COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges to people around the world. Regardless of where you’re located or what you sell, these conditions have likely disrupted your business in some way.
Among those challenges is providing service to your customers while following the public health guidelines that keep our communities safe. As members of the ecommerce community, we have to remember many people in isolation or quarantine might be depending on us to get supplies. To sustain your business, you’ll need adapt to make sure you can still meet your customers’ needs.
We’re lucky to be part of an ecommerce community that supports one another when times are tough. In that spirit, here are 10 tips to help you overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
1. Reassure your customers
During this time of uncertainty, many people are wondering if they can still access the products, services, and essential goods they need.
The first thing you can do (if you haven’t already) is reassure your customers that you are there for them and that they can continue to safely get your products.
Be sure to communicate any changes to store hours, shipping times, or delivery options. Let them know that you’re following public health guidelines and have their best interests in mind.
If you’re operating brick-and-mortar locations of non-essential business, you probably already had to close. Let your customers know they can still order your products and offer them delivery or pick up options.
- Update your website with coronavirus messaging or alerts
- Share messaging on all social media pages
- Send out an email to your customers letting them know you have their best interests in mind. Include any special promotions or promo codes in your email.
- Prepare for increased customer service calls and emails. Even if you communicate thoroughly customers may have questions and concerns.
2. Sell products that help
Everyone is stocking up on home essentials right now, making products like soap, candles, and grocery delivery hot commodities. People are also stuck at home and looking for ways to entertain themselves or pass the time.
Here are some examples from of Bold’s merchants who are offering products that make people’s lives under quarantine conditions a little easier:
Evil Queen Candles
These 100% soy wax candles are great for health-conscience candle lovers. Their fun candles might help give people a little bit of comfort when they’re cooped up inside. They offer one time purchases and a monthly subscription people love.
“Soft as a panda’s bottom,” is this bamboo toilet paper store’s promise, in addition to environmental sustainability. With the COVID-inspired TP craze in full swing, they offer home delivery so people can avoid line-ups.
Tubby Todd promises customers “gentle body care basics for the whole family.” They’re using the promo code: STOCKUP for free shipping at a time when handwashing is top of mind for consumers.
These beautiful board games will ignite your imagination and sense of adventure when you have to stay home. They use our Bold Memberships app to manage their popular membership program.
3. Take care of your team
The health and well-being of your employees should be your number one priority during this time. Make sure you reassure your employees that you have their back. Inform them of any changes they should be aware of while creating opportunities for questions and open dialogue.
If your team can work from home, you have the benefit to keep business going while ensuring the health and safety of your employees.
Make sure you’re they are equipped with a communication tool like Slack so they can continue to collaborate, ask questions, and navigate roadblocks. If you haven’t already, invest in project management software like Asana to ensure employees stay on track and are able to meet deadlines and complete projects.
If you do your own warehousing and order fulfillment or have employees who are unable to do their job remotely, consider the following safety protocol:
- Increase the frequency of cleaning and make sure all surfaces are thoroughly wiped down and sanitized.
- Consider only having one person in the workspace at a time. If more than one must be there, make sure they remain 6-feet apart at all times.
- Make sure returned items sit for at least 7-9 days before being opened. You’ll want to update your return policy to let customers know there will be a delay.
- Provide employees with safety gear like gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes for their equipment.
4. Offer Free Shipping
Offering free shipping is a great way to let customers know you are thinking about them and their situation. Include a free shipping promo code in any messaging you send out to customers, as well as updating your website or social media pages.
Another approach is to offer free shipping for a minimum spending threshold. This way you can subsidize free shipping with bigger order values.
You can do this using the Bold Motivator app. Set the amount you want customers to spend and they will receive a custom message on the checkout screen letting them know how much more they have to spend to unlock free shipping.
Image via: A Better Lemonade Stand
5. Extend discounts when people need them most
If sales are a bit slow, trying giving your business a boost by running a sale or promotion. This is where it gets a bit tricky. You don’t want to be seen as profiteering or taking advantage of the situation. There is a right and wrong way to run promotions during times like this:
Image via: Domino’s Pizza
Image via: CTV
In the first example, Domino’s is offering customers a great deal at a time when they really need it. Where in the second example, someone is trying to take advantage of the hand sanitizer shortage by jacking up the price. Domino’s also announced a contactless delivery option so customers know they are taking every precaution.
Product bundling is where you sell multiple items in a bundle. The customer spends more on the overall bundle but saves money in the long run by paying less for each item. Another type of bundle is a BOGO (buy one get one) offer. This is where customers buy one and get one free, or half off — or even buy two to get one free. There are many ways to configure a bundle or BOGO offer.
Organic soap seller Asutra usually sells individual bars of soap for $8.99. By offering six bars for $31.99, the customer saves $21.95 while still converting a bigger order. These kinds of bundles are perfect for right now as people are trying to stock up on home essentials.
In this example, DripDrop uses a BOGO on another product that people might want to stock up on for their emergency supply kit.
