We don’t need to tell you that these are uncertain times for all of us. The Covid-19 virus has an enormous impact on our lives and jobs and it seems that we quickly shifted our offline interactions to the online world. Business meetings happen through Skype, Slack and Zoom. And our friends have never been this active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But how do you need to react as a business to this Covid-19 crisis?

How are businesses coping with this radical shift of working and living that we are currently experiencing? Are they as flexible as their employees and clients? Or is it really easier to turn around a rowing boat compared to a cruise ship?

Currently most businesses seem to be in a state of crisis management that focuses on the everchanging day to day developments without thinking about what comes next after this crisis. And maybe we do not want to think about what comes next because we know it will be different from what we currently know – and we might not be ready to accept it.

We’re not going to lie, it will remain difficult for a long time and business will need to step up in order to keep their head above water. One of the biggest struggle will be retaining your customers. Because even your most loyal customers will be difficult to retain if they found an alternative that was able to still service and help them out when times were tough.

turn your business into ecommerce in times of crisis

Learning from previous global crises

This is not the first global crisis we encountered. So we need to have a look at what we can learn from the past. Businesses have been here before and witnessed the disrupting and disturbing effects of a global crisis.

But ecommerce focussed businesses like Alibaba and JD.com seemed to do just fine through the SARS crisis in 2002 and 2003 and they grew significantly. Amazon saw a remarkable increase of revenue after the financial crisis in 2008. Look at where these companies are today. They really quickly filled the vacuum that other business created by not being able to service their customers as usual. These ecommerce giants were still reachable online while other companies were relying on more traditional ways of doing business.

Have a look at these european stats below from right after the global financial crisis (combination of data from 27 European countries). It is clear that wholesale and retail were hit the most. The growth of ecommerce was definitely slowed down during this period of time, but did not get hit as hard as traditional businesses.

Ecommerce is stable in times of crisis

Source: E-Commerce As An Alternative Strategy In Recovery From Recession

How to react as a business in times of crisis?

Communicate

Talk to your audience about how you adapt to these rapid changes. Do you need to close down your store? Are your operating hours changing? Is everyone working from home? Do you need to cancel all meetings? Are items going out of stock? Is your shipping policy changing?

Keep your audience in the loop of the latest changes and talk to them through email, social media or on the phone. Even if things get switched up twice a day, communicate about it. We are all in this together, so be as transparent as possible. You absolutely need to avoid radio silence and denial. And even if changes have no impact at all on your clients you should still let them know that it is business as usual.

Give them a way to communicate back as well. Implement a Chat function, be available through your social channels and respond quickly on emails. They will remember you for your excellent customer support when things go back to normal.

Update your website where needed

Try to avoid confusion and don’t send mixed signals. Keep your website up to date with the latest changes and remove or hide parts of your website if they aren’t relevant at the moment.

Is your booking tool still working but you’re currently not open? Can people still find your business phone but there’s nobody responding at the moment? Can people subscribe to a service that isn’t operating for now? etc.

Keep your marketing efforts up

Don’t sit still. As we said before, communicate to your audience. You might need to yell a bit harder to get some attention in between the busy news and social feeds but eventually it will pay off. There is no need to stop your marketing efforts now. Think ahead and focus on client retention and brand recognition. If you pause your ads and posts for several weeks it will definitely have a negative impact on your business. So al the money you think to save will actually be lost on trying to get back in the minds of your audience which is now only thinking about the businesses that helped them through these tough times.

Work on your online presence

It doesn’t matter if you are a small local business or a multinational, now is the time to revise your online presence. Maybe you can update your homepage and change your call to actions so it matches the current workflow of your business. Work on your outdated company and about pages, write and schedule blog posts for the next months or year, review your overall look-and-feel, etc.

Kickstart your Ecommerce project

If you aren’t thinking about ecommerce yet, now is the time. B2B and B2C companies will benefit of the fact that they are open for business 24/7. Especially during a crisis.
It will be easier to retain your current customers if they have different convenient options to buy your products.

A lot of stores are updating their webshop features so they can offer curbside pick up when you order online. We’ve seen examples of coffee bars, grocery and retail stores that are able to keep their brick and mortar store open while paying attention to the social distance requirements. But they could never do it without a existing webshop where clients can safely pay online and book a timeslot to pick up their purchase.

Work on the next chapter

Now is the time to focus on what comes next. Find out which aspects of your business are impacted the most by this crisis and come up with a plan to reduce impact when a new crisis might disrupt your business again in the future.

How will consumers react

The general public understands that businesses will need to change their way of working as well. In order to avoid busy stores clients are moving to online platforms and are OK with longer delivery windows than they are used to.

But even your most loyal consumers will look for different available options right now. So make sure that your online presence is as good or better than your competitors so they aren’t pursuaded to commit to the products and services of one of your competitors.

Timothy De Ridder, Lead Marketeer

webshop ontwerp en ontwikkeling bij Baldwin in gent

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