire country, and the entire world, is facing an unprecedented situation with the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Not least since the Government announced stricter social distancing rules on March 23rd. For most of us, that means changing our day-to-day lives in ways we weren’t expecting.
Employees are working from home. Parents are looking after their kids in ‘term time’. And we’re all told to stay two metres apart in public.
Ecommerce businesses are no exception. Let’s face it – even the most well-prepared ecommerce merchants might not have considered a global pandemic in their risk management strategy.
But that doesn’t mean you have to bring your business to a halt. In this post, we’ll look at four key considerations to keep your ecommerce business going during the ongoing pandemic.
1.Dealing with Delays
With important public services classed as key workers, postal workers and other delivery companies will continue to operate during the lockdown. However, you can still expect a depleted workforce as the virus spreads and staff are forced to self-isolate.
At the same time, there is increased demand for deliveries. With people told to stay at home for at least three weeks, it’s likely the UK will follow the trend of China and Italy where consumers used ecommerce more frequently. As a result, Royal Mail and other shipping companies could see one of the busiest periods of the year.
For you – or more specifically your customers – that means there could be delays. Deliveries that were previously offered in 3-5 working days could take a little longer. The same is true for your stock, which might not be as fast to get to you with a disrupted supply chain.
On top of that, consider your own team, which could too be depleted by the virus. This could have a knock-on effect for picking and packing times, meaning further delays for customers.
Whatever the case, it’s important to be clear with customers. To avoid a backlash of complaints or bad reviews, change the expected delivery times listed on your site, or add a note to the checkout page making customers aware that there could be delays.
2.Limits for certain products
You only have to visit the local supermarket to see the effects a virus outbreak has on our shopping habits. Some products shoot up in demand, with shelves picked clean at brick-and-mortar shops. If you happen to sell any of those in-demand products, it’s worth considering limitations.
Most shops fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to sell toilet roll, hand sanitiser or face masks have now placed limits on how many one person can buy. It’s well worth looking at your products and considering whether any of them will be in high demand. After all, you don’t want to be cleaned out of a certain product if it could be the one attracting visitors to your site.
Aside from the basics, the sales of laptops has already shot up by 70% as more people look to work from home. There could also be increased demand for fitness equipment, with gyms closing and a restriction on outdoor exercise.
3.Slowing the spread
As well as the disruption to your services, it’s worth considering what measures you have in place to slow the spread of the virus.
For one, customers will want the reassurance that they’re not going to somehow catch the virus by ordering from your site. While there’s still no certainty for COVID-19, similar viruses have been found to live on surfaces for 9-28 days.
With that in mind, it’s crucial to maintain good hygiene when picking and packing products. You could even include a note to customers, explaining to discard packaging and wash their hands immediately after as a precaution.
Personal interests aside, they’ll also want to know that you’re not putting your employees at risk. With Sports Direct the latest company subject to a public backlash, there’s a clear deterrent for any companies continuing to operate without precautions.
Whether it’s a warehouse for picking and packing or just your head office, make sure social distancing is in place. Keep 2 metres between people at all times and let anyone who can work from home do so. Most importantly, make customers aware of the steps you’re taking, either through social media, a blog post or a pop up on your homepage.
4.Don’t ‘cash in’
Unfortunately, with any crisis, there’s likely to be some people focused solely on making money. We’ve already seen hundreds of new ecommerce sites popping up, selling in-demand products like hand sanitiser and face masks at hiked up prices, targeting key phrases like “covid” and “coronavirus”.
At times like these, it’s important that you stay on the right side of history. Don’t try to ‘cash in’ on the situation by hiking up prices. While that might make you some short-term profit, the long-term impact on your reputation won’t be worth it.
Instead, why not do the opposite?
There are various shops, including Greggs and Hotel Chocolat, offering a discount to NHS staff or other key workers. Or see if there’s anything your team can do to help the local community, such as delivering food to those at risk. It will get your name out there for all the right reasons.