Many small to medium sized businesses offer their products online to their customers. While eCommerce has been around for some time now, the effects of COVID-19 on the global economy and supply chains will most likely change the way commerce is conducted. Have you seen an increase in traffic to your website? Have your online purchases increased? It’s likely that the answer to those questions is yes. These changes and possibly newer ways of doing business online could be seen as obstacles for your business to overcome. So, how has COVID-19 impacted eCommerce? And how will this impact change the way your business operates and ships moving forward? We answer these questions below.
Where Are Consumers Shopping Now?
Since retails stores had to close during COVID-19, shoppers turned to online shopping more than ever before. In fact, a recent survey revealed that most consumers are more cautious and want retail brick-and-mortar stores to prove they are safe for the public before they return to their stores. The survey broke out what different generations’ requirements are before returning to stores as well as aggregate data of all respondents surveyed. Here’s what the survey showed that all respondents needed/wanted in order to return to retail stores:
- 62% want stores to have social distancing measures in place.
- 36% want the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- 57% will require PPE for the store’s employees.
- 35% request increased availability of COVID-19 testing.
- 50% reported having stores require PPE for customers.
- 37% prefer availability of a COVID-19 treatment.
- 29% want local government assurance.
- 23% want national government assurance.
While many brick-and-mortar stores are working hard to meet consumer needs and reopen safely, eCommerce shopping will continue to be the go-to shopping platform for customers. In fact, 68 percent of all respondents stated they will continue to shop online to buy essential goods after COVID-19 subsides.
What Are Some eCommerce Tips for the Future?
As a small or medium sized business, you know the value of maintaining quality relationships with your customers and the importance of gaining new customers. However, you might feel overwhelmed by the idea of implementing more online, eCommerce strategies.
What are some eCommerce tips that your business and other small businesses can adopt to embrace the future?
- Optimize web presence with your paid and organic search channels. This might sound daunting but stick with us. As a small business, you likely have a website, even if you are new to using it for eCommerce. Any paid or organic keywords you currently use to drive traffic to your website need to be top notch now more than ever. Type in your keywords in a Google search and see what content ranks high in the results page. Check out that content to get ideas for your own, but don’t steal or plagiarize anyone else’s content.
- Latent search index is your best friend. But what is latent search index? It sounds really fancy, but it’s simple. When you type in your keywords into a Google search, scroll down to the bottom of the results page, and you will notice a list of keywords related to your search. That is list is latent search index. Google wants to help searchers find the content they want quickly, so they provide similar keywords for them. Use those similar keywords (aka latent search index) to add those keywords to your paid and organic search channels.
- Consider adding an online store, if you don’t have one already. Your customers, like others, are likely shopping online now more than ever. Making it easy for them to purchase your goods online will keep them returning to your business. If having an online store isn’t an option, make it easy for your customers to contact you to place an order. Have an email, online form, or your phone number easily available to them. Make sure you let your customers know you are taking and fulfilling orders as usual, even though your brick-and-mortar store might have reduced hours.
- Who can help you with your website? You might not know where to start to implement the ideas above. Look online for freelance web developers or search engine optimization specialists to help you. In fact, many platforms that host websites offer these services for their customers, so it is worthwhile to reach out to your host to ask.
- Effective shipping strategies. An effective shipping strategy was a make-or-break necessity for small businesses during the worst of COVID-19. In fact, there were many companies that suspended normal shipping costs in an effort to help their customers get the items they needed and to keep their online stores open for business. Many businesses offered buy online, ship to the store and contactless pickup options for their customers as well.
- Supply and manufacturer relationship management. Surely, the availability of supplies from manufacturers has been difficult due to all the restrictions the last few months. Being in good standing and communication with manufacturing partners helps business owners understand and better handle the situation at hand in terms of supply.
- Understand consumer needs. The mindset of “people at home staying healthy and safe” is what manufacturers and small businesses need to adapt to. Shifting focus to make or sell products that people need is one way to do it. Even if you don’t normally sell certain products, for some, it might be worthwhile to sell the items people are searching for during a crisis, like hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and masks. This helps set your business apart.
- Enact health initiatives from within. Warehouses and other major freight shipping work environments need to be kept clean and promote good hygiene. Easily accessible hand sanitizer in the workplace and social distancing guidelines are the main initiatives, and flexibility for remote work in workplaces where applicable will be more common. This will instill a sense of healthiness for types of supply chain employees, will keep people functioning at full capacity and keep goods in the hands of consumers.
The Times They Are A-Changing
Over the last few months, there has been a dramatic shift in businesses of all sizes opting for other ways to conduct business in response to the impacts of COVID-19. Clearly, COVID-19 has impacted eCommerce and small business supply chains everywhere. Now that more people are shopping online, more shipments will need to be fulfilled and shipped to people’s homes. An increase in shipping demand for your business doesn’t have to mean a headache for you.
Rethinking Your Shipping Strategy
Changing buyer behaviors are driving the need for out-of-the-box and adaptive shipping strategies, it’s becoming a necessity for small businesses. That’s where partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) like FreightCenter gives you the upper hand. Let our shipping experts help you develop a shipping strategy that helps you control costs, minimize disruptions and simplifies your process. There are many benefits of partnering with a 3PL including discounted rates, access to a large network of vetted carriers, and technology that simplifies and centralizes your search for carriers and lanes that best fit your shipment.