COVID-19 and its global impact are increasingly making headlines all over the world, with enormous implications on personal health and the business world.
How should retailers respond during this time? Beyond ensuring the safety of your employees, partners, friends and family, you might wonder: how do I handle my e-commerce business and manage customer experience during a crisis?
This leads us into another important conversation:
In difficult or uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to focus on your customers and make their experience as easy as possible. Customers will naturally gravitate toward businesses that provide clarity, close updates and create confidence.
Maintaining or boosting the customer experience during a crisis and putting your customers first should be your key focus as you navigate these uncertain times. After all, the last thing you want is for people to worry about their deliveries now.
In this article, we’ll highlight some effects of COVID-19 e-commerce businesses are experiencing and how you can make the best out of the challenges at hand.
Social distancing impacts digital media consumption and online shopping behaviour
As large-scale events and public gatherings are restricted across the world, individual consumers are also spending less time on sites related to outdoor pursuits and holiday destinations, but spend more time consuming digital media and online shopping in specific sectors like fashion.
Digital media analysis site ContentSquare reports the following changes in user behaviour from the coronavirus during their analysis of 1.8 billion retail site visits.
- For fashion retailers, visitors spent 13.9% more time on these sites. The average conversion rate also increased by 7.3%
- Consumers also made 10.3% more visits to sites selling healthcare products including pharmacies and health food retailers. Visits were 23% shorter but the number of transactions increased by 27.3%, bringing the average conversion rate up by 15.4% and suggesting many shoppers were browsing with specific items in mind.
- Supermarket sales went up by 16% and the average conversion rate for the sector increased by 8.1%. Premium online grocery purchases went up by a fifth (19.9%), while consumers clocked in 25.7% more hours browsing for groceries. Large retailers and marketplaces saw sales increase by a fifth (21%) with a hefty conversion rate increase of 14.8%.
- Sports equipment and travel sites conversions were negatively affected; dropping by 28.4% in transactions and 20.8% respectively
For e-commerce retailers, it’s critical to review all your planned marketing and communications campaigns over the next three months.
What was appropriate in normal times may be seen as insensitive or tacky. Reduce references to outdoor activities, tone down aggressive copy and think about ways to encourage community using technology. Also ensure your website is appropriately equipped for these changes in messaging and traffic.
Expect higher ‘where is my parcel’ call and email volume, increasing strain on your customer service processes
During a crisis, your customers will need and demand speedy, informed responses to their queries. Some of this will be reactive, where-is-my-parcel enquiries, so ensure that your customer service staff has the information to answer questions. Look at your internal service processes as well and consider bringing in technological solutions that can help you optimize your customer service processes.
Work with your customer care team to capture and report changes in customer queries and call volume related to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.
Retailers also need to understand the impact of the coronavirus on their customer service staff and capacities. Social distancing measures, preventive care and safety measures like working from home may impact customer service levels and expectations. Communicate these changes to your customers and think about alternative service methods like self-service methods to address where-is-my-parcel enquiries wherever possible.
Being proactive with information is critical to reassure your customers and manage customer experience in a crisis
Remember this crucial point: a fantastic customer experience is about knowing and responding to customer expectations and needs promptly to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
With more consumers staying at home, expect your customer’s needs and expectations to evolve. In a heightened emotional state like this, expect an increased desire for timely, quality information. Reassure your customers on how products will be delivered or fulfilled
Consider the following questions customers will have your product & service:
Safety: What measures are you taking to ensure the safety of your products? What precautions are you taking to keep your products, packaging, and personnel safe?
Delivery options and speed: How will delivery speed be affected by the virus? How often will you communicate delivery updates? Can I collect my orders from a remote location or make alternate delivery requests like a delivery to a parcel locker?
Customer service: Will your customer service still be available during this period? How would your availability change? How do I contact you if I have urgent enquiries on your product or my deliveries?
Retailers who can understand a customer’s needs for information and meet these needs through website communication, social media or delivery notifications promptly will help reassure them, show your care for your customers and ultimately present a strong, united brand image to your customers during this time of need.
Expect delivery delays for online orders – address this with proactive, centralised communication to your customers
COVID-19 has understandably impacted both the supply chain and the availability of logistics carriers to transport goods all over the world. Factories across the world have either stopped or slowed down operations leading to manufacturing and fulfilment delays, whereas fulfilment routes will experience delays from border restrictions, increased checks and travel restrictions.
Expect product manufacturing delays and inventory shortages to and from China, Europe and the US. Priority shipping options may be subject to limitations in delivery windows but how do you respond to your customers who place orders with you?
On the other hand, get a full view of your supply chain and logistics carriers capacities in this current situation. Communicate with your wholesalers and the other companies you work with on any potential supply chain constraints and delays they might experience. Take control of when and how these messages are communicated to your customers.
In times like these, proactive communication on delivery dates and updates on parcel transit statuses are especially critical. Your customers will still appreciate proactive updates on their deliveries, regardless of how long deliveries will take. Address these with delivery notifications that communicate the information your customers want to see with transparency and compassion, while maintaining your brand’s unique branding and tone.
How can you respond to the coronavirus situation and manage customer experience in a crisis?
Each week reveals more drastic impacts of the coronavirus globally and the e-commerce industry. While not all these impacts have a clear silver lining, perhaps this is also an opportunity for retailers to examine their business and communication practices and come up with fantastic, innovative solutions to support their customers during this time of need.
We at Parcel Perform stand by our customers and retailers in these uncertain times. We strive to make a positive impact and help as many merchants and suppliers with fast and easy solutions. Reach out to us and we’ll be honoured to support you.
Joshua is the Marketing Manager at Parcel Perform. He loves technology and a good book. Outside of e-commerce and Parcel Perform, you can find him in the kitchen, gym or yoga studio.