The Internet has enabled a world where sending letters, paying bills, shopping and even working a full-time job can all be done without leaving the house. With the coronavirus top-of-mind, the eCommerce industry is proving particularly resilient as more people make the decision to self-quarantine.
Shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retail stores have seen a dramatic decrease in foot traffic in recent weeks, and Digital Commerce 360 reports online sales are up 52% from the same time frame last year. Additionally, the number of online shoppers has increased by 8.8%.
But can it last?
Long-term eCommerce industry impacts uncertain
Recent numbers show eCommerce industry professionals have mixed feelings about how the coronavirus will impact sales long-term.
As the threat of widespread pandemic increased in March, a survey of 304 U.S. retailers in the eCommerce industry revealed that only 8% expected sales to increase significantly. Here is what the rest of them said regarding revenue predictions:
- 30% up somewhat
- 26% as projected
- 32% down somewhat
- 4% down significantly
Stores that offer omnichannel experiences, such as Walmart and Target, are likely to take less of a hit as they have diversified access between online and brick-and-mortar offerings. This is also a time when Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS) systems are serving retailers well.
So far, the coronavirus has not halted mail delivery. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says there is a very low risk for spreading the coronavirus through products and packages – even if they are shipped from China – because the virus has a low survivability rate on surfaces.
Benefits and challenges in the eCommerce industry during COVID-19
As more cases of COVID-19 emerge, research by Bloomreach shows increased sales volume for certain items (such as health products and cleaning supplies). According to the data, the following items saw dramatic spikes in a week-over-week time period when COVID-19 was the top headline.
- Hand sanitizer sales increased 420%.
- Mask sales increased 590%.
- Gloves sales increased 151%.
- Vitamins sales increased 78%.
- Disinfectants sales increased 178%.
Those in the eCommerce industry that sell these and similar items are at an obvious advantage. However, online retailers that specialize in clothing, electronics, luxury products and other goods are less likely to benefit because there is less of a demand. In fact, they may suffer greatly because many of the products are made in China where several factories are under quarantine.
Supply chain issues are increasingly becoming a concern. The B2B eCommerce industry, in particular, is scrambling for inventory as the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The impact of the coronavirus on eCommerce businesses is also a matter of location. Turkey, for example, has seen a 300% increase in its eCommerce industry sales since the COVID-19 outbreak emerged.
3 tips for COVID-19 survival in the eCommerce industry
Like any life-altering situation, the eCommerce industry must adapt and react. Here are a few things to keep in mind as the coronavirus runs its course.
1. Keep customer trust
It is not uncommon to hear about people who exploit crisis situations for their own personal gain. The COVID-19 epidemic is no different. Amazon has removed more than 1 million fraudulent products related to the virus, such as face masks. Because trust is fragile, eCommerce brands must be hypervigilant about ensuring customers feel safe purchasing from them.
2. Communicate effectively
During this global health crisis, it is essential to maintain good public relations. Communicate with your customers regularly. Let them know what measures you are taking to get in front of the issue.
For example, Walmart is posting regular updates on its corporate newsroom page. After one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 in Kentucky, they let the public know the reasons behind their decision to keep the store open. They also shared how new cleaning protocols are being used to take additional precautions.
Because many in the eCommerce industry are facing supply chain issues, delays are expected. Be sure to communicate such issues effectively so no one is caught by surprise.
3. Look to the future
COVID-19 took most of the eCommerce industry by surprise, so take this situation as a lesson to not be caught off guard next time. Once this passes, be sure to evaluate your individual situation, how your business was impacted and what you learned.
If your brick-and-mortar store does not offer a curbside pickup option now, for example, it may be a good time to consider implementing one. You may also want to consider investing in extra inventory so you will have it on hand if a similar situation arises in the future.
4. Leverage third-party tools
COVID-19 has shown the eCommerce industry how important it is to stay on the offense during times of uncertainty. There are many third-party tools that can help ensure all of your systems are functioning optimally.
PowerSync is here to help businesses in the eCommerce industry succeed amid COVID-19 challenges. We offer highly configurable merchant solutions designed for growth.
Our subscription management software helps businesses manage even the most complex recurring order scenarios. We also offer Magento-Salesforce system integration products that keep data in both platforms up to date so you can make the best and most up-to-date business decisions.
If you would like more information on how our products can benefit you, fill out the form to request a complimentary evaluation.