Who would have thought staying at home and shopping online would be such a hassle? Since its first outbreak some four months ago, COVID-19 has brought changes to the way we live, operate, and survive, leaving economic disruption in its wake andaffecting market dynamics in every way possible. However, one industry that is helping the economy stay afloat is the eCommerce sector.
Make no mistake. The world of eCommerce is not untouched and COVID-19 has made a profound impact on eCommerce supply chains. As social distancing becomes an imperative norm, there is a tremendous shift in the shopping habits of the consumers. In mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on their day-to-day lives, consumers are relying more heavily than ever on online shopping to procure essential supplies – and eCommerce merchants are facing new challenges trying to keep up with the surging demand of the consumers. From unpredictable revenues to supply chain issues, eCommerce giants are reeling under the impact of coronavirus.
Here are key trends in the market that will help us understand the impact of this virus on businesses in these turbulent times.
With the closure of most brick-and-mortar stores and implementation of social distancing practices, there is an increase of online sales in certain verticals. A recent survey by First Insight, Inc. found 21% respondents saying that their online shopping increased after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Heavy demand and limited labor has severely disrupted the supply chain. Most eCommerce giants are working with a handful of workers, much less than the regular capacity, which has diminished their ability to meet requirements and has resulted in prolonged delivery schedules.
Delivery delays and cancelled orders have increased traffic on customer service portals. On the flip side, scarcity of staff has also led to longer customer wait times and increasingly frustrated and unhappy customers.
“Every challenge, every adversity, contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth” - Roy Bennett
With the difficulties that eCommerce suppliers, both big and small, are facing, they are focusing primarily on securing the supply chain and ensuring that customer experience is not impacted negatively. Here is how you can adapt to the new normal to survive and make the most out of these challenging times.
In a recent survey of 304 retailers by Digital Commerce 360, around 48% respondents stated that they are reinforcing the supply chain communication as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.
During this pandemic, planning for what cannot be anticipated is difficult; however, being informed and aware of all aspects of the supply chain is essential. Reach out to manufacturers to gain an understanding on how things are being affected in their area. Supply issues can arise unexpectedly during such times of crisis.
Understand the current needs of your target groups. This will in turn assist you in evaluating your inventory and ascertaining if you are in a position to support the requirements or whether you should gear up for some pivoting to serve your ideal customers better.
Most eCommerce merchants source their products from China, which has led to severe shortages of inventory for many. Hence, it is always prudent to have a list of alternate providers or suppliers ready to mitigate the risk of supply issues when required. In these instances, it may be better to lean toward regional providers, as delivery of goods can be expedited due to shorter delivery routes.
Make wise use of AI now that live services are affected. Chatbots can significantly streamline the communication processes. Reach out to customers and keep them informed of potential delays in delivery, updates on any new product that is readily available, communicate longer waits, etc. Apologize for the difficulties and offer compensation in the form of discount coupons and more.
In times of pandemic, cost-cutting naturally comes to mind – but never stop prospecting. Cutting your marketing or advertising budget now only means you will have to invest more heavily once business gets back to normal. This is the time to develop stronger bonds with your customers. With the high rate of Google search and app downloads, now is a good time to consider display advertising as well as PPC advertising.
The magnitude of COVID-19’s impact cannot yet be predicted accurately. Neither can eCommerce merchants and their fulfillment teams control the unforeseen future. A smart strategy during this surreal time is simply to react in real-time to changing situations and be creative in responding to the shifting needs and behavior of your customers.
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