As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to interrupt life across the globe, many brick and mortar businesses have shuttered and retail stores have shifted to an almost completely virtual existence. While many businesses have been forced to quickly shift to an online space and set up an ecommerce website hastily, ecommerce businesses have been able to continue to operate as usual with the framework already in place.
However, during a global pandemic when many people are out of work, it’s hard to determine how to run your business in a way that doesn’t offend people or appear unsympathetic. People understand that you still have to operate your business, but you can choose how you go about doing this in a way that shows you care.
Here are some strategies your ecommerce business should consider during COVID-19, as well as during the aftermath when the economy begins to recover. Even though some locations are starting to reopen their doors, it’s important to acknowledge that rebuilding takes time and chances are we’ll be seeing a “new normal” instead of the old routine. Additionally, many of these strategies are important for your business even without a global pandemic looming over all of our lives.
Help Your Community
Many communities and local businesses have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with large-scale layoffs, more families relying on food bank supplies, and supply levels depleting. As a result, many ecommerce businesses have shifted toward offering community support. For some, this means sourcing products from local suppliers, and for others, this means shifting focus and creating non-medical masks or other in-demand supplies.
If you don’t really have the means to do either of those things, consider donating proceeds from your sales to local organizations and food banks. This is a great way to support your community, show your customers that you care, and continue doing business in an empathetic and supportive way.
Stay Active on Social Media
With most of your customers stuck at home, people have more time to spend browsing social media and are doing so actively. Just open your Facebook account and take a look at the circulation of posts going around with copy and pasted questionnaires. Boredom posting aside, social media is also one of the biggest sources for information spread these days and content circulates very quickly this way. People look to social media for updates on your business and how you’re handling the pandemic, and you want information to be there for them to find easily.
Leverage social media to reach your audience and customers, even if you aren’t trying to sell them something. Many businesses have turned to posting live auctions through Facebook, or offering free tutorials on YouTube to help give people value and promote their own business in the process. Remember not to be overly sales-y or pushy, and instead try to offer emotional support, comfort, and even a bit of comic relief (tastefully).
Communicate Openly and Transparently
Of course, you’ve likely seen a variety of businesses send out emails with detailed information on how their company is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. It may seem repetitive, but it’s something every business needs to do. This keeps your customers in the loop and lets them know you’re taking them into consideration with everything you do. Additionally, according to BigCommerce, customers have become increasingly concerned with items that ship internationally so it’s important to reassure them that you’ve taken the necessary precautions for sanitation and preventing the spread of germs to keep them safe.
Be transparent and clear about delivery times as well. For example, Amazon has a warning message posted at the top of each page letting customers know that delivery times may be delayed, and Prime members aren’t guaranteed to get that two-day shipping they’re normally used to. In many cases, delivery estimates Don’t just assume that your customers will understand when their packages are running late. Make sure they know what to expect.
Highlight Local Products
Not every business produces locally made products or products made within your country, but if this does apply to you, it’s something you should advertise. As the economy continues to suffer, people have become more focused than ever on supporting their country or local community and purchasing home-grown goods. Further, as mentioned above, many people have also become wary about ordering products internationally, as these products tend to go through extra touch points before they arrive at the customer’s doorstep.
If you can, reassure your customers that your products are made locally, and if you choose to run advertisements or promotions, feature those local products. Depending on your specific niche or industry, try to focus on the things people need right now. When you can help people out and support locally, they’ll remember you once the economy picks up again.
Update Your Website Frequently
Keep a section on your homepage dedicated to your status throughout the pandemic, and even after. The first thing people are going to look at when they get to your website is how you’re operating during the pandemic. Are you still shipping internationally? Are you limiting your product base due to supply chain interruptions? These are the things people need to know in order to make the decision to purchase your products, and you want to communicate them up front so the user experience is still a priority.
One of the key things to remember is empathy and humanity. The most important thing you can do right now is make sure that you don’t overstep and prioritize your profits over sympathy to others. It’s a fine line to walk and a delicate situation to approach from a business point of view, so make every effort mean something. When the pandemic is over, people will remember the businesses that did something positive, and those that didn’t. Be on the right side of the narrative.