Retail is getting slammed right now. Retailers have closed many physical stores and the open ones are seeing minimal customers as most everyone stays home. Online merchants are somewhat shielded from the pandemic, but even they are hurting as people spend less money and focus on necessities.
Previous economic recessions have been drawn-out and slow to recover. But many economic leaders are predicting a quick bounce-back for businesses after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. Although merchants are hurting now, there are several steps they can be taking now to be ready to take advantage of the recovery when it comes:
Focus on the customers you already have
Let customers know about any changes you have made. Sympathize with their situation. It may be a little cliché to keep saying, “we’re all in this together,” but it is true. Tell your customers you are with them and plan to be for the long haul. Your audience has shifted to a “new normal” during the pandemic. So, you must consider how to be relevant now and in the future. For example, consider offering a curbside pickup option.
Be transparent regarding things like shipping and delivery times if they have changed from what customers had come to expect. Add subscription services to help deliver on a schedule based on customer timing requests. For example, consider offering a curbside pickup option. Be transparent regarding things like shipping and delivery times if they have changed from what customers had come to expect. Add subscription services to help deliver on a schedule based on customer timing requests.
Get your website in shape
Very few ecommerce websites are perfect, so there are probably changes you could make to your site during the pandemic. Examine your checkout process and update it to make it fast and straightforward. Make sure you have content that is engaging to your audience. Look at the products you are featuring first. For now, ensure that the inventory you have is placed first or prominently on your site. If you have low or zero inventory of certain products, don’t list those first. Alternatively, if you are low on certain items, that could be an opportunity to build your customer list. Invite shoppers to subscribe to your email list so you can notify then when low-inventory products are back in stock.
Develop content you can use now and after the pandemic
Content is king when it comes to engaging people on your site. Use this downtime to develop stories that are relevant now, but also think about what consumers will want to see and hear in a few months when life is back to normal. For example, if you sell exercise equipment, there has been a run on workout gear since people can’t go to gyms now. In three months, those people will have worn through their running shoes or might need more advanced equipment. Put together workout plans for people to do at home now and then a guide for how to choose the right running shoes for the people who will need a new pair later this summer. There’s no reason you can’t prepare those stories now.
Focus on SEO during the pandemic
People are home and spending a lot of time online. SEO is essential now because it leads to sales and leads. After all, the consumer connects with your brand when they are searching for your product or service. Think about what questions people might be asking that could be relevant to your brand so that you can show up in less-obvious search results. Also, Google just made some updates to its algorithm that will impact SEO. As always, make sure you understand that impact or hire an agency that does. Original content is always essential for SEO, so don’t skimp there.
Examine your platform
Have you been thinking about making a change in your ecommerce platform? It’s no small task and can be daunting to consider. Still, the wrong platform can hurt you when it comes to content, checkout options, site and page-loading speeds, fulfillment, integration with other applications and pretty much everything else needed to run an online store. If your sales and supply chain are at a standstill, now could be a good time to make that significant change.
Prepare for logistics and supply chains to come back online
While things are looking bad and getting worse, it can be tempting to panic and offer a lot of discounts to keep sales moving. The reality is that even once demand picks up, your supply chain might take longer to recover.
You should be preparing to have materials and production in place when the time comes. In the meantime, consider holding back some inventory so you can meet demand when it comes back. At the very least, don’t start offering crazy discounts that eliminate your margins. In a recent consumer survey around COVID-19 buying habits, 44% of U.S. shoppers said they would find a different store to provide items they need. In other words, loyalty goes out the window in times of scarcity. Better to be prepared for when people are buying than sell at any cost now.
It can be hard to think about your business when the headlines are talking about matters of life and death. Almost every industry is struggling in the face of this pandemic. Take care of yourself and your loved ones first, but we must think ahead so that we can get back to “normal.” Whatever that might look like or whenever it might come.
BigCommerce is the provider of ecommerce platform software for 17 of the retailers ranked in the 2019 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.Favorite