How to make e-Commerce Crisis resistant - a primer

Globalization alone is responsible for a lot of structural changes in a wide range of aspects like economy, culture, or trade. However, during a crisis, we are met with an additional set of unexpected challenges. Apart from surviving the crisis, we are also bound to change the way we research available business opportunities and calculate investment risk. How can we use something so devastating as a virus outbreak to play in our favor?

Technological advancements have contributed to globalization, which, in turn, is one of the core factors for making COVID-19 such a significant threat. Power is nothing without control, is the 25-year-old slogan of Pirelli they kept for so long, and for a good reason. We are going to see that this message holds a central point in explaining the potential of online commerce in times of distress.

The COVID-19 virus outbreak has already caused significant business disruptions, sending a vast ripple down the supply-chain network. Millions of people involved in eCommerce today are the small parts that make this complex and densely interconnected machine work.

Present circumstances have temporarily forced team members to work in social isolation. This situation is especially true in the IT industry, where remote communication is not only necessary but very exemplary of how IT solutions operate at the very core. Digital channels may not possess the fidelity of face-to-face conversations but are the safe card we play now to escape our current predicament. We also use them to interact with our customers, and this is where eCommerce shines if appropriately used.

Globalization during crisis

Customer-first During Crisis

The quarantine creates a problem for physical stores, and their first step will be to move their sales process online. Convert product barcodes to QR so people can get them remotely. Try to show your customers your clear intentions to ease their purchasing process as much as possible. Place signs and messages around your regular store, informing clients about your plans to outsource your business to your website. Think about a delivery system that is safe for both your clients and your staff. Use authorized protection against the virus and come up with ideas to reduce spread by changing your policies. For example, remove the option for customers to pay cash on delivery.

Information about changes in payment methods should be apparent on the checkout stage, but they should simultaneously be listed on the home. Crucial changes to selling politics should be visible to customers from multiple angles. You don’t want people to find out that their preferred payment method is excluded only after taking the time to undergo numerous steps to reach that point. Reduce frustration levels by being explicitly informative. Use multiple channels to broadcast the changes you are going to make.

Customer first during crisis

Delivery during quarantine

Free delivery can become a paramount feature in times like these, especially beside an intense competition as an extra challenge. If you can’t afford to incorporate free delivery yet, start by offering it as part of a modest monthly subscription. When providers go the extra mile to show they honestly are concerned about the situation practically, customers notice it. Some companies have already turned part of their office staff into delivery groups, to facilitate the new demand. Let necessity naturally control the allocation of your available resources. If you are not sure how your clients will react to a particular policy – send a survey and ask them directly. It’s much better to get an informed opinion before blindly investing in common counter-measure practice.

Delivery of goods during crisis

Social Media

A knowledge-based digital economy prefers marketers who take advantage of virtualization. Social media channels should be used to promote special discounts and alert about concurrent changes in all nature. Most people appreciate the added value of discounts - make sure you enable them online and email them to your loyal base. How about a discount for buyers from an area near you most affected by the virus?

During the outbreak, lots of potential shoppers are bound to staying home and potentially are willing to substitute their usual walks to shopping malls with online browsing. If your physical store clients amount for most of your customer base, it’s a good idea to advertise your online business to them directly. Talk to them when they walk-in, or send them a newsletter, or call.

Customers are delighted to see when their providers are active participants in eradicating the problem with the spreading disease. For example, consider donating a fraction of your income to anti-virus or prevention awareness campaigns. This strategy is not only noble and beneficial for all sides but can contribute to a type of word-of-mouth buzz every marketing director is dreaming of.

Social media use during crisis

About Proactiveness

Is your shop staff used to talking to clients in person? Make them reach out using phone, social media, even instant messengers. With the right attitude, you can advertise and even up-sale remotely. Highlight individualized offers and distribute them selectively, using the channels preferred by the clients. If you are not sure what products to promote - try using clients’ existing purchasing history. During a global hardship, your shoppers will know your businesses did something to adapt, but it’s your role to communicate that to them. Stay proactive and talk to them to reduce ambiguity and prevent losing them due to negligence.

