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How should e-commerce prepare for the next COVID wave?

How should e-commerce prepare for the next COVID wave?

Last spring changed our daily lives drastically. As a continuation for this, autumn bears a lot of uncertainty also. The notorious second wave of the coronavirus is emerging and it’s shaking our modern societies yet again. What does this mean for e-commerce? What should you know? And how can you prepare for it? From the online-retailers perspective the COVID-19 shuffled all the yearly plans once and for all. 

Some of the stores embarked on a magical upswing where they had to come up with purchase restrictions or even momentary close the store after inventory ran out. Not all got this lucky. Some stores virtually bumped into the wall when sales submerged to record lows. The virus does not look at its carrier. The same can be said for its effects on trade. Unfair, but unfortunately true.

In the bigger picture, lockdowns and restrictions were an opportunity for e-commerce beyond match. Thus we may argue that e-commerce is one of the biggest winners in the changed world. E-commerce has finally become the new standard for consuming goods and services. Even among most devoted retailers, e-commerce is no longer a joke. Online retailers witnessed when new customer groups, young and old and everything in between flooded into online stores. These digital stores allowed brands to keep contact with consumers and continue to communicate directly with customers. During spring one of the most requested growth services from us was customer journey planning. You can read more about our growth services here.

I have summarised the most important steps this fall to five separate highlights. These things every person working in the field of e-commerce should be aware of.

Understand

People’s daily lives have changed perhaps more drastically than ever before in the era of knowledge work. Some people work from home for good. Some avoid public events, some public transport and some their beloved hobbies. Possibly, these will be yet again restrictions this autumn which affects one way or another most of us. This is naturally changing people’s behavior and more and more are shifting their focus to the digital world.

If the products were not searched in online stores before, now they are. Your existence might be dependent on being online. And being isn’t clearly enough. The competition is global so in order to succeed you have to stay active and engaging. E-commerce clearly isn’t anymore an extension of the Brick & Mortar store. 

Plan and act

The situation last spring divided retailers into three different categories: stunning winners, staggering losers and narrow gray zoners. Summer and early autumn has eased off the situation for many. We also witnessed even more major division last spring. Online stores were divided into active and passive. Active ones quickly took unprecedented action.

These dynamic, adaptive brands streamed events online and moved their stuck brick-and-mortar products online in just matter of days or weeks. They kept connection to their most valuable resource, paying customers. Constantly trying to understand customers better and better in the online world. The passive group just halted. They halted for months and just waited for things to get back to normal. When looking at the situation retrospective the active ones endured much better. Thus, you should plan different scenarios for future uncertainty and if the things go rough, don’t hesitate to act. 

Have the heart to tell your story

Last spring many clothing and hobby businesses took the hardest hits. Those brands who communicated directly to their customers with the right voice did better. Usually the story went about the purpose of their own brand and the values they believed in as a company. Forcing to buy is something that shouldn’t be pursued. But why trust us or what we do to make the world a better place is something that should be. Have the heart to go with your own strengths and throw yourself in. If you don’t know or can’t tell your story then you’re adrifting. Remember to invest enough in communication and storytelling. After all, for the human mind stories and experiences make life worth living. Good stories kindle emotions, always. 

Check your doings!

In the heart of e-commerce lies measurement and data-driven decision-making. You should be able to take your business to the right direction by interpreting the figures and seeking the reasons behind these figures. Shopify merchants are provided with excellent tools for measurement with highly advanced Shopify Analytics. A broad variety of data-management applications are also available to support your business. The challenge that many faced during the spring was not the missing data. The challenge was focusing on the right things. Understandable but not too good for the business.

Rapid growth usually brings along growing pains in the context of measurement also. Our experts helped with services like Growth Rocket more and more customers during spring. The most important thing is to understand the current situation. It can be worthwhile to take the advice of an experienced online merchant who can take actions based on his knowledge. This way, the focus remains crystal clear and the order of importance stays firm. When things are viewed with an additional set of eyes, it usually entails a lot of objectivity. It’s never too late to measure.

Be kind

Whatever happens in the stormy winds of global pandemic the team working on e-commerce has to stay humane and kind to each other –  in the direction of customers but also to colleagues. We have witnessed that there have been some challenges especially in the customer communications when new customer groups emerged in online stores. As a result of booming sales volumes the role of customer service and logistics, for example, is becoming even more important. Even if you don’t physically see the customer who trusts you on the other side of the screen, don’t forget that there is always a human. This is especially important in situations where things don’t go according to a plan. It’s good to remember that this happens to everyone. Being an online retailer is a journey and often a lot happens along the way. Remember to smile, even when you are facing a dark horizon.

We held a webinar about this topic on 3rd of September. In the webinar we went through our learnings with our customers past spring. On webinar we’ll share our advices how to concretely plan your business  for the upcoming autumn. There is also a real merchant case.


Best of luck!

Mikko Rekola, lead growth hacker / Woolman

Watch the webinar recording 

More reading:

https://woolman.co/blogs/blog/five-tips-what-works-for-paid-advertising-during-this-exceptional-time 

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