Pandemic E-Commerce Strategies Must Be More than Website Updates
The COVID-19 health care crisis has certainly ushered in a period of uncertainty of what “normal” will look like in the coming, weeks, months and years.
However, in many cases the onset of this virus has accelerated trends that were already progressing.
The major trend has been in the area of e-commerce, especially when it comes to small businesses which are now able to effectively compete with much larger organizations. The virus has really jump-started and accelerated the move to online sales in virtually all consumer goods, retail and food services sectors. And while there is nothing good about the pandemic, many smaller companies are benefiting from their forays into e-commerce.
Those that started the process years ago have an advantage, but there are large numbers of companies that are playing catch-up and within a short period of time will close the gap. So, the goal for small businesses is to continue the process of making the online purchase experience a good one.
The successful companies are those which realize that developing an e-commerce strategy and culture involves much more than updating a website or posting products on various social media platforms.
It really requires many of the same initiatives as establishing a traditional brick and mortar operation. It is important to build a brand, credibility, and a positive customer experience. The only difference is that the store customers visit is virtual. These companies must deliver the same levels of reliability in what has become a competitive online marketplace.
The isolation and reluctance of shoppers to venture to stores has created the ideal conditions to accelerate the growth of e-commerce sales. It has also leveled the playing field for smaller companies to compete with much larger organizations.
The key is for e-commerce success is to deliver quality products in a seamless manner. And that requires research and a wide range of disciplines that create strong online visibility through cultivating diverse sales channels.”
These critical sales channels include the company’s website, social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) and a growing number of customers who can provide references. It is important to diversify and balance the various sales channels, especially small businesses that may not have the name recognition of larger competitors.
The following are other considerations to consider when crafting an e-commerce strategy and culture:
- The website should compel shoppers to take action
- The website should be strategically designed to be simple, not artsy. It should provide a user-friendly experience through easy navigation leading to placing an order
- The website must offer a secure purchasing environment so that customer’s personal information (credit card numbers, address, phone numbers, etc.) are not put at risk through hacking or phishing efforts
- There must be effective SEO initiatives to make sure customers get to your site.
- There should be strong email marketing to drive traffic back to the e-commerce website.
In addition to these website features, there must be accurate, exciting content that clearly describes the company, its varied product lines, and information about how to order and when to expect delivery. It’s all about providing a pleasant shopping experience, no different than what you’d expect from a physical location.
Content must also reflect that you understand your customers and their preferences such as millennials, Gen X-ers or baby boomers.
Significant sales increases based on these multi-faceted programs can result in growth. Keep in mind that these companies have one chance to make an impact in the e-commerce space.
Data certainly supports the fact that one mistake in any of the digital disciplines can result in failure. Negative reviews can also destroy a company’s brand. It’s best to take your time and make sure you can check all the boxes in our list of criteria. It may be a cliché, but you only have one chance to make a first impression.”
Several surveys support this. One reports that two-thirds of shoppers would stop buying from a retailer if their accounts were hacked. Others support the need for easily navigated websites that make the buying process easy and fast.
He also cites industry statistics reflecting booming sales and increases through e-commerce efforts. For example, Target (sales doubled), Walmart (74%) and Kroger (92%) are among retailers that are growing during these times. Small businesses can take their cues and realize the potential.
These are giants of their industries. But keep in mind, smaller companies can now match and even exceed these larger competitors through effective e-commerce strategies.
Todd Paton is president/founder of Paton Marketing, a digital marketing firm based in Pompano Beach, FL. The company specializes in developing e-commerce strategies for small consumer goods companies, reputation management, website and app development, and social media campaigns.