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How to Maintain eCommerce During Coronavirus

How to Maintain eCommerce During Coronavirus

corona updated

While public health has to be the number one priority during the Coronavirus pandemic, eCommerce companies should be making plans to maintain their business during the current economic volatility. With large scale disruption likely, companies will likely face problems with supply and demand that can seriously impact cash flow. To put your business in the best position it can be, here are some things you may wish to consider.

Product availability issues

As an eCommerce company, you cannot operate if you do not have products to sell. The widescale effects of Coronavirus in China, the origin of so many products and components, means that the supply of many retail goods has already dwindled.

As the pandemic spreads and other countries see reductions in manufacturing capacity, supply is only going to get worse. In all likelihood, employee illness, factory closures and travel restrictions will mean that the products eCommerce companies want to sell will be manufactured at a lower rate and be delivered significantly later.

What then can eCommerce companies do to continue their operations? One solution is to start sourcing these products in areas that haven’t been widely affected by the virus and as time goes on, to look at areas where its impact has receded. Having multiple sources also means you don’t lose your entire supply if one manufacturer or wholesaler goes out of action. Sourcing products domestically can also be helpful as they will not face the same shipping disruption as imported goods.

Product cost issues

With fewer manufacturers or wholesalers working at capacity, many of them are taking advantage of scarcity by increasing their prices. In particular, these companies are prioritising customers who are putting in large orders and paying inflated prices. Smaller eCommerce companies, unfortunately, have been put to the back of the supply queue.

To keep supply going, smaller eCommerce companies may have to look at a wider range of suppliers and accept the higher prices being charged. Whether this cost can be absorbed or passed onto the customer depends on how well-stocked your competitors were before the pandemic began and how well they can absorb the increased costs of new stock themselves.

Cashflow issues

The effects of supply disruption, higher prices and a possible drop in orders means cash flow will be a major concern for all eCommerce companies. To cope with this, businesses will need to reduce spending and find other ways to increase income. With product scarcity likely to be common, there will be less choice for customers. One possible solution that arises from this is to hold on to items that would previously have been put in the sales and to continue selling them at full price to maintain margins.

Another area of consideration is advertising. If there are items in your inventory that are not going to sell because of Coronavirus, travel-related items, for example, then there is little point spending money on advertising them. With all advertising, eCommerce companies need to ensure that ROI is providing the value they need. Focussing on SEO and content marketing to improve organic traffic and shifting towards email marketing which doesn’t have a high acquisition cost, are all ways to bring about efficiencies that can help cash flow over the short term.

Proactive communications

Customer relationships are crucial in eCommerce and to ensure trust is earned and rewarded, companies should be transparent with consumers about supply and delivery issues. The general public is fully aware that Coronavirus will affect the availability of products, so it won’t come as too much of a shock to them if items are out of stock or delayed. What they will find disappointing, however, is when a company makes a promise and fails to deliver. Letting them know about problems proactively, before they order, is vital to ensure those good relationships continue once the pandemic has ceased.

Agile adaptations

Surviving Coronavirus will require companies to be more agile and creative. Some companies are looking at new ways to sell products whose sales may be affected by the virus, for example, advertising swimwear as something to be worn in the back garden rather than on a Greek beach.  Others are looking at sourcing products that are more likely to go up in demand during the pandemic, like home improvement, hobby and cooking items.

eCommerce companies also have to be ready to adapt to the impact of the virus on their staff and day to day operations. They may need to utilise web-based applications so that staff can work from home, look for alternative fulfilment and shipping options and undertake video meetings rather than meeting in person. 

Conclusion

No-one knows for sure how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last or what its overall impact will be. However, eCommerce businesses need to be prepared to adapt to changes in supply and demand, deal with price increases, find ways to sustain cash flow and be transparent with their customers. Planning for these while finding ways to make them more agile can help ensure that the company can withstand current disruption and is in a strong position to move forward when the pandemic is over.

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