Ecommerce Business Continuity Planning

17 Mar 2020

The restrictions in place due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 make this a difficult time, and the shift in routine practices for consumers and business owners will be a challenge.

The current government guidance is to avoid all non essential travel, and to self isolate if you have either a high temperature, or a new continuous cough. We are in a rapidly evolving situation so the most important practice to follow is to constantly monitor the latest government updates and guidelines.

We've pulled together some key points to ensure business continuity while the situation remains fluctuating.

Is your business ready?

  • Identify the specific risks to your business

General risks to business are cashflow, supply chains, and employee health. What are the more specific risks to your business? Are there any operational or revenue impacts from potential disruptions to key suppliers and vendors? Identifying and accounting for specific risks to you is vitally important.

  • Communicate your plans

Maintain good communication with your customers, partners, suppliers, and employees. Is your website content up to date? Are your contact details up to date, and do online forms notify the right people of enquiries? Keeping your staff up to date and informed as well as planning for the requirement to work from home.

  • Remote work strategy

Remote working will be heavily relied on in any periods of self isolation, so if your company remote working solution will affect your customers - communicate it to them. Is your tech suite up to date to handle this, and are your staff equipped to use remote working technology?

Business strategy

  • Transparency with customer

Be open with the customer regarding any interruptions they may experience, and how the Coronavirus is affecting your day to day operations. Whether it be letting them know everything is continuing unchanged, or whether shipping times are 7 days longer than usual, communication is key and your customers will appreciate you for it.

  • With people at home, prepare for an increase in mobile use

More people at home will lead to an increase in the amount of time spent shopping online, and an increase in the amount of people browsing on their phones and tablets. Ensuring your website is responsive and easily navigable on mobile devices is essential.

  • Short term pain (for hopefully long term gain)

While the current situation may be uncomfortable and cause short term pain and disruption for online retailers, in the long run benefits should be seen due to the forced transition to online for many of the population caused by periods of isolation.

Opportunities

  • Retailers have opportunity to drive traffic and sales on mobile

Enforced isolation and increase in the number of people staying at home offers ecommerce retailers the opportunity to drive traffic and sales online, especially through mobile. Is your website ready for this, have you checked it on mobile? Concerns around large crowds may boost ecommerce as consumers avoid stores. Social media will also see an uptick, so having your products linked to Facebook and Instagram shopping is essential.

  • Behavioural Changes

Coronavirus may impact older generations to engage more with ecommerce - leading to a short term boost. If the experiences prove positive and successful for these users, this behaviour change may stick, leading to a sustained increase over time. It is important to stay positive and seek out the opportunities where they can be found. Changes in consumer behaviour in extreme situations can lead to new and previously unexplored strategies finding success.

  • Live chat

Activate live chat to allow yourself the opportunity to give customers up to the minute information on your products and services. Integrate quick chat features like Whatsapp, Messenger, or Tawk to communicate quickly and effectively with your customers. Best part? They are free.

Marketing

  • Are ads converting - are customers still buying?

Pay extra attention to whether ads are converting. Now is the time to monitor your ad spend by the minute. Additionally in your marketing content, be sure not to pitch a lifestyle that your consumers may not be able to live in a few weeks. This is particularly pertinent around the travel industry, where messaging around readying yourself for an upcoming trip will not be appropriate.

  • Use channels with low CPA like email

Investigate marketing channels with the lowest cost per aquisition, like email. With people spending more time working from home, chances of having a television on in the background are increased, so if the budget is there for it, switching ad spend to TV or even YouTube could be a worth investigating.

  • look towards more high margin goods and strategies?

In your inventory, is there an opportunity to push the more high margin goods? With increased isolation there is scope for increase in ecommerce activity in health and grocery as people look to sustain themselves from home. Is there an area of your inventory you can prioritise to match the change in consumer trends?

Inventory

  • Cash v Card

In a pandemic awareness around personal hygiene and cleanliness is naturally heightened, cash payments will likely be eschewed in favour of online or contactless and card payments. South Korea has recently moved to disinfect all cash and coins coming back into their central bank, and quarantine it for 14 days before it is released back into circulation.

  • Interrupted supply chains

If your supply chain has the potential to be interrupted, is there an opportunity for stock to be sourced locally? Be transparent with shipping or service delays, or hold back on offering fast track solutions if your supply chain has the potential to be delayed or interrupted. Only ship stock you have to avoid delays. If you hold stock then discounts and express shipping can continue as normal, however if your supply chain has the potential to be dirupted, then it would be wise to move to longer delivery timescales to account for potential for interruption.

  • Will shipping still be available?

At the moment the advice from experts is that the virus is not surviving long on objects, meaning that parcels and post are set to run uninterrupted for foreeseable future. Click and collect becomes a potentially attractive option to those wanting to shop, but avoid the crowd of the store itself.

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