25+ Practical Resources for Ecommerce Retailers Adapting to Coronavirus

Financing Insights | 11 mins

More and more people are shopping online in reaction to COVID-19, which has led ecommerce experts to predict that online sales will grow in the days to come.

But while there’s been increased demand and sales in some areas of the ecommerce industry, it isn’t the same across the board. In fact, a recent survey found that 36% of ecommerce sellers expect a decline in sales.

To help those in the ecommerce space protect their businesses during this unpredictable time and connect with their customers to promote long term growth, we’ve assembled a list of resources they can rely on and refer back to.

Production:‌ Dealing with increased demand for online goods

While there’s been a surge in buying certain essentials like groceries and medical supplies online, the uptick in ecommerce sales for some product categories has created a strain on the supply chain that Steven A. Melynk, professor of operations and supply chain management at Michigan State University, describes as a “perfect storm.” While companies can predict some demand spikes, such as during the holidays, the sudden increase in demand for some goods like toilet paper and spaghetti sauce has been unprecedented. We’ve collected best practices and insights to help companies weather the storm and work around excess inventory or backed up supply chains, as well as be prepared for when consumer buying habits may return to normal.

Managing Inventory

Nearly 75% of companies have reported supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus-related transportation issues, according to the Institute of Supply Chain Management. These inventory shortages not only frustrate customers and impact your bottom line, but they can also affect your status on certain online marketplaces. For example, Amazon’s Buy Box algorithm favors sellers with consistently available inventory. So it’s more important than ever to keep a close eye on inventory and be transparent with customers about out-of-stock products.

Sellbrite: The quick guide to inventory management for ecommerce: Learn more about effectively managing your products’ stock with this quick guide to inventory management for ecommerce. They highlight useful terms, detail the challenges that ecommerce business owners face, and provide actionable best practices and recommendations for optimizing inventory management strategy for your business.

Klaviyo: Setting up restock notifications. Leveraging restock notifications provide a more satisfactory customer experience by allowing customers to opt-in for alerts when the items they’re interested in are available again instead of requiring them to continuously check back. Klaviyo explains how to set these up and leverage them to keep your customers connected.

Item out of stock notification bar

Offering virtual products

It’s a challenging time to manufacture and ship physical products, so take this opportunity to think through possible virtual products your business can offer, such as e-books, software, online classes, and other popular digital products.

Easydigitaldownloads.com: The 12 most popular digital products to sell online. Even if you aren’t able to get your physical products into the hands of your customers, you do have other options. No physical materials, factories, or staff required for these digital options.

Shopify: Free gift certificate template. Just fill in the required information in their pre-built gift certificate template and get your printable gift certificate in an instant. If you’re a Shopify customer, they are also extending their gift card feature to all subscription plans to help merchants during the economic difficulties resulting from COVID-19.

Forming a strategic pricing plan

Although the pandemic is driving more people to shop online, consumers aren’t necessarily purchasing nonessentials as much as they were just weeks ago. However, there are ways ecommerce businesses can entice shoppers.

Bread: 5 ecommerce pricing strategies every retailer should know. If you need to entice customers to purchase, make sure that any price changes are sustainable for long-term business health. This guide to ecommerce pricing strategies can help you get started.

CoreDNA: How to use discounts and coupons. Percentage-off discounts and free shipping are the offers that email subscribers want most from ecommerce stores, according to research by Adestra. This guide to discounts and coupons will help you determine which kinds of offers will work best for your business. However, make sure you consider all your options before you offer a discount.

Bread: 5 reasons you should offer buy now, pay later options. Many consumers are spending more cautiously as they focus on stocking up on essentials and worry about job losses. However, offering flexibility in payment can inspire more people to shop with you. In fact, 74% of big-ticket shoppers say they would shop more often at a store that offers interest-free installments. If you’re interested in setting up buy now, pay later options for your store, check out this resource.

By proactively taking steps to address issues with pricing and demand, your ecommerce store will be better prepared to weather the pandemic.

Support: Being there for your customer

These are uncertain times, so customers are naturally feeling anxious. Ease their nerves by reassuring them about your brand. Show them that you’re not only maintaining daily operations but that you’re also committed to delivering the products they want as quickly and smoothly as you can.

Offering remote support

More people are working from home now, and that includes support staff. This means you may need to take steps to help your customer service team work remotely, so there’s as little disruption as possible. This may involve investing in new tools like knowledge management or group chat software to keep your team informed and communicating effectively. You may also need to set up support automations, like chatbots or automated tagging. Customer service remains as important as ever—If you’d like to learn more about the practical impact of effective customer service, you can read more here.

Intercom: Running customer support remotely: For many teams, coworkers are farther apart than ever. That can create disconnects, but you can overcome them with the right practices in place. For more details on setting up and managing a remote support team, check out this guide from Intercom.

Making it easy for customers to get in touch

Customers appreciate multiple ways to get in touch with brands, and in today’s digital age, this is easier than ever. Providing the best possible support to your customers during this time will help your ecommerce business continue to prosper. Here’s how you can improve your customer service offerings.

Crazyegg: The 15 top live chat software solutions. Companies can respond to customers 51% faster by using live chat features, according to Intercom. Set up live chat on your online store by choosing from one of these instant-messaging tools.

Zendesk: How to interact with customers over the phone. Some consumers simply feel more comfortable talking to a person directly, and in these days of social distancing, more people may seek this option out. This guide from Zendesk is a good refresher on the essentials of managing support over the phone.

