A lot going on right now. The spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting every industry around the globe. People are losing their jobs, and disposable income is becoming more sparse. The only markets that have a chance of remaining viable are the ones online. After all, people can’t leave their homes.
eConsultancy reports that while the grocery business is thriving, most industries are seeing a decline in sales. This is a trend that is projected to grow as governments release stimulus checks. Besides, more and more people shop locally to support their current communities.
Overall, the standard mode of shopping has changed. If consumers need something, they are turning to the web to get it.
The Place of Global eCommerce In The Time of Coronavirus
Believe it or not, this is presenting its own problems. Online retailers are having trouble keeping certain items in stock. Staples like rice, flour, sugar, baking soda, batteries, candles and other essentials for emergencies are hard to come by right now.
Then there are the non-food items: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, gloves, medical masks, etc. With these shortages, people are getting creative. They make homemade sanitizer, cloth masks to limit exposure when forced to go out for supplies, washable gloves. If you can provide the materials, there is an avenue to still benefit from stock you probably have no way of fulfilling.
But enough with the negative. There are some positives to list here. Many reading this post are not retailers who merely sell those essentials.
With the world turning to online storefronts, this is an opportunity to reach new customers and retain them. If you don’t have a website yet, build it now. Brand loyalty is easy to build in a time when big retailers see shortages themselves.
Look at Amazon. Toilet paper is in short supply, which means individual retailers are filling the gap. Most are at a crazy markup. While the site is trying to rectify the problem, it isn’t unusual to see it on sale for several dollars per roll, plus the cost of shipping. And they aren’t the only ones price gouging: Bleach products on eBay are selling for as much as $50 for what would be between $2 – $3 at regular cost.
If they provide required products at good prices, eCommerce site owners are going to see an influx of new customers. This is where usability and accessibility become not only essential but fundamental to your bottom line. Unless your eCommerce site offers easy access to your products and services for all kinds and types of audiences, they will move on to your competitors.
Web Accessibility Is More Important Than Ever
In these chaotic times, where most businesses are offering their products online, the disabled and the special needs community needs to be able to shop online now more than ever.
Unless your eCommerce site is fully accessible, you may be depriving at least one-fourth of the US population of an opportunity to buy essential products online.
Just like the whole world now, users with disabilities who live in isolation rely on the Internet for food and essential product deliveries, while many of those services, including online food delivery services, remain not accessible to people with special needs.
People with disabilities should have their Internet space accessible to them as it is now a matter of survival.
- Make sure your site navigation is clear and easy to use, especially for people with cognitive disabilities. Get rid of any clutter.
- Your site should be possible to navigate through a text-to-speech assistive technology for blind people to be able to find what they need. Your navigation and all forms should be usable via keyboard.
- Take care of colour contrast for people with visual difficulties to be able to use it
That’s a lot to test and adjust, but there’s modern technology to help. You can make your site fully accessible with AI-powered tools like accessiBe that installs in minutes and requires no major technical update of a site.
Solve the Shipping Issue Before it Arises
Right now, shipping in most regions is just fine. As the crisis continues, however, we will possibly see two problems arising:
- Shipping companies and post offices will become overwhelmed with the number of items being shipped. This will cause delays and we already see that happening.
- The post office and shipping companies could shut down entirely if the virus continues to spread or if there are outbreaks in warehouses that require shutdowns as people are exposed.
Having the widest selection of shippers to fall back on is the best thing you can do right now. Usually, only use the post office? Be ready to switch to other shippers if the time comes. Or start doing it now to spread out the shipments and reduce delays.
Optimize for User Intent
Now that most shoppers have moved online, your business may be facing more fierce competition. Giving your customers exactly what they need is more important than ever.
User intent optimization ensures that your landing pages give your customers exactly what they were looking for. Use an intent optimization tool called Text Optimizer. The tool ensures your page caters to the right audience. It also helps you optimize content for it to do a better job targeting the right user intent:
Maintain Customer Trust
You will have noticed just about every eCommerce website has a header with a link explaining what they are doing to protect workers and consumers from the Coronavirus. Your website should have one, too.
Start with a simple banner saying that you are doing everything in your power to ensure the safety of employees, customers and products. Have an anchored link so they can learn more if they choose. That should go to a page that has a full breakdown of your methods and assurances that no one has shown any symptoms of the Coronavirus. Ensure your customers that you are working around the clock to monitor for problems and sanitize all products prior to shipping, including shipping boxes.
Get ready for customer service demand during this time. If you maintain your own small business, it might be necessary to hire some local or remote people to work from home and manage these questions. It is not a bad idea to set up a customer support chatbot and/or voicemail through an affordable phone service platform. Both of these options will help streamline customer support efforts and make your team more productive.
Many big businesses are being overrun right now. Your own probably won’t have the same overwhelming response, but you don’t want to be caught unaware.
Times Are Hard But We Will Work Through It
This is a historical moment and a chance to make or break your business. If you are smart, savvy and calm, your eCommerce business is going to make it out just fine.
Any tips on pushing through the crisis? Let us know in the comments.