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A Guide for Online Business Owners to Navigating COVID -19

A Guide for Online Business Owners to Navigating COVID -19
April 15 2020

COVID-19 is no more an unfamiliar word for any business on this planet. While offline stores have been highly impacted, online stores are not much behind. They also have acknowledged the need for adaptation to the ‘new normal’ amid the COVID-19. 

So, let’s try to understand the strategies and tips you can follow to help your online business cope with COVID-19.

1. Stay calm and healthy

Unless you keep yourself patient and healthy, you can’t steer your online business through this tough time. Acknowledge the possible impact of COVID-19 but don’t let that acknowledgment overshadow your mental and physical health in any way.

2. Communicate with your customers

It is time for you to understand that your customers prefer a personal connection over a professional connection. 

Don’t hesitate in conveying clearly that shipment delays are quite likely owing to the prevailing condition. Be transparent and don’t hide anything about the impact of the prevailing crisis on your business. At the same time, don’t let the same transparency become a reason for customers’ distrust. Assure them that you are still receiving orders and trying your best to deliver them on time.

- Convey shipping information instantly right from the order placement to the delivery at your customer’s doorstep through emails and/or text messages. 

- Update your FAQ section with all the relevant questions and answers customers may have regarding your shipment process during this time. 

- If possible, also offer case-wise compensations to your customers for over-delayed deliveries in the form of vouchers. This will help them realize the graveness of the situation and your high level of dedication and sense of responsibility to your customers in critical times. 

- Let them know you are taking all preventive measures against the pandemic. For instance, you can start zero contact deliveries to ensure your customers’ safety and gain their trust.

If you ensure to take all these steps, even customers will acknowledge your efforts and they will surely support you. 

3. Channelize your marketing efforts (Make offers and emotional appeal)

Promotional marketing is crucial for an online store even in normal times, and even more in tough times. When people across the globe are filled with fear and anxiety, you’ll need to go beyond normal-time shopping strategies. 

Social media marketing forms a vital part of marketing strategy especially today. Promote your store on social media in a way to reflect how you care for your customers amid these times.

Encourage your customers to place orders by offering them online gift cards and discounts. However, before letting your customers avail gift cards, ensure that you have enough capital reserve to sustain your business. And these offers and discounts won’t affect your overall business much. Checking with your payment partner whether they can bear part of the discounts is also essential. If you think you can’t rely on giveaways for longer, keep other strategies ready well in advance that can take your business ahead. 

A possible alternative is an emotional appeal. You can run a COVID-19 support campaign and encourage your customers to become its part. 

And how can you do that? 

By declaring that for every purchase your customer makes, you will donate a fixed percentage of that order price to the center or state COVID-19 relief fund. This emotional appeal will not only help boost your sales but also support a noble cause. 

4. Tap into peoples’ essential requirements  

People won’t buy anything they come across at this time, but only those items they can’t do without. So, rather than considering this changed shopping behavior your bad luck, utilize it to tap into your customers’ present-hour requirements and strengthen your bonding with them further. 

Therefore, examine your store and determine which products will drive high sales and engagement. After you are ready with the relevant products, implement a full-fledged marketing strategy.  

For instance, if you have a fashion e-store, offering a party-wear shirt or blazer will hardly attract any audience with everyone confined indoors. On the other hand, a pair of t-shirts or a casual t-shirt will be more relevant. Of course, you won’t sleep with your party-wear blazer on!!!

Similarly, if you own a web-to-print print store, you should concentrate more on products like signages, labels, and stamps, t-shirts that people can customize with your product design software and use current-day relevant purposes. 

For instance, fundraiser t-shirts can help NGOs raise COVID-19 funds. Custom signages can help civic authorities or hospitals raise awareness about the pandemic. 

5. Manage manufacturers and stocks efficiently

Communication is the key today. Maintain constant communication with manufacturers and suppliers throughout. Keep track of your pending orders with your suppliers, especially those that have already been dispatched and are on the way. 

 A personal conversation will be highly recommendable, especially when your supplier is far away or overseas as it would help you know the exact situation over there and arising possibilities. This way, you can prepare yourself for the shipment issues that may arise in the near future.

If you aren’t a dropshipper and manage an in-house inventory, you have an extra advantage. You can analyze the stocks of your top-sellable and essential products and order them in bulk to avoid the near future possibilities of bottlenecks.

For instance, for your web-to-print store, you can order t-shirts in bulk as the demand for custom t-shirts might be high. Besides, ensure that you have all the other manufacturing and packaging materials including ink cartridges, packaging bags, etc. in adequate quantities. 

6. Cut down on non-essential expenses

Managing your financial expenses is of vital importance, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. 

- While social media promotion and digital marketing can bring traffic, marketing for niche essential products can help optimize your marketing expenses. Run paid ads, social media marketing, and mailer campaigns only for niche products and minimize your expenses on marketing efforts for non-essential items. 

- Settle outstanding payments with your suppliers as far as possible. If you can’t, seek for an extension of payment dates, or request for ‘payments in installments’ option. If you and your suppliers are sailing in the same boat and facing problems with cash flow, try establishing an agreement suitable for both of you. 

- Consider reducing packaging costs. If possible, prioritize product deliveries over packaging aesthetics.

- If you think you have alternative and easily reachable supplier options, go for them. Especially when they are more cost-effective, you can definitely seek their services for the time being and help upkeep your supply chain. 

Times are Tough Indeed, but not Unmanageable

COVID-19 has undoubtedly posed a great challenge to business worldwide. Nevertheless, there is still a silver lining for all businesses including e-store owners. Hence, you must understand though the risk of business loss is real and concerning, but manageable if you ensure to take proper management strategies. And adopt the business strategies as discussed around COVID-19. 

Good luck with your store management!!

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Sulabh Chauhan

With experience in content writing and a good command over Grammar, Sulabh Chauhan is always up for innovative writing. He also possesses good research skills that become the source of valuable content in his posts. With an inclination towards exploring the printing technology, he keeps searching for the latest trends and printing industry practices. He is such a big cinephile that hardly any Friday of his life passes without a movie in a cinema hall!