Communicating effectively

With consumers’ inboxes overflowing with messages from companies about how they’re dealing with COVID-19, try not to contribute to the noise. Instead, focus on information that shoppers absolutely need to know.

VoiceSage: Communication best practices for organizations working to contain COVID-19: Right now it’s more important than ever to keep people informed. VoiceSage shares their best practices for staying connected to customers with mobile messaging.

GoDaddy: 5 ways to keep your customers informed about changes to your business. As part of their #OpenWeStand community forum, GoDaddy has created a list of communication strategies to stay current with shoppers during these ever-shifting circumstances.

Klaviyo: How to communicate with empathy during the coronavirus crisis. Should you keep marketing like nothing has changed? How do you talk about the situation we’re all in? How can you strike the right tone without being too grave or too flippant? Klaviyo has created a helpful how-to on communicating with empathy to answer your questions.

Marketing: Connect with your customers

Ninety percent of Instagram users follow brands, and 62% of Millennials say that they are more likely to be a loyal customer if a brand gets in touch with them on social media. And with so many people online due to coronavirus, now is the time to engage. Your focus on social media should be to strengthen the community of shoppers you already have by being as helpful as possible. If you push for sales too hard, you’ll risk seeming unsympathetic to customers.

Harnessing user-generated content

User-generated content has always been especially persuasive since it’s created by everyday shoppers. Today, it’s even more powerful as people are curious about how other shoppers are coping. Showcase how people are using your product in their new self-isolating lifestyle. Look out for UGC that has a positive spin, whether it’s a shopper striking a goofy pose or an account of how your product made someone’s day better.

Curalate: 3 epic ways to boost sales with user-generated content: Your customers are passionate about your brand, and they have a lot to say. Curalate shares how to harness this passion and leverage it to its fullest potential.

Bread: 15 powerful user-generated content ecommerce campaigns: To give you ideas on how to curate your own campaign, we’ve highlighted 15 of our favorite user-generated content examples from ecommerce retailers, breaking down how they motivate their shoppers to share and how these brands make the most of the content they receive from customers.

Getting creative with video

With social distancing becoming commonplace, you likely don’t have as many options when it comes to shooting on location. Not to worry — you can still create plenty of engaging video content from home. And if your brand isn’t on TikTok yet, now is the time to get started. The video-sharing social network has seen a surge in downloads since the pandemic began, and it has more than 500 million users who spend an average of 52 minutes on the app per day.

Wistia: The Wistia guide to social media video. Whether you’re just starting to get into video marketing or you’re already a pro, constant changes on media platforms mean we all need to keep adapting and adjusting our video strategy to be successful. Luckily, Wistia has created a helpful resource to keep you up-to-date.

Wistia: Shooting video with an iPhone. Most of us don’t have professional-quality camcorders and other video making equipment at home, but you may just have some in your pocket. Check out Wistia’s tips for capturing great footage with nothing but your phone.

Trying new kinds of marketing

Social media is the obvious place to engage with customers, but there are other opportunities as well. Here’s a little inspiration from other ecommerce brands to get those wheels turning.

Buffer: Podcasting for beginners. Create a podcast that’s relevant to your brand that will sustain interest after the pandemic has passed. You may have a few episodes that reference COVID-19, but the overall focus should be outside of the virus. Get some pointers on getting started from Buffer here.

Entrepreneur: 4 ways to create deeper connections with ecommerce customers. Need some inspiration to start building more creative campaigns? This piece delves into outside-the-box ways brands are connecting with their audience.

Operations: Preparing for the future

To adapt to coronavirus, ecommerce businesses must figure out how to stay afloat in our current unique market, while also planning for post-pandemic times when spending habits begin to normalize. Strengthen your business and prepare for the future by following these steps.

Finding relief programs

Governments across the globe are rolling out programs to assist small businesses affected by coronavirus. In the United States, businesses in any state can apply for low-interest federal loans. Individual states and cities may also have programs. For example, in the city of New York, businesses may be eligible for assistance, such as zero-interest loans up to $75,000 and 40% payroll cost coverage for businesses with fewer than five employees.

Shopify: Government relief programs for small businesses affected by COVID-19. Shopify has collected a comprehensive list of relief programs here. You should definitely see if you qualify and can benefit.

Magento: Adobe announces offerings to help small & mid-sized companies. Adobe and Magento are providing impacted businesses with the support and resources they need to navigate this challenging time, including free access to some of their software.

Staying engaged with other Ecommerce sellers

There are a lot of unknowns right now, but you’re not in this alone. One of the best ways to figure out how to navigate the current situation is by learning from other sellers online. Together we can share tactics that are working or commiserate in the challenges that coronavirus brings to online stores.

Yotpo: How is COVID-19 Changing Consumer & eCommerce Trends? To better understand how consumer behavior and commerce have changed, Yotpo has fielded a survey that sheds light on how shopping habits and priorities are evolving.

Attentive: COVID-19 Ecommerce Trends and Tactics: Attentive has a microsite and webinar on trends and tactics for ecommerce companies during the COVID-19 outbreak that has up-to-date stats and findings

Do your best to be proactive and positive

The ecommerce landscape—and the world at large —is changing rapidly day-to-day, making it difficult to determine exactly how online businesses should respond. However, as we’ve outlined above, there are numerous steps that sellers can take to protect their businesses and better connect with consumers during this turbulent time. Be sure to check back here for additional updates and resources to help your ecommerce business continue to thrive during and after the pandemic.