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Nneka Otika
Content Crafter at Convert and an avid Indoor gardener.
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7 Things Ecommerce Businesses Can Do To Better Support Their Customers Amidst The Coronavirus Outbreak

June 1, 2020 –

With the Covid-19 pandemic, ecommerce is experiencing a boom in most parts of the world. As consumers stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, buying important supplies online is the only path left.

Chinese ecommerce giants, Alibaba and JD Doajia, reported a 220% and 470% increase in sales this year when compared to last year. In the US, online grocers Instacart and Farmstead saw a 10% and 30% increase in orders and deliveries in one week in March. French online grocer, Ollca, says it achieved Christmas level sales within 3 days in March.

This boom is surely good for the ecommerce businesses and may just drive rapid adoption in different parts of the world.

But what about the consumers driving this boom?

Consumers are having a hard time.

According to Professor of Psychology and Clinical psychologist, Dr. Ramani Durvasula:

Anxiety, uncertainty and daily changes are major stressors for people during the coronavirus pandemic.

People are overwhelmed with information and dealing with the new normal, which differs from how things have always been.

She says:

Economic uncertainty around loss of business and jobs contributes to the anxiety and stress people are facing. Managing economic uncertainty with familial relationships takes a toll on everyone.

The long and short of it all, ecommerce stores are experiencing a huge boom, but their customers are experiencing the opposite. Consumers are worried about keeping their jobs, feeding their families, keeping a roof over their heads and so much more. Businesses have a responsibility to their customers that goes beyond providing them a service/product for money.

Without customers, ecommerce businesses would not exist. Here are some ways your ecommerce business can take a customer-focused approach to support your customers during this pandemic:

Keep Stock Available

One major source of anxiety for customers during this pandemic is finding necessary supplies and food. This anxiety often translates into people stockpiling products when they find them to ensure they have enough. Ipsos MORI reports that many consumers see stockpiling as the cause for grocery and medical supply shortages rather than supply chain disruptions.

As a business, it may be tempting to let customers panic buy all your available stock as this increases your revenue in the short run. With great uncertainty about finding supplies, limiting the number of products a customer can add to cart will reduce hoarding. This ensures that products are available to everyone who needs them while not hurting your bottom line.

Joris Bryon of Dexter Agency, an ecommerce focused CRO agency, says:

Use banners to optimize for clarity about stock availability and logistics on your website. Direct customers to drop their emails so you can reach out once stock becomes available.

handling increased demand during covid-19 crisis
Source

Be transparent and communicate this move to buyers. It will reassure them. Use banners on product pages of essential items like food, masks, hand sanitizers, thermometers, first aid kits etc. to let customers know why you are limiting the number of products per buyer.

Be Transparent About Logistics Issues

With a lot of time to kill stuck indoors, many customers are monitoring their online orders as they go about their day. And any delays in delivery will have your customer service agents overwhelmed in no time.

Your logistics apparatus may be swamped with more orders than usual. Be open about any logistics challenges you are facing with your customers. If your store handles logistics in-house, hire more people or outsource some of your deliveries to meet with more demands. If your store exclusively outsources delivery to a shipping company, work with them to find solutions to meet the demand. Whether or not logistics is in-house, let your customers know the steps you’re taking to fulfill their orders. For example, Whole Foods’ online grocery service is swamped with increased demand and many customers reporting delays in delivery. Its parent company, Amazon, is hiring 100k new workers to deal with increased demand across its entire business.

Keep Employees Safe

Anxieties are high about the novel coronavirus. People are constantly bombarded with information about new infections, total cases and death tolls caused by the pandemic.

You know what doesn’t ease your customers’ anxiety during this crisis? Finding out via the news that there is a coronavirus case in a warehouse owned by an ecommerce store they just purchased something from.

One of the best things you can do to support your customers is keeping your employees safe. Your workers are taking incredible risk working during the pandemic. Making sure they are safe is the right thing to do, and it helps reassure your customers.

Use social media and your website to share the steps you are taking to keep your workers safe. These steps may include installation of hand washing stations, limited number of workers per shift, temperature checks, paid time off, etc. For example, Trader Joe’s announced steps it was taking to keep its workers and customers safe on its website. These measures include offering 2 additional weeks of paid leave, regular hand washing breaks, closing early so the stores can be cleaned thoroughly.

Add Contactless Delivery to the Service

Since close contact with an infected person is a way to get the SARS-CoV-2 virus, people worldwide are socially distancing themselves from others by staying home. To minimize their risk to others as they use your ecommerce platform to shop, add contactless delivery to your offering. This way their items are delivered to your customers’ doorstep, and they are notified to pick it up without coming in contact with the delivery person.

This method has been tried and tested in China. Companies like Delivery Hero, Glovo and Deliveroo are already offering this service across their operations in Europe. In the US, Postmates and Instacart are also offering non-contact delivery services to their customers.

Optimize the Ordering Process for Ease

Now may not seem like the best time to optimize your checkout process, but it is an absolute necessity. The entire marketing world is in uncharted territory. Buyer personas are out the window. Consumer behavior right now differs vastly from the norm.

Your store is most likely seeing unprecedented traffic levels. A significant portion of your visitors are older people, new to online shopping. Alibaba says orders from customers born in the 1960s quadrupled this year compared to last year. Older people are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Many will have to adopt online shopping technology to survive this pandemic.

Since your typical buyer personas have changed because of this outbreak, taking another look at your website to optimize for current types of visitors is prudent. Take a dive into your analytics demographics data to see what has changed and how you can simplify the ordering process for customers given how stressed out and anxious they are.

Look at your add to cart process, contact, cancellation, product and checkout pages to see what you optimize to make them easy for customers to use. Simplifying your order process could reduce anxiety for many customers and help them through this global crisis.

Improve Customer Service Responsiveness

More orders mean more calls to your customer service agents especially from customers new to online shopping. Prompt response to these many queries by your customers service personnel can dispel anxiety and make shopping on your online store easier for your customers.

Francis Teo of Blue Lambda says:

Because the whole world is basically in the same situation, customers are pretty understanding and flexible when it comes to delays when receiving the products they ordered. Having good and quick customer support to reassure them that everything is going to be okay goes a long way in keeping them happy.

Hiring more customer service personnel to handle the increased calls and queries will improve your store’s responsiveness to customers and help them during this trying period. Remember, people who have a positive customer service experience are more likely to become repeat customers.

Share Information about Handling Delivery Items

A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease could be active on different surfaces. The virus can linger up to 3 hours in air, 4 hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic and steel.

Given this new information, customers are rightly anxious about coming into contact with plastics and cardboard packing materials from deliveries. As a store specializes in shipping items using both plastic and cardboard wrapping, your business needs to share a PSA with customers about how to handle delivered items.

The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, light switches, with household cleaners and disinfectants. Your store can apply the CDC’s recommendations to handling delivered goods and inform customers to follow this process to stay safe. This will reduce your customers’ anxiety about getting infected with the virus if they order something online.

Conclusion

Be open and transparent with customers about the steps your business is taking to provide products and services while keeping them safe. This will help you build trust and loyalty that will outlast this current pandemic.

Originally published June 01, 2020 - Updated September 04, 2020

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