The COVID-19 black swan has arrived—to shatter and transform our lifestyles. Though eCommerce seems to handle the situation better than brick-and-mortar stores, its landscape has altered significantly under the impact of the coronavirus storm. As the world moves massively into virtual reality, online retail has both a good harvest to reap and urgent issues to address.
Want to know the rules of antivirus care in eCommerce? Read on. In this article, you will find an overview of the current state of the online retail sector, information about the latest sales trends, as well as useful tips on how to survive through the havoc.
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What COVID-19 Brought to the Online Retail Sector
The only sure thing these days is that everything is constantly changing. ECommerce has to adapt unceasingly to how the coronavirus affects people’s needs and hence—consumer demand. The latest developments are as follows:
- Shoppers are stocking up on basic goods, such as food, water, and healthcare products, in wholesale numbers.
- Since lots of people have switched to the remote mode of working, fitting out a comfortable home office is a major concern.
- The dress code is different—less fancy and fashionable pieces, more comfy homeware.
- Parents rack their brains for ideas to keep children entertained and busy throughout the day.
- Stuck at home, consumers have more time to devote to their hobbies and various leisure activities.
- Eating out is not possible, so cooking is back to private kitchens.
According to experts, the coronavirus will have a positive impact on eCommerce in the long run. Online shopping becomes a matter of safety and survival rather than personal choice.
The short-term implications are not so optimistic. Not all businesses will stay afloat, considering the challenges that online retail is facing now and is to face in the near future:
- ECommerce giants, such as Amazon, are expected to hit hard to get as big a share of the demand surge as possible. This leaves smaller businesses with fewer chances to pull through.
- Supply chains have suffered a major blow due to vendors closing their factories or reducing production rates because of the virus threat. Therefore, merchants often find it difficult to maintain enough stock to satisfy growing demands for specific items.
- Online retailers have issues with arranging the delivery, both internationally and locally. Borders are closed and patrolled stringently, and the current courier numbers are insufficient to cover the existing demand for the services.
- The global economic crisis is in full swing. People lose jobs and other income sources, which affects their buying capacity. It is only natural to expect customers to get thrifty and more reasonable about purchasing choices. Instead of buying another piece of clothes, they’d rather stock up on the basics, such as food, water, and hygiene items.
Also, there are obvious geographic trends that reflect the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemics in different regions. Both North and South Americas have seen a surge in online retail transactions, whereas Spain is experiencing a steady plato. In Russia and China, eCommerce sales have been negative so far.
The general sentiment is that customers are still willing and do spend money to shop online. However, their priorities have changed, shifting towards the new essentials that differ from the 2020 predicted trends. Read on to learn the details.
New Consumer Essentials and Trends
Based on a recent survey, eCommerce businesses today have divided into three categories:
- those with negative performance indicators,
- those where sales have reached a steady Plato,
- those with the turnover going up.
Surplus sellers make up 28% of respondents. Most of them work with the following merchandise categories:
- Healthcare goods. The highest demand is for face masks, disinfecting agents, hand sanitizers, etc.—anything that’s needed for preventive care and protection from the coronavirus. Pharmaceuticals, including sleep aids and sedatives, are among best-seller items, obviously due to the pandemics-infused panic.
- Baby products. The category of goods has seen an almost 690% spike in sales recently. Much like with the toilet paper craze, consumers are just stocking up on the basics—mostly baby formula and diapers.
- Food and beverages. Stringent quarantine measures and fears to catch the disease when standing in a queue cause people to shop online even for meals. Besides, eating out possibilities are either scarce or zero in most locations.
- Fitness gear. A healthier lifestyle is also believed to curb the coronavirus risks. Since gyms are closed, people are turning to home workouts to stay fit and fulfill the 10,000 step minimum. It is not only sports equipment that’s become trendy but also specific content, online exercise routines, and special nutrition.
- Beauty and personal care goods. Many customers use the opportunity of home isolation to devote more time to self-care. In addition, beauty routines have a widely known stress-relieving effect. Those are the main drivers of market growth. Related content has top impression rates, too.
- Houseware. These days, when restaurants and cafes are banned entertainment, consumers have to remodel their kitchens for eating in. Therefore, the demand for merchandise, such as pots, pans, cutlery, dishes, has been stably high lately.
- Office supplies. While some are losing jobs because of the pandemics and the global economic crisis, others are just switching to the remote format. Though lucky to stay employed, distance workers struggle to make their improvised home offices a comfortable place to work at.
