We recently sat down with one of our agency partners, Screen Pages to discuss different ways online retailers can combat eCommerce disruption in the wake of shelter-in-place orders and distribution instability.
The focus for retailers now is reducing impact on sales, improving customer experience and staying on top of uncertainty. Here are our best strategies for eCommerce merchants to accomplish just that.
To see the full conversation with Screen Pages, watch the recording.
Transparency is Always Key
We talk about the importance of transparency around shipping all the time, even in “normal” retail circumstances. But with all the crazy disruptions currently going on, transparency across the board is all the more crucial.
First, you need to have a clear place on your website for customers to get updated information about your policies. Whether you create a separate page or stick it right on your homepage, make sure it’s obvious.
Let customers know you are still open and filling orders. Also you need to provide details about how your operations or order process may have changed. Your loyal customers want to support you, but they may think twice if they aren’t sure whether they will actually receive their items or not.
This is also a great opportunity to include a personal note from the owner. It adds a level of humanity to your business, and helps customers relate to you. Mention the care you are taking for cleanliness and the safety of your staff, and tell customers they are still a priority.
The situation around shipping and fulfillment right now is constantly changing, so your customers want want extra assurance. We’ve got tips for your shipping strategy below, but for now let’s cover what you should communicate to buyers about shipping.
On your status page, include any delays you are seeing in processing or delivering orders. Tell customers how much longer to expect for their items, so they aren’t impatient and constantly checking their order status. The status page is also a great place to restate your returns policy. This is especially true if you sell products that some people prefer to buy in-store, like clothing, furniture or shoes.
Get Social (from a Distance)
The next area of focus that will help you combat eCommerce disruption social media. Now is a great time to be working on your digital presence. People are stuck inside and bored, and we all know endlessly scrolling through feeds is a top time waster. If you already have good social media game, it’s time to amp it up. If not, it’s time to start.
Find which platform works best for your products, and also which ones your target audience is on. Typically Instagram and Facebook are your best bet, especially if you’re B2C and D2C, because of its visual nature. You may be tempted to cut or stay away from paid advertising to save in the face of uncertainty. However, that’s not going to be the right thing for everyone. If your ads are still performing and bringing you enough sales, then it might be time to turn them up, not off.
This is also a great opportunity to increase your engagement with your followers. Reply to their comments, share user generated content on your own accounts, and maybe run a contest to expand your reach. Build that audience and that brand loyalty. Even if it’s not turning into tons of conversions now while people are spending conservatively, it will turn into sales later.
Watch Your Shipping
Staying on top of the things affecting your shipping strategy is essential in order for you to combat eCommerce disruption. An easy one to start with is lead times. If you are taking longer to process orders, due to an increased demand or a reduced workforce, you’ll need to factor that into your estimated delivery dates or ranges. (If you use ShipperHQ, you can adjust your lead times on your Origin or on a Shipping Group for specific items).
As carriers change their services, you’ll want to make sure your shipping matches. We’re monitoring FedEx, UPS and USPS and regularly updating this status page, so keep an eye there. Some recent changes to note – some carriers are no longer enforcing required signatures or guaranteeing certain services. So if you still show those options on your website and are charging customers extra, it’s time to switch those off.
If you sell internationally, you’ll also need to keep up with the evolving list of countries facing delivery delays and restrictions. Your carriers will have these countries listed on their notice pages, but you can also check our blog mentioned above. There’s no point in sending packages to countries that aren’t accepting cross-border shipments right now. That just leaves you with an unhappy customer and lost merchandise or return fees. (ShipperHQ customers can set Shipping Rules to exclude certain geographical zones or countries).
With everyone moving to almost exclusively shopping online, standing out from your competitors is going to be crucial to winning over new customers. One of the biggest things you can do is offer free shipping.
To mitigate the costs of free shipping, you can either surcharge your product catalog a little bit, only offer free shipping on those high margin items, or set a minimum cart value threshold to gain free shipping. If your eCommerce platform doesn’t offer these capabilities natively, ShipperHQ can take care of you.
If you also run a brick and mortar location, free local shipping is a way to reward your regular visitors. Offering free delivery to your loyal fans is a good way to still engage and build relationships in place of in-store experiences. You can watch this video on how to get set up with local delivery on ShipperHQ.
While there are some serious challenges being thrown at eCommerce right now, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. You certainly need to make some adjustments, look for new opportunities and be agile. However, if you keep a pulse on the industry, your customers, and logistics, you’ll find ways to combat eCommerce disruption and keep selling.
For further discussion on these strategies and more, watch the conversation with Screen Pages.