Can Ecommerce Save Your Business During the Covid-19 Crisis?

The world is facing a global pandemic thanks to the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak. Not only has this crisis put a strain on people’s personal lives, it’s also having a critical impact on businesses (both large and small).

Here in New York State, businesses have had to reduce to 25% of their total workforce, and everyone that can is working from home. Events that hold more than just ten people have been cancelled or postponed. And restaurants are only allowed to serve people by means of to-go or delivery.

Nationally, the pandemic has caused, “large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures [that] drive a sharp fall in consumer and business spending until the end of Q2, producing a recession…[and now] consumers stay home, businesses lose revenue and lay off workers, and unemployment levels rise sharply.” according to McKinsey & Company.

The global economic impact is also severe. The aforementioned steps have been taken in many other countries as well. As stated in an article on the Harvard Business Review, this pandemic has “severed the flow of goods and people, stalled economies, and is in the process of delivering a global recession. Economic contagion is now spreading as fast as the disease itself.”

In the face of all of this, how are businesses – of any size – able to stay open and turn a profit? Fortunately, we still have the internet and all its digital glory available to use. Rather than closing your doors and shutting down all operations, redirect your time, money, and energy into strengthening your ecommerce website and your digital presence.

We’re experiencing a time with unprecedented changes occurring in shopping behavior. Stores are closing their doors indefinitely. Shoppers are aiming to purchase essential grocery items while limiting their frivolous spending to almost nothing (as many are temporarily or permanently laid off and unemployment is on the rise).

In order to stay in business during the shutdowns, many businesses have resorted to online-only selling, and some are even manufacturing and selling hand sanitizer and hospital masks instead of their typical products due to the insanely high demand.

So, how exactly can ecommerce solutions save your business?
As we mentioned above, now is the time to redirect your focus on building (or improving) an ecommerce website and digital presence. With many practicing social distancing and state laws mandating that only essential businesses remain open, it can be assumed that the decrease in foot traffic would result in an uptick in digital traffic.

According to BigCommerce, “in reality, ecommerce sales are not higher across the board, although some industries are seeing significant upticks. This is especially true for online sellers of household goods and groceries.” That being said, ecommerce success can happen when done properly.

Ecommerce puts technology at the heart of your business strategy. How ecommerce can benefit your business typically depends on your industry. For example, a pizza shop owner can implement different strategies than a health and beauty boutique. However, there are a few strategies that can be utilized in general across the board. Below we have outlined the top six — in our opinion — ways ecommerce can save your business during the COVID-19 crisis.

Quick Links:

  1. Launch online ordering options
  2. Open an ecommerce store
  3. Sell gift cards or gift certificates (with no expiration date)
  4. Offer limited-time free products/services or partner with a nonprofit
  5. Spice up your social media
  6. Sell what’s in demand

1. Launch online ordering options

Aside from airlines, restaurants are potentially one of the biggest victims of the COVI9-19 pandemic. Thousands of family-owned, fast-food, and fine-dining restaurants have had to shut down across the country and the globe. Not only do these new laws prevent businesses from opening regularly, they have to reduce staff, edit their menu options, and find other creative ways to remain in operation. Businesses with online ordering are more likely to stay open.

There are a variety of options available for online ordering systems. You can use systems that already exist (and are even free!) or you can custom develop your own system so it works exactly how you need it to for your business’ needs.

Online ordering can be used to make it easier and more time effective for customers to order and pick up their food. During COVID-19 when phone lines are undoubtedly over encumbered with orders, an online ordering system can mean more business.

You can get creative with online ordering and to-go options, too. Rather than just having the option to order off your typical menu, restaurants can create all new menu options or make-at-home meal packages that their customers can order online and pick up or get delivered right to their home.

A local business here in WNY recently got creative with their products. Lake Effect Ice Cream is a local ice cream shop, and while they can’t be open and scoop ice cream, they haven’t closed their doors. Earlier in March, they posted to their Facebook to launch their “Mystery Boxes” that are available for online ordering and in-store pick up.

Other retailers and businesses outside of the food industry can benefit from online ordering, too! Rather than shutting down completely, stores are offering online order and curbside pick-up for customers. Pets Supplies Plus, an essential pet store, is offering curbside pickup. They do the shopping for you and bring your order right to your car in order to comply with social distancing regulations.

Source: Pet Supplies Plus

2. Open an ecommerce store

For those businesses that already have an ecommerce site, it’s been a seemingly painless transition to closing their brick-and-mortar stores and focusing only on online sales and marketing. On the other hand, for businesses that don’t already have an ecommerce store, the sudden transition presents unexpected costs and stress. Despite the trouble it may be causing brick-and-mortar businesses, the switch to ecommerce could save businesses from bankruptcy or getting in deep financial debt during this crisis.

According to Sana-commerce, “since the coronavirus pandemic began, online sales have increased by 52% year on year, and the number of online shoppers by 8.8%.”

Moving your customers online helps limit person-to-person contact, which is crucial to successfully implementing social distancing on a local and national level. The money you would typically spend on promoting in-store sales, you can spend on sending emails, building your social media presence, and improving your brand’s ecommerce shopper experience.

Whether you’re launching an ecommerce site for the first time or improving your existing store, now is the time to ensure your platform meets the needs of your customers. Your ecommerce site should be convenient, reliable, and successfully persuade customers to shop with your rather than your competitors.

At Newbird, we have the development aptitude to build exactly what you need. When working with ecommerce sites, we ensure your website has the proper customer journey, great UX design that engages with visitors, improves conversion rates, and represents your brand.