An online shop can include the equivalent of your physical showroom.  Use digital services like live streaming or promo videos to keep an interest in your promotion alive. The power of video as a broadcasting media in tough times is even more amplified. Strengthen your product outlook by adding promo clips to your video channel. Videos are great for effectively showcasing key product features, and an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the readiness needed to successfully face disruptions.

With people rarely leaving home now, offline sales are bound to decline. These people are most likely not gone because of a different vendor. At least not yet, or unless that other vendor has already made it interesting for shoppers by making the offline-online switch more convenient for them. Start by gathering client data and using it to create customizable online profiles and offers. Create incentives for regular customers like reward campaigns or by implementing rules for points and prizes. By analyzing customer preferences and shopping habits, you can create proposals that match their expectations. Ideal content delivery is also well-timed. For customers who happen to be ready to purchase today, you can use personalized messages or make them part of a scheduled mailing campaign.

Some of your online shoppers will be new to the web.

Not everyone is tech-savvy, and based on factors like business type and area, you might need to educate your customers on how to take advantage of your best offers. When you fine-tune your shopping cart experience, consider the option to sell without asking for registration from the buyers - newcomers will appreciate that very much. Make sure you also enable page search, so that even those unfamiliar with the layout and structure of your website, can find what they want. Post-sales action can additionally augment conversion rate through a double CTAs in landing pages or newsletters. Covering every opportunity will attracting more passers-by, that otherwise will do precisely what their name implies – pass you by.

For online shopping, setting and managing customer and product data is quick with PWA. Progressive web apps are a significant factor in shaping the much-needed customers’ journey. PWAs are an excellent solution for online stores with heavy traffic. Big sites support a score of product categories. Your main product categories can be converted into standalone PWA sites, each supporting flash-like content delivery.

When an online business experiences an increased turnover, it usually means that site traffic is on the rise. Can your website handle the extra number of visitors? A content delivery network in place can help with a big audience. You also need to have the right caching policy in place. With a commerce platform able to handle high traffic, simply lean on your feedback channels. Try a search for recurring issues experienced by visitors and address them immediately. By grouping problems by similarity, you can get an idea of how to prioritize their resolution. Don’t forget to put yourself in the position of your customers. Although it’s always good to first take care of problems experienced by most, always try to perceive your website and business from the perspective of each client individually.

Crisis always has a terrible effect on almost everyone. Making a profit using eCommerce during crises is not about taking advantage of people’s distress. With eCommerce, you can meet supply and demand despite the global problem, not because of it. During the financial disaster around 2008, most EU countries had lower trade volume, but higher conversion rate. This example highlights one of eCommerce’s best qualities: inbuilt resistance to crisis. In times of economic drop-off, eCommerce trade volume reduces, but turnover tends to increase.

With reduced cost and boosted efficiency, eCommerce is not only immune to disruptions but, with the right approach, also has the power to overcome them.

In a disturbed economy, the agenda of all online shoppers takes a series of changes. With so many stakeholders involved, it is not possible to accurately predict the market’s reaction. Stay observant and collect ideas. Be aware of how your peers treat the situation and how tendencies develop. A crisis is a direct threat to most companies. It’s crucial to have a clear view of everyone’s stake as part of the economy network.

Unless an online business manages to interpret the dynamics of a global crisis, a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided will occur.



David Dorr, Head of eCommerce

David is the Head of e-Commerce at CodeCoda where he is responsible to lead several teams of eCommerce specialists. In his previous role as a data scientist for London Metropolitan Police, he was developing deep learning NLP algorithms as part of the Crime Prediction initiative. He then switched over to combine AI with e-Commerce.
He received a B.Sc in Physics from the University of Surrey, Guildford in 1996. With this scientific background, he switched relatively early in his life towards Neural Networks and e-Commerce and has ever since been fascinated with what AI and Machine Learning can do for Online Commerce.