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HOW ECOMMERCE RETAILERS CAN PIVOT FOR SUCCESS DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

5 common scenarios where brands can step up to lead with their hearts successfully

As ecommerce supply chains are strained by the increase in Coronavirus and subsequent factory closures in key APAC regions, ecommerce brands should consider that more quarantined people will shop online and be active during unusual hours of the day. QuestMobile reports mobile internet usage rose from 6.1 hours to 7.3 hours a day when workers were placed in self-quarantine.

While APAC factories were the first to be hit by closures, news outlets report a significant share of China’s manufacturing plants have resumed operations, functioning below capacity but catching up. Now, EMEA workforce regulations are affecting that region to halt production in order to slow the spread of the virus.

At the end of February, the National Retail Federation (NRF) maintained its prediction for retail sales growth this year of 3.5% to 4.1% to more than $3.9 trillion, despite uncertainty around the trade war, the COVID-19 outbreak, and the U.S. presidential election. Last year, ecommerce rose 12.9% to $777.3 billion, exceeding NRF’s estimate of online sales up to 12%.

Inevitable supply chain and shipping disruptions will drive consumers to purchase from ecommerce sites and further impact physical stores. This is a critical time for retail businesses to step up to the challenge. All mature businesses want to be nimble and ready to make changes to adapt at a moment’s notice, but unprepared companies of any size may stumble and lose ground.

How Retailers Can Step Up

SCENARIO 1: Although revenue concerns linger, international brands and luxury retailers aren’t sure what move to make and don’t want to offend any audiences. How can your brand show support to the affected areas during this crisis?

Conglomerates such as Microsoft, Dell, LVMH, Kering, Hermes, COACH and Versace have donated millions of dollars to fund the Chinese Red Cross. Brands that aren’t in a position to donate funds can consider sharing encouraging messages to stakeholders, creating content to educate consumers on how to stay safe (when relevant to their brand) or better yet, sending their products to help people in need. Louis Vuitton owner LVMH is using production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands to produce large quantities of anti-viral products across France for health authorities.

SCENARIO 2: Your brick-and-mortar is under lockdown because of Coronavirus and you need to launch or scale up an e-commerce site fast. Is it too late to do something?

Building an ecommerce site now—even if it’s a scaled version of what your brand needs—can help catapult and protect your brand as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to make an impact. To effectively leverage both online and in-store customer data, companies should platform using Salesforce Commerce Cloud, allowing for a high-functioning ecommerce system. Consider an accelerated commerce solution to get your business running quickly with a fully functional, branded digital storefront. Market specific accelerators, such as Japan Commerce Foundation, are adapted to regional requirements to bring the most essential integrations together and help you get your ecommerce site live quickly.

SCENARIO 3: Your current ecommerce site can’t keep up with extra demands the Coronavirus quarantine is causing and is crashing often, functioning too slow or creating a poor user experience. What are your options?

Top commerce service companies can bring extra experienced professionals and technical teams to assess, prepare, plan, implement and maintain your ecommerce site. Business continuity is crucial and consultants can help interpret data-analytic capabilities for top-level decision making on how changing threats may affect the organization.

Setting up the appropriate digital infrastructure to support increased digital communications is important and can be the difference between customers supporting online sales—or not.

SCENARIO 4: In a crisis, spending among luxury brands and other segments diminishes. What can retailers do to attract more business during a rocky economic period?

Retailers can look for creative ways to offset weak performance. Luxury brand Prada soft-launched Alibaba’s B2C shopping platform TMall (a Chinese-language web site for B2C online retail) in late February completing its online offering to China. IKEA joined in mid-March and its likely others will soon follow.

While many brands in China have paused marketing initiatives and ad spends as they figure out a way to engage with customers amid the outbreak, some brands may want to launch an innovative marketing campaign to nurture existing customers with the highest lifetime value. By leveraging deep learning to analyze data more effectively, brands can look past behavior and discover patterns among segment audiences and then predict conversion rates of each group. With this insight, businesses can carefully tailor engagement campaigns.

It will be important to use contextual targeting with any ads during a sensitive time like this, and brands need to pay attention more than ever to where and when ads are placed. Also, consider adjusting your messaging strategy and keeping a close eye on performance to see if people are opening and clicking on your communications as much as they normally do. Ask how much email marketing you should do regarding promotion of a lifestyle (traveling or supporting outdoor events) that people may not be able to envision happening soon. Look at your conversion rates and ask what makes sense to push out right now. Remember, poor timing of ad placements could make your brand into a “don’t do” meme overnight, so be wise in your messaging, timing, and approach.

SCENARIO 5: You need to communicate to your employees and customers but it’s difficult to keep up with the changing news cycles. What are the best way brands can engage with customers during this crisis?

PR Week advises customer communication should focus on community-building efforts and addressing the changing needs of consumers’ concerns. For companies navigating potential health risks, the wellbeing of employees and their families is paramount. Companies should be transparent about challenges, as it will make difficult-but-necessary decisions down the road, such as potential layoffs, more understandable.

The more authentic education or communication is about the crisis, the better. All brands should ensure consistent and timely communication with consumers and teams around the world to ensure stakeholder, employees and customers feel safe and supported.

Plan for Successful Outcomes

During times of health crisis and business complexity, strong company culture and a united sense of purpose can be invaluable in helping brands navigate decisions. Employers have many responsibilities and should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations.

Finding an ecommerce implementation partner to help mature your ecommerce efforts can help you make the right moves during a critical economic season. With uncertainty and outbreak news changing hourly, engaging with experienced consultants can help prepare your business to handle both surges and drops in customer engagement and create the best user experience possible.

For More: Managing COVID-19 Risks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest guidelines when possible, share your contingency plan with employees and explain what HR policies, workplace and leave flexibility and benefits available. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially your supply chain) chambers of commerce and associations to improve community response efforts.

Luxury Brands Go Big

It’s no secret luxury brands are eager to see people healthy and shopping again, especially in the APAC region so critical to luxury’s bottom lines. But if efforts help lead to quicker diagnoses, greater availability to treat or even a cure, then those donations are wise investments in our global economy.

Here’s a quick look at what some luxe brands have done to make an impact:

  • LVMH Group: $2.3M/16 million RMB
  • Richemont Group: $1.43M/10 million RMB
  • Kering Group: $1.1M/7.5 million RMB
  • Hermes: $720,000/5 million RMB
  • Swarovski: $430,000/3 million RMB
  • HugoBoss: $287,000 2 million RMB
  • Estee Lauder: $287,000/2 million RMB
  • PVH Group: $287,000/2 million RMB
  • Shiseido: $143,000/1 million RMB
  • COACH: $143,000/1 million RMB
  • Versace: $143,000/1 million RMB

Dolce & Gabbana announced recently it has partnered with Humanitas University to fund a coronavirus research project aimed at the immune system hopefully laying groundwork toward the development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions of the virus.

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