3. Sell gift cards or certificates (with no expiration date)

Unfortunately, with the government double-downing on laws and restrictions throughout the country, even online-only businesses are being forced to reduce their workforce or shut down completely.

Unfortunately, with the government double-downing on laws and restrictions throughout the country, even online-only businesses are being forced to reduce their workforce or shut down completely.

One of the easiest solutions is to open an online store just for selling gift cards and gift certificates. While this is not nearly as profitable as normal operations, it is a great way to offer your customers a useful product and keep your business top of mind.

Many businesses are calling this type of sale the “Show Your Love” campaign. This is where customers will purchase gift cards for restaurants they would typically be giving their business to and keeping them for future use themselves or giving them away as gifts.

Across the nation, news stations are sharing how helpful buying gift cards can be to your local economy. Channel ABC 7 News talked with gift card expert, Shelley Hunter, who said, “it can be beneficial when you buy a gift card…it is a deferred revenue, ultimately it has to be settled up by the restaurant, but it does increase cash flow for a small business and can help them pay the bills and or employees in the interim.”

Ecommerce businesses are making it easier for businesses to sell gift cards on their websites. In early March, Shopify launched Gift Card Support on all of their plans in order to help small businesses through this trying time.

4. Offer limited-time free products/services or partner with a nonprofit

During this global pandemic, we have witnessed communities coming together and helping fellow businesses and individuals in any way they can. Teachers are driving around their students’ neighborhoods in parade-like fashion to show their support, big businesses are waiving fees temporarily, and celebrities are creating their own fundraisers or partnering with their favorite charities to give back wherever they can.

If your business hasn’t been affected by COVID-19 and you have the ability to offer limited-time discounts or free products/services, it is great publicity for your business. Offering something for free or at a discount will prove to your audience that you truly care about them as people, not just customers.

How will this help save your business? It has actually been proven that a customer takes into account not only the quality of your products and services, but your brand’s personality when making decisions. How you treat your employees and customers, your social consciousness, and other factors impact a customer’s decision to choose your brand over your competitor’s.

Therefore, how you act and how your business responds to the COVID-19 crisis can impact your success post-crisis.

Ford was prepared to launch new commercials during March Madness, but have altered their spots to advertise their website that offers support to their customers who may be suffering financially and can’t make their regular car payments.

And Netflix created a $100 million fund to “help with hardship in the creative community.”

Some brands have actually gone above and beyond the call of duty during this crisis. Rather than offering current products or services for free, some businesses have actually created and launched new products and services that specifically aid those being affected from COVID-19.

We know the healthcare industry is experiencing unprecedented times. And on March 11, Salesforce announced that they are providing a “providing a COVID-19 Response Package that provides free access to technology for emergency response teams, call centers, and care management teams for health systems affected by Coronavirus.”

The Salesforce Care for Healthcare is an ecommerce solution that will help healthcare systems who have an influx of requests due to COVID-19. This is a major act of kindness by a well-known brand that will be remembered for many years to come.

5. Spice up your social media

Your website is typically the first impression your audience has of you. And if you have an online store, your website may be your best (or only) source of revenue during the shutdowns. But it doesn’t have to be! Even if you have to temporarily close your brick-and-mortar, your ecommerce success doesn’t have to be limited to just your website.

Right now, many people are unemployed, working from home, and self-quarantining – giving them more time than usual to pick up their phones and browse their social media. Brands with both essential and nonessential products and services are taking advantage of social media.

As per usual, businesses should upload and share pertinent content that keeps your brand top of mind, while meeting the needs of your audience. But you’ll want to take your strategy to the next level during this global crisis to get the attention of your audience and attract new users.

Platforms with Live Video options like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are keeping people connected and strengthening communities. Brands, celebrities, and influencers are using Live Video to host talk shows, stream virtual concerts, and just generally share their quarantine or other COVID-19 experiences with their communities.

Connecting with your audience via live videos can increase your social media engagement, increase the number of followers, and strengthen the loyalty to your brand.

Other ways you can stay in business with social media are Facebook Marketplace, LinkedIn, and Instagram Stories. Pinterest has also made its way back into headlines as they “saw an all-time high around the world with more saves and searches on the platform than any other weekend in our history.” Pinterest even launched their “Today” tab on their app that houses popular ideas, projects, and activities that people can use in general (or if they’re stuck in quarantine because of COVID-19).

6. Sell what’s in demand

Our last piece of advice is focused on your ecommerce store. As we suggested earlier, opening or improving an ecommerce store can keep your business going through this turbulent time. Unfortunately, there are some businesses that will see a decrease in business because they offer products or services that consumers simply cannot use or cannot afford to buy right now.

A solution that we have seen in the headlines recently are businesses transitioning their manufacturing process to product products that are in high demand.

In WNY, a local distillery is producing hand sanitizer. Even big brands in the alcohol industry are getting on board. Coors plans to produce hand sanitizer in addition to donating $1 million to the United States Bartenders’ Guild, an organization that helps bartenders and other service industry professionals.

If your business’ typical products and services seem futile, do some research and discover what your community needs. If you have the resources, learn how to produce and sell what’s in demand. This will not only give you a source of revenue when you would otherwise be shut down, but we’re positive your community will remember that your business stepped up and helped the community when they needed it the most.

Is COVID-19 affecting your business? Reach out today to learn more about how our custom web and marketing services can help you to implement an emergency plan that protects your brand during this global crisis.

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