How is Coronavirus Affecting the Supply Chain – and What Can eCommerce Brands Do?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravish communities and economies worldwide, new and evolving consequences of this global health concern are rearing their ugly head.

Although many markets are projected to experience an increase in e-commerce sales, with fewer shoppers venturing out and instead opting to shop online, concerns still abound with sellers facing a less optimistic outlook.

Some surveys reveal that upwards of 36% of e-commerce stores predict the potential for the exact opposite: a downturn in sales. But with sales soaring (some stores are earning more in one month than they do over the entire year), why the bleak forecast?

Disruption in the supply chain.

China is the world’s global manufacturing hub, producing everything from textiles to electronics, and providing much of the raw materials necessary for the creation of countless goods.

Closed down factories, disruptions in operations, reduced capacity, and a backlog of orders built with no sign of slowing down. These challenges have resulted in a ripple effect across the global supply chain, forcing companies to reduce (or stop) production, and e-commerce stores forced to reduce spend on advertising and put up “out of stock” signs on their product pages.

What Can E-Commerce Brands Expect Moving Forward?

Unless you have a crystal ball, you no doubt are facing several uncertainties: to what extent and for how long with COVID-19 pose a serious health threat, how will “stay in place” orders continue to impact consumer demand, will the supply chain be able to accommodate this evolution, and how will the market respond.
One thing IS certain. As patterns emerge, savvy brands need to learn how they can adapt to sustain growth during these difficult times.

Ecommerce and Coronavirus: The Impact

In the aftermath of social distancing orders and guidance, eCommerce has emerged as an essential shopping modality. This has led to many verticals experiencing a sudden surge in online spending and has even prompted many traditional brick and mortar shops to transition to e-commerce to stay afloat.

Supply Chain Disruptions

Yet with the good comes the bad. Global manufacturing and the backbone of our supply chains were not ready nor well-equipped to handle such a swing in the market, leading to a negative impact on the availability of inventory, increased delivery times, and skyrocketing prices.

In some cases, this has left even the biggest of brands dead in the water. For example, Reformation and Victoria’s secret have both temporarily suspended their ecom operations. While Amazon froze FBA shipments for any items declared “non-essential”.

Strategies to Adapt Your Ecommerce Store as Coronavirus Impacts Shopping Worldwide

No matter your current situation, from exploding sales to steep declines or inventory challenges, the following tips can help your brand be agile and successful in a time when uncertainty is the flavor of the day.

1. Put Your Manufacturers on Speed Dial

There is no better time than to further develop and deepen the relationships you have with your manufacturers. Take a genuine “we’re all in this together” approach and learn how you can do your part to help them better forecast or operate. Discuss with them what challenges they are currently facing, what they expect to see as the weeks and months progress, and what can be done to mediate these issues moving forward.

2. Seek Out Alternative Providers (or at least have a backup)

Although there is evidence that manufacturing centers around the world are beginning to recover, they still face significant production challenges ahead. If this situation has taught us anything, it is that eCommerce stores need to be prepared with backup suppliers and alternatives they can count on in a pinch.
Take this time to re-assess potential suppliers you may have passed on in the past and see if they might make a good fit now.

3. Easy Access for Your Customers

There are proven effective ways to give your customers ease of access to your products and services. Most sellers use the best and reliable eCommerce platform to serve as a virtual store for their business. They are specialized in building online stores and they offer reasonable packages especially for the newly start-ups.

On the other hand, some entrepreneurs seek assistance from a lot of website builders to create their website with their brand label. Which is indeed a much more effective method for establishing brand identity to the public. Making your customers even more secured for having a legitimate site of your own.

4. Customer Needs Assessment

Now is the time to focus on what matters most to your customers. In a time when resources might become scarce (products, people, revenue, etc.), you need to focus on what will best serve your customer base and move the needle in the right direction.

Have your customers transitioned to working from home? Are they out of work altogether? Are they on the front line as “essential workers”? What types of concerns and needs do they have and how can you help them?

These questions and more can help steer the ship in the right direction for your brand.

5. Explore and Embrace New Sales and Marketing Strategies

In some cases, what worked before may not be working well now. The opposite is also true. For example, Facebook ad prices have recently seen a steep decline as competition from other “local” businesses and those experiencing other COVID-related issues have dropped off.

However, you could also double down on any marketing services or sales channels that ARE working and worth every penny. Though making your own infographic doesn’t require a degree in Multimedia Arts for there will always be a simple infographics creator available online for you to try.

6. Keep Everything Updated

In times when your customers are feeling uncertain about a lot of things in their lives, it is critically important that you communicate clearly with customers regarding any issues you may be facing.

Transparency is key, as is a genuine and human approach. Educate customers as to how you’re planning on tackling these challenges and how you are working to help make their lives easier.

At a minimum, ensure that any product shortages are updated and products that are out of stock are listed as “out of stock”. Customers are stressed and the last thing they need is to order something only to find out later the disappointment of being told it’s “out of stock”.

7. Uncover Opportunities for Special Offers and Customer Appreciation

Layoffs, reduced hours, and economic uncertainty in the aftermath of COVID-19. Now is a great time to find ways to help your customers and show your appreciation for their business. Discounts, coupons, special offers (such as free shipping, BOGO promos, and more) are all a good way to give back.

You may also want to consider partnering up with business adjacent brands that may want to do some cross-promotion and co-sponsored deals. A high-value loyalty program may also be an option depending on your business model.

Adapt and Stay Agile in 2020 and Beyond

Although challenges abound in 2020, those eCommerce brands willing to adapt and overcome will come out of the tunnel ahead of the competition. The ideas in this guide will help your brand tackle supply chain issues while optimally allocating resources and ensuring that your customers always come first.

FG Editorial Team
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