Ecommerce in the Time of Coronavirus

16.4% of U.S. shopping was conducted online in 2019. Brick and mortar stores and the traditional retailers who keep those stores thought of ecommerce as a threat, even though almost 90% of all transactions took place in physical stores.

During the pandemic, ecommerce sales have increased by more than 28%, bringing the penetration of e-commerce along by several years, compared with expert projections. Now, shoppers are getting used to shopping online, even if they didn’t choose ecommerce much before. Chances are, this change will be permanent.

Online sales of food and beverages are up by 18.8%. Medical supplies online orders have increased by more than 300%. Grocery delivery services have seen doubling or quadrupling of customers. Online sales of home fitness gear, cleaning supplies, baby goods, and packaged snacks have skyrocketed. 

So is this the time to add ecommerce to your strategies?

Right now, there are winners and losers. Clothing? Unless you’re peddling athleisure gear, you’re not all going to make it. Health and fitness goods? Make hay while the sun shines — sales are way up! Beauty and cosmetics? Time will tell… so far consumers are holding steady in this area.

Survival of the fittest

Retail Info Systems figures the survivors will not just be the fittest, but also those that have dealt with the practicalities. If you’ve had a physical shop, adding ecommerce can be an excellent way to keep sales up, but only if you have a plan to make those sales work.

Does your space reflect the omni-channel shopper? Have you repurposed some of your excess showroom space to make curbside pickup more practical? 

Have you figured out how to meet shoppers’ expectations of free, fast delivery without bankrupting your store? Pickup options may help with that,  but you might also need to be creative about delivery.

If your business was all about services, whether that means bokwa classes or Botox injections, adding products that can be bought online may boost your sales by quite a bit. Right now, your customers may be ready to buy from you instead of Amazon just on principle.

But make sure that you’ve figured out fulfillment. Are you having items drop-shipped by a fulfillment center? Make sure they end up being profitable and that the fulfillment house provides good service. 

Will you recommend items as an affiliate marketer? There’s a lot less inconveninece, but you’ll also earn a lot less. The newest version of WooCommerce makes it easy to set up an affiliate shop.

If you’re planning to do it yourself, be prepared to deal with a lot of new concerns. 

Ecommerce strategy checklist

  • Getting the goods from Point A to Point B can be an immense challenge. Customers now expect to see their products in a couple of days — for free. Make sure your customers have clear and realistic expectations. Also make sure that delivery costs don’t eat up all your profits. Compare messenger services, the post office, and package delivery services. And don’t forget to take into account your trips to UPS or the post office. That’s an opportunity cost at the least. Curbside pickup may be your best bet.
  • Inventory is key. Even though the pandemic is making shoppers accustomed to out of stocks, they still don’t like it. If you’re not good at predicting sales, you could sink a lot into inventory and also lose sales because you don’t have the good people want. Offering a smaller selection can be a smart way to start. Keep close track of inventory, sales, and turnover to avoid surprises. Small quantities and fast shipments usually cost a lot more than planning ahead and placing larger orders.
  • Staffing during coronavirus restrictions may be a challenge. If you keep your inventory and packaging supplies in a storage closet, you may find it difficult to have workers six feet apart as they gather orders and pack boxes. On the other hand, fulfilling online orders can give your receptionist and other support staff tasks if your practice is restricted. That might make it possible to keep team members at work. Either way, be sure to follow safety guidelines.
  • Make sure your ecommerce shopping cart works. WooCommerce is a good solution, but it does have lots of possible configurations. Test it thoroughly before you launch. Friction in checkout will make shoppers abandon their carts. If you need help installing and configuring your shop, contact us. We’ll be happy to help.
  • Don’t forget sales tax. Sales tax laws have changed over the past couple of years. You probably need to collect sales tax for all purchases now, even if the customers are out of state. You may be exempt if you don’t sell very much… but planning not to sell very much is not always a winning strategy. The whole process is complex, so you may want to choose a CPA or sales tax software company to help you sort it out. 

Good timing

This is a good time to try out ecommerce if you’ve been thinking about it. Hair care products, supplements, online classes, virtual dance parties, healthy kitchen tools — any products you would recommend, you can sell. 

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