Ecommerce and Coronavirus: How B2B and B2C Online Stores can Adapt and Succeed in the COVID-19 Crisis

With all non-essential stores closed, UK retailers have turned to focus on ecommerce in order to keep their businesses running – not only to survive, but in some cases thrive.

Lives are at risk and we as a country decided to pull together to make sure we protect the vulnerable and stop or slow down the spread of COVID-19.

This is a terrible time for many businesses. We have seen shops and restaurants shut and may never re-open again. But others are shifting business online in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Ecommerce has become a critical business asset during this pandemic, with much of the public working from home or self-isolating with little to do. Some online businesses are reaping the benefits of having a fully-fledged ecommerce store up and running, while other retailers have had to quickly adapt in order to take online/phone orders and deliver these to customers. The graph below shows how the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has impacted our neighbours in France.

However, some smaller retailers do not have the capacity to make such a huge change from in-store to online overnight. The big online retailers will have warehouses with automated systems, whereas smaller retailers pick out the items personally and send them out.

But some big retailers have chosen to close their doors not only offline, but online too. Next have closed on and offline. Schuh have also closed their online store.

While most ecommerce retailers won’t class as essential, they are being encouraged to continue operations by the government. There are still issues around social distancing, but as long as guidelines are followed, they can continue to operate.

Physical stores cannot stay open unless they sell essential items. This includes:

  • Supermarkets
  • Food stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Petrol stations
  • Bike shops
  • Hardware stores
  • Dry cleaners
  • Garages
  • Pet shops
  • Banks
  • Post offices

If you sell these, you can continue as normal. But otherwise, ecommerce is your only option to continue selling.

With talk about a lockdown until at least July, this may be too long for many businesses to survive without generating some form of revenue.

25% of ecommerce retailers expect an increase in online sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, with particular products seeing higher demand than ever before.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores providing essentials to the public have adapted quickly to support their online offerings. Demand for soap, hand sanitiser and toilet paper has been notorious over the past few weeks – as the UK search volume below demonstrates.

According to Kaviyo, businesses which sell beauty and cosmetics are having increased sales. 75% had a 40% increase in sales.

If you are already selling online, then it’s important to remember which products to promote, and to take a step back and re-evaluate your digital marketing strategy to ensure you survive this period. Though this also goes for non-ecommerce business. Digital marketing has proven critical during the coronavirus pandemic.

As an example, the demand for delivered online groceries has skyrocketed. The graph below demonstrates the surge in search terms related to deliveries from supermarkets.

What other essentials are supplied online? Pet food has gained in popularity online.

At home-activities have never been more essential to staying busy and staying sane in many, many years. More people are looking for gear to work out at home.

More people are looking for ways to entertain themselves, whether this is through streaming services or other electronic entertainment such as video game consoles.

People are also taking this time at home as an opportunity for renovation. Searches around DIY and paint have also increased.

The UK public also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to an increased demand for beer delivery in the face of a national pandemic and lockdown.

Simply put, the trend of purchasing things you would normally get on a weekly trip to the supermarket are now being searched for and purchased online. Items which keep people busy or are productive activities at home are also increasingly in demand. You may have products which are not essential, but may see increased demand during this period.

But what if you’re not selling online? Some businesses are suited to offering an online shopping solution. Whether it’s clothing, furniture, garden products or otherwise – if there is any time to start your ecommerce journey, making the most of the lockdown downtime to get started with ecommerce could be the best choice.

We’ve highlighted how to get started with ecommerce.

How do I transition from brick and mortar to an online ecommerce store?

What do I need to get started with ecommerce?

Choose a platform

We work with and recommend the following platforms:

  • AspDotNetStorefront
  • Magento
  • nopCommerce
  • WooCommerce
  • Shopify

This all have different benefits, with price points to match. You will need to select your platform based on desired features, any customisations you require, your budget, and what you may need in the future.

