Do you know how to protect your eCommerce sales from the impact of coronavirus and selling online?

While a nation being quarantined at home with only online shopping to get them through the coronavirus outbreak might sound great for your eCommerce sales, the reality could be significantly different. 

Insatiable demand, broken supply chains, increased turnaround times, reduced shipping and your own health and wellbeing could soon turn the coronavirus into the biggest disaster that eCommerce has seen. 

To help protect your eCommerce sales from the coronavirus impact, we’ve created this guide on coronavirus and selling online, and the steps you can take now to protect your eCommerce business during and following the outbreak.

How to protect your eCommerce business from the coronavirus

Since its discovery by the WHO on 31 December 2019, COVID-19 has spread to 115 countries, infecting more than 114,500 people. 

Whether you’re directly infected or not, the coronavirus will have an impact on your eCommerce business over the coming months. However, the following steps should help you to prepare for the worst. 

1. Start internally

First and foremost, you must protect yourself and your staff from contracting the virus. Follow the NHS advice for reducing the risk and spread of coronavirus both inside and outside of the workplace. Seek medical advice if you think you may be infected. 

2. Prepare for your own ill-health

Create an action plan to implement should you or your staff contract the virus. This should cover the possibility of a two-week quarantine followed by a period of symptoms that make you too unwell to work. The details of this plan will vary according to how your eCommerce business currently operates but could involve automating more tasks, outsourcing responsibilities, taking on temporary employees or even closing shop for a while. 

3. Speak to your suppliers

Travel restrictions and mass quarantines in China have caused significant manufacturing and supply issues over the world. And with estimates that one in five UK workers could be infected at once during the peak of the outbreak, you’ll likely experience supply chain issues regardless of where you source your products. Speak to your suppliers now to understand their coronavirus action plan and decide whether you need to utilise secondary sourcing arrangements. 

4. Enhance quality control 

Factories and manufacturers will be working hard to catch up on output losses caused by the virus. This may impact product quality. Implement increased quality control checks to ensure that you’re delivering customers the quality items they expect – don’t be tempted to ship sub-quality items in favour of delivery speeds. 

5. Be open with your customers

Speaking of your customers, it’s good practice to be open with them about any delays or problems with products or shipping. Keep them updated with timely tracking information and email updates and don’t forget to apologise and compensate for any inconveniences. If you are experiencing shipping problems, update your eCommerce store with details about expected delivery times.  

6. Prepare for spikes in demand

While many brands are predicting low Q1 sales as a consequence of the coronavirus, there will be e-retailers who see a surge. If you sell health goods, provisional supplies or ever boredom beaters, you could get very busy. Ensure that you can keep up by using the order management systems and inventory sync functions to confidently process, ship and update orders across your website, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Wish and Wish stores. 

7. Explore alternative revenues

Of course, the opposite could come true too. Sick pay, ill-health and economy worries could lead to reduced consumer spending. Prepare for a dip in sales by exploring alternative revenues. For example, selling on Wish might be an avenue you haven’t considered but that could result in increased sales thanks to the mobile-first nature of the platform. Or, you might use this as an opportunity to take your brand direct to consumer

8. Avoid being delisted or suspended from sales channel(s)

We might be in the midst of a national pandemic, but that doesn’t mean Amazon, eBay or Wish are going to turn a blind eye to bad selling practices. Excessive pricing (we’re looking at you Mr hand sanitiser), late deliveries and overselling can all lead to delisting or marketplace suspension. Act within the seller policies and seek help if you’re struggling to manage and process orders. 

9. Check eCommerce events

Events across the globe are being rescheduled and cancelled in a bid to contain the virus. Before setting off to any eCommerce events and conferences double check it’s still going ahead by checking the event’s Twitter page or website. You might also want to run a risk assessment on the benefit of you or your staff travelling to eCommerce events across the world and whether it’s best to delay attendance to the second half of the year.

10. Plan for the future

You know the saying, “fail to plan, and you plan to fail.” If the coronavirus outbreak has made you realise that you’re not prepared for a crisis, epidemic or panic, use it as an opportunity to become prepared. Specifically, you should:

  • Run a risk assessment;
  • Spread your risk;
  • Create a fall-back action plan. 

No one wants to prepare for the worst but in an industry as volatile as retail, needs must. 

Coronavirus and online selling final thoughts

It’s easy to assume that the coronavirus won’t affect you or your eCommerce sales. However, with the virus rapidly spreading throughout the world, it’s likely that your eCommerce store will be affected in some way at some point. 

The best you can do is be prepared with these key steps:

  • Protecting yourself and your staff
  • Creating an action plan should you become infected
  • Speaking to your suppliers
  • Keeping customers updated
  • Preparing for spikes in demand
  • Controlling dips in demand
  • Acting within sales channel policies
  • Checking eCommerce events for cancellation
  • Preparing for any future crisis or panic. 

And most importantly, stay safe. 

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