- Hobby goods and toys. The merchandise is meant to solve the problem of entertaining both adults and children while they are locked down inside houses.
- Homewear. Stay-at-home work and leisure call for a different dress code. Consumers prefer clothes that are functional, look neat, wear well, and feel comfortable.
There’s also this surprising trio that does not belong to the above new essentials but has top sales rates—alcohol, cannabidiol-containing products, and religious accessories. Indeed, each seeks their own consolation.
As for negative trends, apparel and handbag businesses sustain the greatest losses. The sales rates for the merchandise have dropped by 20% on average. Proceeds from selling jewelry and electronics have decreased, too.
What Can Businesses Do to Keep Losses At Bay?
Even if you happen to be among the misfortuned ones, lamenting about things going astray and giving up on your long-nurtured business is never a good way out. Why don’t you make an effort and seek remedies instead of counting losses?
Below, we have provided a number of useful tips on how vendors worldwide—whether trading at Shopify and other platforms—can address the coronavirus-invoked issues.
Tip#1. Modify Your Business to Match the New Reality
This can involve different strategies—from totally changing the assortment to reformulating promo statements. For instance, manufacturers and sellers of apparel and handbags switch from producing and vending their regular goods to face masks. The measure is not only efficient in terms of minimizing damages but also contributes to building a great business reputation.
To respond to the upward trend in loungewear sales, famous brands launch dedicated collections. What has been previously offered as offline classes, events, or consultations is now becoming virtual. New promo mottos are phrased to appeal to the people who feel isolated and deprived of the usual ways to indulge themselves, whereby shopping is often positioned as a therapy.
Tip#2. Figure Out a Solution To Delivery Problems
Shipping and inventory tracking are burning issues in the eCommerce industry amidst the virus havoc—so work your way to resolve them faster and more efficiently than competitors.
Use software tools to aid the store’s personnel in managing merchandise flows and enhance the customer’s experience with delivery. For instance, Shopify vendors can install the free-of-charge Delivery Date & Time Suite or the No-Contact Delivery plugin.
Tip#3. Lure Clients With Promo Discounts
There’s nothing like a discount to keep up the turnover and boost profits even in these crazy times. To stand out and provide a wider range of customer options, vary the way you reduce prices—for quantities, certain types of goods, or bundled sets.
In the Shopify app store you can find a collection of plugins to help you with the task—e.g., the Volume and Tiered Discounts Kit by Mageworx.
Tip#4. Adapt the Content To the Latest Events
Find the right balance between updating the clientele on the latest issues and being positive about the situation. While you are working on the content, try to be empathetic and considerate to the feelings and needs of your audience.
You also can seize the chance of people spending more time online and connect closer to your clients. Tell them more about the brand, the values behind it, the products you sell. Incentivize customers to build a community to support each other throughout the difficult period, which is a great technique to win a loyal clientele.
Tip#5. Communicate with Customers Through Emails
Email campaigns are not only efficient in reviving abandoned carts but also work really well when you need to engage customers in communication without being intrusive.
Send out newsletters reporting the current state of your business after the COVID-19 outbreak. Use emails to express gratitude to loyal clients or ask for support from the community. Promote bulk discounts for families and friends and advise customers on the best ways to adapt to life in isolation.
Tip#6. Untap the Power of Social Media
Though locked at home, people can’t but ignore the need to socialize. Social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, serves the purpose all right. There, people also seek guidance on how they can change their lifestyles to stay positive, healthy, and fit and read the latest pandemic news.
You can appeal to any of the above to promote your business: provide guidance through influencers, post expert opinions, and engage your clients in conversations. This will help to build greater brand awareness and create a loyal customer community.
Tip#7. Support Charity Initiatives
Make the initiatives part and parcel of promo campaigns. In this way, you can kill two birds with one stone—incentivize customers to buy by appealing to their emotions and help the society to handle the crisis.
For instance, you can build a special promo bundle with the Advanced Bundle Products plugin and announce that some portion of the product proceeds is to be used for charity.
The COVID-19 virus has taken its toll not only on the human population but also on retail trade, both online and offline. The recipe to stop the disease progression is pretty much the same—whether for humans or for commercial entities.
First, you have to take preventive measures and respond adequately to the changed circumstances. Second, keep your flows running as long as you can—our tips will sure be useful. Third, ask for help when you no longer can and wait patiently for recovery.