Simtech Development

How Does eCommerce Help to Overcome COVID-19?

Gayane Tamrazyan

Past few decades, businesses have been establishing their presence and operations abroad, opening new foreign offices, and building resilient supply chains around the globe. At this, the risk was estimated as something that will recoup the return on revenue and nothing unexpected will happen. An entirely unimaginable event coming from nowhere should have to occur to prove the contrary. The new virus is a black swan of the modern century forcing businesses to develop super fast to respond to the pandemic. 

It has been over a month since it was recommended to practice social distancing by working remotely. Businesses got their teams ready to work online. However, installing Zoom, setting up Slack, and learning the digital communication protocols are not enough for effective performance. After your team is well-equipped and the right tools are in place, the company top management should reinvent their strategies to stay productive. CEOs need to adjust to a new reality to overcome the pandemic and get the most out of the worse.

In this article, we collected the latest trends for B2B and B2C companies and recommendations of the real eCommerce business owners and experts to help other merchants effectively transit to a digital model of operation increasing the share of eCommerce as compared to the brick-and-mortar store activity, to adjust their teamwork, unique selling proposals, and the overall marketing strategies – everything brands need to refine to survive and grow during the health crisis.

Latest trends imposed by COVID that impact businesses

We’ve collected the latest trends that are available on the web and relating the pandemic. Below is a quick snapshot of our findings.

Recently, the Hubspot Company, an American developer of inbound marketing, sales, and customer service software, made its own research and revealed the following trends imposed by the pandemic:

  • Small businesses adapt quicker than mid and large size companies. 
  • Average monthly website traffic increased.
  • Weekly chat volume via onsite chat and Facebook Messenger increased.
  • Average marketing email volume increased: open rates get higher by 53%.
  • Customers are doing more research online. 
  • Direct face-to-face sales take a back seat.

According to Salesforce, the new eCommerce business reality is characterized by the following trends:

  • Growing website traffic, shopper spendings, and time per visit.
  • Usage of AI (such as predictive search, recommendations, or text) tools bring more profit.

Based on Stackline, the COVID-19 made the following items and shopping categories top trending:

Top 5 fastest growing items in eCommerce: 

  • disposable gloves;
  • cold and cough meds or paracetamol;
  • bread machines;
  • soups;
  • dried grains and rice.

Top 5 performing industries: 

  • grocery (supermarkets, fast-moving foods);
  • pharmaceutical (medications and supplies);
  • telephone conferencing tools;
  • home entertainment (gaming or video streaming);
  • online education and tutoring.

How to adapt your business to the crisis? Tips:

Here are the expert pieces of advice collected* to help B2B and B2C businesses to refine their marketing and sales strategies to respond to COVID-19.

*The below findings were gathered from webinars. At those online webinars organized by ScandiPWA and Hubspot in April 2020, speakers shared their expertise with online brand owners.

From Hubspot:

  1. Focus on email marketing as customer email engagement increased and people would rather hear from marketing.
  2. Apply digital ads.
  3. Focus on educational content instead of promotion to help customers instead of selling as people are still looking to engage with companies but are more interested in learning and education right now. 
  4. Use chats for your sales team to reduce customer friction and keep engagement. Salespeople are no longer able to conduct as much business in person. It’s time to refresh your sales pipeline and rethink how you’re doing prospecting.

From Warner Music Corp.:

  1. Find new ways of connecting with your audience like online performance, streaming, Tik Tok star shooting, YouTube challenges.

From Twitter:

  1. Use more accurate and reliable information.
  2. Reinforce relationships with your customers with customer service support.
  3. Run a community to support your audience and add positivity.
  4. Add more distraction and levity to your content.

From Lego: 

  1. Use active engagement, joyful information, and intrinsic motivation.

Adapting for the crisis: real-life stories

Well, the theory is quite obvious and predictable, but how actually do other businesses react to keep and grow in the pandemic?

Below are the real-life stories from eCommerce brand owners and marketing experts.

Red Stag Fulfillment

The CEO at Red Stag Fulfillment, a B2B that focuses on eCommerce fulfillment, expresses his opinion on this matter.

Has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

We have a pretty widespread of clients, so some have seen their sales drop; others have seen their sales go up. For right now, it’s business as usual. 

Have you had to adjust your unique selling proposition according to the conditions of the pandemic?

No! In fact, a crisis like this is an excellent time to validate the USP of any business and decide whether or not it’s viable. We’re living in a sort of economic incubator/accelerator. As we have all come to see in the past few weeks, eCommerce is essential to maintaining the basic living standard that many of us have come to take for granted.  

PEOCompare

This is what Nelson Sherwin, Manager at PEOCompare, Professional Employer outsourcing company, thinks on the COVID-19 adaptation measures:

My suspicion is that this is due to financial insecurity spawned by record unemployment filings and what, for all practical purposes, is a government shutdown of the global economy. Business owners are pondering if they should continue spending money on tasks they could, in theory, do for themselves.