Things to consider when choosing a platform are:

  • Total cost of ownership
  • Scalability
  • Installation
  • Flexibility and potential customisations
  • Design
  • Security
  • Support
  • Integrations
  • SEO friendliness

Integrations

Depending on your size, inventory and supply chain, you may wish to consider custom ecommerce integrations. This includes:

  • Fulfilment
  • CRM systems
  • Marketing systems
  • Payment integrations
  • ERP
  • ESB
  • Shipping address validation
  • Product reviews
  • Social reviews
  • Personalisation
  • Affiliate management
  • Email marketing
  • Analytics

Examples we have built in the past include:

  • Customer upload facilities
  • Sample ordering
  • Publishing platform integrations
  • Automated course bookings
  • Ebook delivery integrations

Shipping and fulfilment

You need to consider how you will get your products to your customers.

You can choose a shipping provider which directly integrates into your ecommerce platform of choice, otherwise it will be more of a manual process.

This will all depend on your size, number of orders, order value, budget, and all the other factors which influence your ability to manage orders and ship products.

You also may want to offer click-and-collect, which would also need to be integrated.

Resources and support

Once you have an online store, how will you manage it?

Do you have the internal resources to run the store? How will you make any changes, or update your products?

Additionally, you will need to have the resources to make changes to the store in the future. If you find success selling online, it’s likely you will want to make improvements to your site to boost your revenue. Once you’ve collected analytics data and analysed your areas to improve, you may consider:

  • Conversion rate optimisation
  • Cart abandonment
  • Conversion-centric design

Marketing

Having an online store is not enough. How do you plan to gain customers? You don’t have people walking past, and your audience is far beyond your local proximity. How will you attract people to visit your ecommerce store while they browse the web? How will you convince them to choose to purchase from you ahead of competitors?

There are many digital marketing channels to choose from, and your priorities will be different depending on your industry and product range. You should consider

  • SEO
  • Paid search
  • Paid social
  • Email marketing
  • Marketing automation
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • PR

How do I revamp my ecommerce store?

If you’re already selling online, then now is a good time to take stock and evaluate your ecommerce efforts.

Is your online store performance as good as you’d like? Do you think it could be better? What specifically do you want to improve, and what changes could you make?

Some things to consider are:

Target market

Identify characteristics of your target market, and look at how you can improve your store or digital marketing.

Are you reaching them in the right places? Have you segmented your audience well enough? Could you do more on your site to appeal to the correct segments of your audience?

Optimise landing pages

Whether these are your website pages which people will land on from Google’s organic search results, or specific landing pages for PPC ads, it may be a good time to optimise these in order to increase performance and sales.

Through a combination of words and design you need to convince potential customers to convert pretty fast, or they will hit the back button and go to a competitor to find what they need.

Make sure you have compelling, clear calls to action and messaging which gives your audience a reason to convert.

Improve your SEO

With this downtime you now have, you can turn your eye to SEO and see where this can be improved on your site.

  • Are all your pages optimised correctly?
  • Do you have unique product descriptions?
  • Are you targeting the right search terms?
  • Are your directory listings and Google My Business information up-to-date?

Analyse your analytics

Dig deep into your Google Analytics data and see where you can improve your store and online performance.

Are mobile users converting? Could you be making changes to accommodate them? How is your cart abandonment? How is your organic traffic level?

Additional revenue

There’s always an opportunity to sell more online. Whether that’s to find new customers, retain existing customers or upsell.

  • Could you be marketing to your current customers more effectively? What products would they need?
  • Could you offer related items or up-sell on the site?
  • Are multi-buy discounts an option?
  • Special offers or discount codes can often help boost sales – what can you feasibly offer new and returning customers?

Whether you are looking to bolster your ecommerce offering or start selling online for the first time, the most important thing is to take care of your staff and yourselves. But business carries on – and now may be the perfect opportunity to take your business and ecommerce store to the next level.

If you are looking to get started or want to revamp your existing ecommerce store, get in touch with the Xanthos team. We will be more than happy to explore the options available, and we will help you choose the solution which is the best fit for your business requirements.