This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on April 30, 2020.
With most states under some kind of stay-at-home order, many businesses have been forced to close brick-and-mortar locations. Even when stores are staying open, foot traffic is falling as customers stay home and order online in an effort to stop the spread.
The results are significant. Data from Emarsys and GoodData show that for the week ending April 10, ecommerce revenue in the United States is up 42 percent year over year. Many countries have seen even greater growth.
Needless to say, now is the time to optimize your digital storefront or get online if you haven’t yet. Companies that are already set up for ecommerce are naturally in a better position, but every retail brand should look into how it can sell its products and services online and better communicate the option to its customers.
An audit of your ecommerce site is a great starting point. Are your calls-to-action in the right place? Are you focusing and describing the benefits of your product? Does your site take too long to load? Even seemingly minor things can have a big impact. Neil Patel reports that 40 percent of web users abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.
Even if your site is already in good shape, it may be helpful to make adjustments that reflect the current circumstance. Keeping customers informed about how the shutdown is affecting your product availability, shipping speed and more will give them greater confidence when they make a purchase.
Adjusting your marketing strategy will also prove beneficial. Doubling down on existing customers that have purchased from you in the past and are familiar with your brand is of paramount importance in uncertain economic conditions.
Paid social and email marketing should take precedence, especially if you need to communicate certain offers that may entice previous customers. Customer-acquisition costs could also rise during this time. A smart strategy to maintain cash flow is to extend previous customers new, exciting offers to help retain them.
Making an appealing pitch
While many people are cutting back on their spending habits, almost everyone is still buying necessities that keep them happy and healthy while at home. Unsurprisingly, food and other household essentials have seen the greatest online sales growth. In fact, an eMarketer analysis of online grocery sales found a 183 percent increase in March 2020 compared to the year before.
Certain companies may be facing the kinds of difficult conditions that prevent them from acquiring new customers, brands specializing in meal prep, beverages and other food-delivery essentials could find themselves in the perfect situation to scoop up market share and acquire new customers. Home-improvement brands have also seen major sales increases as people look for activities to stay productive while stuck at home. Video games have been moving in record numbers as well.
When promoting your ecommerce brand, keep customers’s current habits in mind. Whether you’re giving them something productive to do or helping them stay entertained, this focused messaging will help illustrate the essential nature of your products. And try and bypass stay-at-home-specific messaging to avoid inundating customers with fear-fomenting sentiments.
Remain aware of potential challenges
Even the most digitally savvy brands are subject to risk during this time. In an interview with CNBC, analyst Oscar Orozco warned, “Even though consumers are buying more products online, digitally native brands should anticipate hardships in the coming months … Sales will continue to shift from nice-to-have products to must-have products.”
Supply-chain challenges may also pose a threat. Many manufacturers are shifting to making face masks, ventilators and other necessary supplies, which could impact your own production and, thus, your ability to advertise. The increased volume of online orders means shipping delays for many brands.
Keep such risks in mind as you enhance your ecommerce efforts. A proactive approach to such challenges will help you better communicate with your customers and adapt to potentially changing preferences.
Getting through and growing stronger
While this is a period of tremendous challenges for retailers, it is also a clear reflection of just how important ecommerce has become. Brands that truly focus on optimizing their digital experience and reaching customers online will be better able to continue driving revenue. Better yet, they will also be in a stronger position when society eventually gets back to normal. Your efforts to shift strategies and improve your ecommerce options will leave you better prepared for a future in which online sales continue to play a major role.
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