COVID & Ecommerce -
Dangerous Curves Ahead
For many US businesses, COVID-19 was like hitting a curve in the road at full speed. The year was off to an interesting start, but things were picking up with the promise of spring right around the corner. Then…whoosh. We got swept off in an entirely new direction with a new set of challenges and obstacles to face.
Did you see the signs?
Most of us missed them, especially here in the midwest US, where it can take a while for things to make their way across the ocean and deep into the heartland. It was easy to hear news from overseas and not feel the urgency. Even New York and Seattle can feel comfortably distant here in the Midwest.
But this time the effects of globalization, international trade, and travel accelerated everything like we’ve never seen before. COVID got here fast and hit us hard, and it put us on a path we didn’t predict. All we could do is our best to get through it.
The COVID Test -
Is Your Business Passing or Failing?
Because we all found ourselves facing the same situation at the same time, the arrival of COVID was in many ways an equalizer for businesses. This has been a unique point in time unlike anything we’ve seen in our 22 years in business at Blayzer. We made it through the 90s dot com bubble, 9/11, and the financial crisis. We saw the rise of social media, online video, and mobile technology. A lot of very big things have happened over the years, but never before has something essentially brought us all to the same starting line to face a common challenge like this.
Adapting to COVID-19 has been a test. It’s tested your operational flexibility, your communication systems, your technology solutions, and the strength of your strategy.
How is your company doing?
★★★★★ Would you give yourself an A for sailing through the hardships with ease?
★★★★✫ Are you earning a solid B, a little bit challenged but managing to stay ahead?
★★★✫✫ Do you average out a C, earning some wins but taking a few losses along the way?
★★✫✫✫ Are you pulling a D grade, slipping behind but fighting your way through it?
★✫✫✫✫ Or are you sinking fast and in danger of failing?
No Time to Hit the Brakes -
Give Customers What They Want
The first 6 months of COVID were full of twists and turns, but now that we’re further down the road, time is on our side. We’ve had some time to observe, gather data, identify patterns, and learn. As businesses and marketers who exist to serve our customers, we don’t need to know the future to be successful. We just need to be able to predict how our customers will react to change. The customer has spoken. Buyers everywhere, ourselves included, have made it clear what is truly valued and essential.
We’ll start with the obvious one: convenience. People want companies to make convenience easy for them. They want curbside pickup, home delivery, and digital communication. They want a seamless transition between in-person and online services. They believe that technology is capable of solving many of our current problems. They are correct.
Safety & Security
People also want to feel safe, secure, and cared for. They want products and services to help keep themselves and their families healthy. They want to buy those things with ease from companies that care enough for their customers and employees to make efforts to keep them safe and served. They want companies to communicate with them and be transparent about these efforts, so that they can make their choices and spend their dollars in alignment with their values.
Speaking of communication, COVID has shown us how much people value social connection in the customer experience. Whether it’s personal communication with a business representative or a way to connect with other customers online, people want and need social interaction. Customer communication should be a two-way street. Customers want brands to communicate new, important, and relevant information, and they also want convenient and fulfilling ways to ask questions, get assistance, and share feedback.
Another important thing customers crave right now is certainty. If there has been one overarching theme to COVID-19 and 2020 as a whole, it would be Uncertainty. We’re all facing new challenges, strange situations, and unclear futures without prior experience or a plan to guide us. Any source of certainty right now is welcome and appreciated, even down to little things like a website showing accurate inventory and delivering on-time according to its shipping estimates. Be confident, be clear, and keep your promises.
As businesses, we have a unique opportunity to help provide leadership and direction in uncertain times. We have an audience. We have a platform. We have both responsibility and incentive to rise to the occasion and lead by example. We can innovate, adapt, and give our customers what they want and need. And then we can accelerate.
Accelerating Ecommerce With Strategy, Technology & Marketing
No matter how well or not well you’ve made it through the early months of COVID, it is now time to take your foot off the brakes and accelerate ahead. That means investing in the areas of business that are going to get you through this and position you well for the future.
For manufacturing, retail, wholesale, and distribution companies, ecommerce has ascended from being a cool convenience or secondary sales channel to a primary and essential source of not just revenue, but business continuity. COVID has confirmed it. When your customers and buyers can’t do business with you “as usual”, you need to offer them a way to do business with you online. And you need that experience to be every bit as good, if not better than your in-store, in-person customer experience.
First up, you need to define your ecommerce strategy. This is where you plan out what your store is and does, what your goals are, and what you need to develop and do in order to go after those goals. A strategy can’t stop COVID or the next curveball that comes your way, but it can help you find your way around challenges and get back on track faster. It makes it easier to be agile and adapt. A lot of companies learned the hard way this year that a little bit of planning and documentation of your goals and strategy can go a very long way.
Next there is your ecommerce technology. You need to organize your catalog well and present your information properly online in a way that attracts and impresses your customers. There’s a lot more to a store than just what’s on the shelf. You need a solid stack of software solutions that will keep your back office and fulfillment operations running smoothly. Quality technology and data systems are how you can deliver the certainty and dependability that customers really want and need from their vendors right now.
We tend to think about consumers and B2C a lot when we talk about ecommerce, but this is an area where B2B really stands out. If you’re selling to other businesses who are relying on your products to operate and serve their customers, then your speed, accuracy, and reliability are that much more important – especially if you are or serve “essential” businesses.
Now is also time to evolve your ecommerce marketing strategy. This might mean different things depending on your business. It could mean shifting from traditional marketing or things like trade shows and expos to doing more marketing online like ads, email and social media. It could also mean advancing your existing digital marketing plan with more modern strategies like marketplaces and feeds, customer reviews, SEO enhancements, marketing automation, chatbots, and data-driven marketing. No matter what your specific mix includes, creating an integrated strategy for all your marketing will help keep your efforts efficient, effective, and aligned with your business goals.
Get the Help You Need to Succeed with Blayzer Commerce
Putting all the pieces together is easier with the guiding hand of an experienced and proven agency partner like Blayzer Commerce in St. Louis, MO. As a certified BigCommerce Partner and longtime custom web and marketing agency, we have the capabilities, creativity, and connections to deliver everything your shop needs. Learn why Blayzer Commerce clients love their solutions at blayzercommerce.com