If you want to sell your products in custom bundles or use BOGO specials to give your customers a deal, check out the Bold Bundles app for Shopify.
6. Refocus your marketing
During this period of economic uncertainty, you might want to shift your marketing towards brand loyalty and customer retention.
People are looking to lean on brands they can trust, and want reassurance that you have their best interests in mind. Here are some tips for refocusing your marketing during COVID-19:
Don’t tread lightly when it comes to communicating your COVID-19 action plan with your customers. This goes further than posting your updated store hours and delivery options on your home page. Really go the extra mile to let your customers know you are thinking of them.
Image via: Starbucks
Invest in loyalty
Shift your messaging to focus less on new customer acquisition and more on customer retention. Let existing customers know about your great loyalty program or subscription offer. Thank them for being customers and consider offering a little something extra, like additional points or gifts, for their continued support.
Image via: smile.io
If you need a hand with this, the Bold Loyalty Points & Rewards app is a useful tool for managing your customer loyalty programs on Shopify. Try it now for free.
Improve Customer Service
Expect customers to have more questions than usual. They might be wondering if eir order will be delayed, or if the products they love are still available. It’s great to let customers know you are here to help, but if they can’t get through to your customer service department, or their emails sit unanswered, your message is going to ring hollow. Have an all-hands-on-deck approach to customer service to ensure customers feel taken care of.
For some more helpful tips, check out Blend Commerce’s COVID-19 Shopify Merchant’s Guide.
7. Ask for help
Remember, if your business is facing adversity you aren’t alone. There are many resources out there for small businesses that might be worth looking into.
Facebook Small Business Grants Program
In response to the challenges facing businesses during COVID-19, Facebook is offering $100 million dollars in cash grants and ad credits to help.
They will be taking applications in the coming weeks. For now, you can familiarize yourself with this program and see if your business would be a good candidate.
A Call to Shop Small
Digital marketing experts Privy has created a new space for small businesses to sell their products. It’s called A Call to Shop Small and already has over 1700 stores in their community. This is just an extra way to get your business out there during these times of financial uncertainty.
In addition to the list of helpful resources, Shopify is offering $200 million of funding to small businesses through their Shopify Capital program. Find out if your small business is eligible for additional funding.
Check out Shopify’s Government Relief Programs for Small Businesses Affected by Covid-19.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest disaster relief loans to businesses in a variety of states. Learn more about if you would qualify for this relief here.
The Canadian government is offering a number of resources for businesses suffering during COVID-19, including wage subsidies, tax deferrals, emergency care benefits, and more. If you are a Canadian business there may be something here to help you.
We started #SpreadJoy as a way to give merchants a unified hashtag and promo code to spread the word about discounts, promotions, and initiatives. We’ve been blown away by the number of merchants who have embraced #SpreadJoy.
In the spirit of helping our merchants, we’ve created our own COVID-19 resource page featuring partners, merchant resources, and everything you need to know about #SpreadJoy. See how Bold can help you.
9. Sell Gift Cards
Selling gift cards is a great way to keep business going even if sales are a little slow. You can add an extra incentive by lowering the price of gift cards. For example, sell your $100 gift cards for $75 so the customers are saving a guaranteed $25 on top of their future purchase.
There’s a movement right now of people trying to show support to local businesses, and one of the ways they are doing that is buying gift cards. If you offer your loyal customers a deal on gift cards they’ll probably be happy to show their support.
Shopify has extended gift card functionality to all their plans. This allows you to sell digital gift cards on your store. Promote your sale on your site and all your social media channels to keep that revenue coming in.
10. Weather the storm
Hang in there! You’re doing a great job even though times are a little tough. This will pass, and the businesses that have the agility and fortitude to make it through coronavirus will come out on top.
Even if your sales have taken a hit or demand for your products is low, you may not want to reinvent your business or try to jump on the latest bandwagon of trending products. There are some who believe you should keep advertising during a recession. It’s a bit of a gamble, but those who hang on to their market share are likely to come out on the other side on top.
This might also be the time to take that long-awaited sabbatical or upgrade your education by taking online courses. It’s also a great opportunity to shift your efforts towards new product development, instead of trying to sell what you already own. Companies that take advantage of this opportunity to fine-tune their company will be that much stronger.
Make money while working from home
If you’re looking for ways to make up for lost income, here are 15 legitimate ways to make money from home in 2020 (that you can actually live on) from serial entrepreneur and SEO expert, Bill Widmer.
Some of the ideas outlined in this blog post — like starting a blog, a YouTube channel, or an online course — could actually be great content marketing strategies for your business. When we say focus on content, this is what we are talking about.
We’re in this together
If there’s anything we can do to help your business succeed, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
As a way to help merchants keep selling and making their margins, we’ve decided to offer our popular app Bold Upsell to new users for free for three months. Install the app on your store today and unlock useful selling features that will increase the value of each order when traffic might be lighter than usual. Click the link below to get started.
This article originally appeared in the Bold Commerce blog and has been published here with permission.