How to respond to COVID-19 - Don't panic, think strategically
The situation we’re all facing today is a very real threat from the COVID-19 virus. A threat first and foremost to our public health, but also to our global economy and livelihoods.
It can be confusing to know the most appropriate way to run a business in a scenario like this. We’d like to remind you that businesses that continue to operate strategically in times of economic uncertainty often fare better, not just through the downturn, but also in the recovery period.
While it’s quite normal to feel anxious about your business, it is more important than ever to stay agile and proactive with your business strategies - constantly reviewing and optimising for the ever-changing market. For the most part, eCommerce and digital business is not suffering as intensely in comparison to other industries. The flexibility of being an online retailer gives you all the tools to adapt to this crisis quickly and decisively.
At 30acres, we consider ourselves not only your digital agency but your strategic business partner, helping you determine the right direction for your business in this rapidly shifting environment. We’re here to help.
What are you doing and how can 30acres help?
To make sure we can support you through a potential downturn, and through the eventual recovery period, we’d like to hear directly from you how your business is responding to this situation and how you are preparing for the period to come.
How is your business affected by COVID19?
Is your supply chain affected?
Are you experiencing a recent change in traffic and revenue?
How have you seen customer sentiment change?
Have you mapped out a strategy on how to approach the situation?
Please share your action plans with us, so we can make sure we are proactively supporting you to get through this together.
Looking at how businesses are responding, we wanted to share some of the best practices we have seen happening over the past few weeks:
Provide transparency to customers about changes in operations (changes to physical store opening times, reduced staff, expected delays, issues with shipping/ delivery timeframes) to pre-empt delays and ask for understanding.
Where relevant, inform customers of additional hygiene practices, and that they needn’t fear a risk of exposure when ordering online and receiving deliveries.
Create a special announcement bar or pop-up on the site whether and how your business is affected by COVID19 and how you are responding (if relevant),
Add new ‘FAQ’s’ to your site pre-empting the new FAQ’s your business will receive and save your customer service team time.
Invest in customer service and responsiveness on your online chat and customer service enquiries. Having a live chat function on your site and AI-supported customer service functions will improve real-time customer support online.
Email to your loyal customers to reach out to your community and ask and thank them for their continued support. Note: we recommend to only send these emails to your fully engaged audience. People get inundated with emails about COVID from brands that are seemingly unaffected and with whom they haven’t shopped or engaged with for long periods of time. This can feel like spam at best, or at worst could backfire and come across as unethical marketing practices.
Shipping & Returns
Offer free shipping to reduce friction for people who usually don’t order online because of shipping costs.
Offer longer return periods, in case the process of returning items is more complicated (not being able to leave the house, getting to the post office)
Gift cards & pre-order options
Offer giftcards for people to buy for others to continue to support your business and encourage a time of ‘gifting’ to those around us going through a tough time. Note that Shopify has made Gift Cards available on all plans now.
If receiving and re-ordering stock is currently delayed, offer the option to pre-order, or to receive a ‘back in stock’ notification, to encourage conversions even when stock levels are low and uncertain.
Paid Media & Audience
For established brands - increase investing in your existing audience and focus on ‘engaging’ and ‘retargeting’ your existing audience and repeat customers.
Relatively new brands still in the phase of growing brand awareness should work hard on building a loyal audience, through email acquisition and content marketing sharing value-added content, rather than relying on transactional sales ads and tactics.
Video and other engaging content types are seeing increased engagement, whereas pure transactional sale ads are showing reduced performance. Invest in authentic, genuine content. Share your story, and use this time build a deeper connection through meaningful moments, to educate, entertain or engage.
Attract new audiences - audiences who have preferred to shop in-store will move to online and are looking for brands that resonate with them and accommodate their needs. An example of this is fashion retail for older demographics.
Trust and language
Customers will be more likely to shop with brands they know and trust. When times are uncertain, this is more important than ever. Build this confidence through use of visible trust signals, such as genuine review content and testimonials on your site and throughout your marketing activities. Find ways to activate your biggest fans. Reward referrals from loyal customers, as they are your best advocates.
Consumers will be more discerning about where they are spending their money, and paths to purchase will be longer. Adjust your marketing models accordingly. Your business will need to put extra effort into communication, customer service and trust-building. Every touchpoint counts.
Consider the language you use and how it resonates with your customer’s current mindset. You can absolutely acknowledge the current situation, but do not use words or language that may propagate fear or rumors regarding medical and political issues. As a retail business, it’s not your responsibility to share public health advice or updates about COVID-19. We don’t suggest you ignore changes in the world either. Continuing ‘business as usual’ without addressing the subject can be seen as insensitive. If customers are coming to you for health and safety advice, redirect them to the appropriate authorities on the matter, such as WHO to get their information.
Show your support to your local community by sharing how your business is working hard to continue to keep locals employed. If you have retail stores, adapt roles to fill gaps or seize new opportunities. For example, retrain retail staff as online customer service managers to help with questions and fulfilment for your website, or have them do local deliveries. The call for community support and to assist local business will mean customers will be more selective in their purchases. Showing your business efforts to invest in your community will strengthen loyalty with your customers.
Cross-market with like-minded businesses, encouraging your audiences to visit each other's sites. Communities need to support each other, whether they are local communities or virtual ones. eCommerce businesses are currently some of the more fortunate in still being in a position to trade, but countless small businesses in our community are on the brink. Think about how you can encourage your communities and customers to continue to shop from the local corner store, baker and butcher, and find out what home delivery initiatives are set up. It’s important for our social and economic fabric that these businesses are able to survive. Use your large social media audiences as a source for good to inspire your followers and strengthen community spirit.
Finally, this is the time for the eCommerce industry to show leadership - not just in business, but in social responsibility. Consider how your business can help lead the way at this important time. You can make a difference.
Support & Resources
As a client of 30acres, we will keep you up to date with any initiatives and offers that will make it easier for you to continue your business and adapt to this changing environment.
Below are a few additional resources with responses from Shopify and Facebook, along with a collection of remote working tools offered by leading technology provides under the Open for Business Hub
Please reach out to us if you want to talk about how to best approach this situation for your business. We’re on your team.
We’re with you. Business owners like you are the heart of Shopify, and we always want to do everything in our power to support you. Read on to learn about the actions we’re taking, get answers to your questions, and access resources to help you navigate your business during this challenging time.