E-Commerce in Times of Crisis

COVID-19 is, besides of a sad story, an opportunity for online retailers. As the virus constitutes an immense threat to public healthcare around the globe, certain factors in the (not so) new way of working from home, profoundly impact the way we shop and behave.

Since the corona crisis started in December ‘19, many online retailers, regionally varying, report an increase in shoppers and transactions. As governments around the globe shut down shopping malls to prevent close contact (Social Distancing), a transfer in shopping behavior from retail to online is ostensible. The changing behavior comes only logical, as people still need to cloth, feed, and buy goods necessary for survival in lockdown situations.

In this article, I want to spotlight the opportunities online commerce creates in times of crisis, such as these. The tidal wave of lost jobs in retail creeps throughout the globe. However, this turn of events might as well come as an opportunity for companies who focus on creating new online commerce jobs. Remember, with ‘customers come first’ attitude and by being adaptive, and you can reap profits, made possible not despite, but because of the ongoing crisis.

When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters—one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.

- John F. Kennedy

You already run an online business

Aside from a very few, most online merchants running an e-Commerce Business are not multi-million-dollar corporations. You might run a small high-street shop, and because it’s trendy, you asked a friend to help you extend your shop online. Hallelujah. You did the first step to getting online sales. But now what?  It is unlikely that immediate success will spring right after you open doors to your online store. You might think that you are new to this type of business, and you can’t afford to learn how to fight on this new front. So you fall back to your old habits. Although you are rejecting a viable opportunity for additional profit, you know that your physical store works, and sticking to what you know is a safe bet.

  The truth is, in certain situations, you should focus on your core business. Nevertheless, even after concentrating hard on maintaining your existing clientele, competing to large retail chains is almost impossible for average retailers, resource-wise, and financially. As you have been guessing correctly, e-Commerce done-right comes at a cost.
Think of setting up e-Commerce the right way as setting up a retail shop, with all its shelves, drawers, showrooms, and storage facilities. Even your sales personnel is part of the equation. Why? Because they constitute your public face. They are the first ones a pass-by customer sees when they enter your establishment. Now, how does this boil down to cost?

Easy. The value of the investment in setting up, running, maintaining, and buying goods for sale, make up your short, mid- and long-term running cost. E-Commerce is no different. First, you build your showroom, the communications platform that attracts your online customers. That’s the reason why you should put the same effort into designing a virtual showroom as you do when decorating and arranging your real shop. The difference is that, in the real world, an interior designer will take professional care of physical arrangements, wherein the digital world a User Interface Designer will take care of the critical aspects of your shop. You also need to maintain an appropriate tone of voice. Although a crisis may not affect everyone, it’s crucial to avoid being unintentionally sarcastic or show incompetence. Let your people know you are aware of the crisis consequences and reflect that in your messages and even product description. Success during times of tragedy is also about anticipating the possible change in your customers’ behavior.

Back to the main question:

Why don’t I get any sales on my e-shop?

Let me answer the question with a single, easy to understand, answer: you didn’t put enough effort into it. During a crisis, it’s essential to pay attention to any online movement. When running your services, greetings notices, or notifications, the way you always did, can appear insensitive. Let your clients know you understand the situation and will do everything possible to react to any present signs of reluctance or decisions shown by your shoppers.

If you are new to e-Commerce

Every new e-Commerce business is challenging. You might have understood from the previous paragraphs that e-Commerce is far from being a set-it and forget-it activity. The basic rules of high-street retail stores also apply in their web counterpart.

The arising question for ecom newbies is undoubted: How do I guarantee success, and what is the turn-around time of getting my business successfully online?

Awareness! A key factor for success.

Let’s step into the nitty-gritty of building an e-Commerce business. It all begins with involvement and taking matters seriously. First, and most important, is finding a technical e-commerce partner to help you work out all the technical aspects. These activities include everything outside your knowledge and practice about running a shop. Without a professional partner, you won’t be able to transform your design ideas and implement them in your online tool, just like you did when decorating your physical storefront. I am not referring to the out-of-the-box feel but a fully customized workflow and design that fits your products and clientele.

But hold, it’s not only design that counts; It’s technical expertise, content preparation, marketing, SEO, SEM, customer acquisition, omnichannel advertisement, customer care, and using statistics and analysis to improve your main strategy.

I know, I made this look easy-peasy, believe me, it’s not. Many specialists have to work hand-in-hand to achieve a perfect outcome, and that is the reason, why e-Commerce should be nothing but a reflection of your retail store; It’s a costly process involving highly specialized individuals who know best how to make your customers feel welcome and, ease the process of transforming them into paying customers.

It may sound cheesy, but in times of crisis, it is better to follow your intuition and exude empathy. Now, more than ever, you need to show your customers that you understand the situations and are working to protect their values and expectations.

Opportunities for retail workforces

The impact on the retail workforce, estimated at 20% of all laborers in Europe and the US, relies upon the retail industry or, in other words, high-street shops. Such shops are the reason a massive amount of people have jobs in any sector that could pose a challenge to economies.

However, I believe that e-Commerce can lessen the negative impact of the current situation, and even help Businesses discover new solutions for a better and secure future, even in uncertain times.

Opportunities for Merchants

Health or economic crisis will not end unexpectedly. Over the past two decades, several threats have emerged and passed repeatedly. Some smaller, some larger! The most critical fact for eCommerce in times of crisis is to prepare for alternative markets. While sitting locked out at home, the opportunity arises by completing a thought-out plan of action, and follow it step-by-step, and not be distracted by industry news or turmoil. The more you prepare to survive a decentralized economy, the more your possible gain. Trusting a mentality such as this, even your retail outlet can - one day - seem very replaceable.

If you like to find out more about e-Commerce in times of crisis, for the month of March and April, you can schedule a completely free consultation with me. Book your free 60-minute slot below and I am sure you will get a lot of useful information that will help you spin up your online shop fast! Schedule a slot that works for you here!


Andreas Maier | CEO

Andreas is a result-oriented CEO who brings nearly 30 years of experience gained in the high-tech industry. His experience ranges up to leading positions in Fortune 100 companies such as rentalcars.com (PCLN) or Intrasoft International, a leading EU based R&D software vendor. He holds a Ph.D. in Neural Networks from the University of Cologne, Germany.
In the past Andreas has successfully founded and co-founded several startups among others XXL Cloud Inc., eShopLeasing Ltd, and WDS Consulting SA. His expertise is strongly focused on modern headless Commerce and the optimization of processes in IT ecosystems.