As a supplier of virtual admin and HR services, the PEOCompare’s USP is “Let us do the stuff you hate.”

It’s a riff on how much time the average online business owner spends engaged in tasks that are sheer drudgery. Offering to do the job tasks which have been universally hated for as long as the concept of organized work has existed seemed like a strong selling point, and it has been. While there hasn’t been a dramatic drop-off as a result of the pandemic, the trend is definitely in a downward direction. If the status quo continues for much longer, we’ll probably sit down and at least ponder whether or not there is a stronger USP to be found in current events. An idea I had would be to focus on the consequences for business owners who screw up admin and HR tasks whilst trying to save a few pennies.

Mavens & Moguls

The Mavens & Moguls Company works with a huge number of eCommerce brands. It is a global strategic marketing consulting firm.

Paige, the Founder & CEO, shares her tips about the right brand positioning:

I am a branding expert who started a virtual marketing and communications firm 19 years ago.  Communicating your USP is very important to stand out from your competition. You can do it through a variety of ways including having a unique logo and tagline, using a signature color as a way to differentiate and finding a few key message points to reinforce in everything you do.  By repeating what makes you unique, special, and different you will drill home those points and own specific real estate in your customers’ brains. 

She advises to first, look at your business from your customer’s perspective to answer the following questions: 

  • What are you selling and how does your target audience perceive you?  
  • What are they looking for and how does your product or service stack up compared to other offerings on the market?  What do you offer vs. your competitors?  
  • How do you benefit your customers specifically?  
  • What do you do well/better than anyone else?  

Not being able to answer one of the above questions quickly means that you may not differentiate yourself from the market and may need to find a unique space to own in your customers’ minds.  

If you do have a unique benefit to offer then create a memorable sentence to show the market who you are and what you stand for. Find your differentiators then make a promise to solve that problem your customers want to fix. Once you find your hook then start using it in all your communications, your advertising, tag line, messaging, web site, social media, etc. Find your niche and own it.  

Paige suggests using this the most popular template for creating a memorable selling proposition by Geoffrey Moore:

For  ____________ (target customer) who ____________  (statement of the need or opportunity) our (product/service name) is  ____________  (product category) that (statement of benefit) ____________ 

Has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic? 

The biggest change for me, my team, and my clients from the virus so far is the shutdown of all networking events, travel, and conferences. Spring is typically a very busy time with many events,  trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. And for the past month, everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead.  I have had more Zoom and Skype calls in the past 15 days than the prior 6 months! Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. So first and foremost I am trying to help small businesses to be flexible and open-minded so we can keep working together during the crisis and create more flexible capacity going forward over the next year as the economy reopens. 

Have you had to adjust your unique selling proposition according to the conditions of the pandemic?

Our USP is the same but I think our perceived value is higher now that the crisis has triggered massive layoffs and it is easier for our clients to justify the expense of bringing on experts who can help them act so quickly and efficiently. Our message is resonating even better now.  In a way, the crisis has made us more relevant. As far as messaging goes, between the pandemic and the possible recession, leaders and brands have an opportunity to further connect with anxious audiences and focus on the true relevance of their products or services. We have to acknowledge that now things are different so we need to communicate in a way that will give our audiences better focus, helping them to create a bridge from today to the future. We need to communicate in a way that combines information and needs, synthesizing feelings, and facts. I feel we have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now. Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders and brands are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind but also the heart and soul. 

There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness, and timeliness. It is inappropriate now for content to appear tone-deaf in any way to this crisis so our USP is helping us stand out and breakthrough during a tough time.  

Riviera Couleurs

Here is the message from the CEO of Riviera Couleurs, an online paint shop from Switzerland, to other merchants:

Please mark the measures you have taken to improve the situation in your eCommerce business?

Nothing, the website was up to date. And had a good ranking on google. That was a job made before everything happened.

How have the measures taken affected your online business? 

The measure consisted of closing my physical store. So a lot of orders have moved to the online store. It is for approximately 600% more online orders.

What would you recommend to other merchants to overcome the crisis?

Stay safe before everything else! Then take all the measures needed to change your working method. Adapt to things, do not hesitate to change, and do it fast.

Closing

By summarizing all the above recommendations and stories, we can say that eCommerce now is ahead of the game as compared to offline commerce. All the eCommerce brand owners need to do is to prioritize the tasks properly, add more transparent and relevant information by keeping the instant communication with customers through chats, social media, emails, supporting them with proactive response and empathy. 

At Simtech Development, we customize online stores on the CS⁠-⁠Cart platform and we are certified experts on this matter. We can help your business to grow and scale accordingly during COVID-19 providing a cloud hosting solution tailored to your business needs, offering the appropriate plugins and modifications to enable quick and valuable communication with your customers.

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