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10 Ways Shopify Businesses Can Prepare For The Coronavirus Pandemic


The coronavirus is a tough topic to track and predict, but there are enough facts out there to be certain that this is going to get worse before it gets better. In the age of social media, it is a completely new experience to go through a global event such as this and there are some strong and differing opinions on what to do and what you should be thinking. You are not alone in thinking that this is stressful.

We believe that no matter what it is best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Ideally you are not personally impacted, and everything is fine, but the risk is absolutely worth paying attention to and you and your team should prepare immediately. Being prepared is not the same as being panicked. Being prepared is smart.

I collected suggestions from the Shopify ecosystem on Twitter on how companies in this ecosystem are preparing (thank you to all of the merchants, agencies, and tech companies who shared how they were preparing). For even more information I definitely encourage you to keep up to date on the coronavirus from the CDC (they have a checklist of ways to prepare your home).

The Octane AI team is here to support you. We’ve been remote since 2016 and we are always happy to answer any questions you have about best practices.

1. Wash Your Hands & Don’t Touch Your Face

This is simplest item on this list, and probably the most obvious, but it is also one of the most effective. Make sure to wash your hands regularly with soap (at least for 20 seconds) multiple times a day (and especially right after being in public or touching things outside of your house).

Encourage people to work from home and not travel. Also, over stress the simple things like not touching your face and washing your hands.

But also try minimizing panic 🙂

— tj mapes (@tjmapes) March 3, 2020

One of the most common ways a disease can spread is from something, to your hand, to your face. The less you touch your face, the less likely it is that this will happen.

2. Go Remote

Limiting the amount of physical contact between people is the best way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. When together in an office, all of your coworkers daily routines (where they go, who they see) are getting aggregated into one contained room, drastically increasing the chances of coronavirus entering the workplace.

At @Vervaunt we’re able to work remote with me taking the most advantage of that being in a separate country!

Face to face is essentially a luxury we’re able to cut when needed when it comes to internal & client meetings.

— Scott Wright (@scright) March 3, 2020

Heavily promoting WFH if you’re feeling even slightly under the weather!

Also, we’ve got hand sanitizer/Lysol Wipes in all meeting rooms – fully wipe down tables + door handles after.

A big change? Single package snacks instead of bulk.

I miss the bulk jar of skittles already

— Jake A. Jardine (@JakeAJardine) March 3, 2020

We’re fully remote too so we’re aligned on much of what you said. But we’re working on our policy today, will have a better answer for you tomorrow.

— Chase Alderton (@ChaseAlderton) March 3, 2020

Many companies (including Shopify) and universities (including Harvard and Stanford) have asked that their employees and students stay home and work and study remotely. If you haven’t done this yet, now is the time to start seriously considering it. Move meetings to video calls and make sure you have a team chat set up.

We’re a 100% remote agency so we’re prepared to work whenever. Our travel has been cancelled up to this point.

— Kelly Vaughn ? (@kvlly) March 3, 2020

3. Stock Up On Inventory If Possible

If your factory is still operational, put in orders for more stock that you usually would. In the off chance that you are not able to produce new stock for a period of time it would be best for your business if you had extra to make sure you can still provide shipments for your customers.

I’m not sure that’s it exactly, haha. I should probably consider stocking up for @FCGOODS, which manufactures in the Dominican. Most of the rest of our stuff is manufactured in the U.S., and we manufacture ourselves for @bambuearth, so that’s nice.

— Andrew Faris (@andrewjfaris) March 4, 2020

While we don’t manufacture our apparel in China, we are prepping for a spread into our factories in South America. To prepare we’re firing hard to bolster inventory now while we know the factories are open and running and have also secured a few backups.

— Matthew Parvis (@MatthewParvis) March 3, 2020

4. Focus On Existing Customers

Spend time thinking about how you can better work and serve your existing customers. Are there new things you can learn about them? Are there holes in your automations that could be fixed and provide your customers with a better experience?

Now is the time to hunker down and spend time on existing customers.

Aside from remote work, brands have to worry less about acquisition (virus = slipping economy) and really start thinking about how they’re treating the customers they’ve already attracted. More thoughts: https://t.co/srKeqskPVC https://t.co/srKeqskPVC

— Val Geisler ? (@lovevalgeisler) March 3, 2020

5. Discourage Travel

For the same reasons you want to switch to remote work, you also want to avoid areas like airports, busses, trains, and especially cruises, where there are lots of people from a wide variety of areas, now suddenly in a confined space together.

Physical events of all kinds are being canceled, no matter if it is all of sports in Italy to SXSW in Texas. It feels bad to miss events, especially ones you care a lot about, but making sure you and others around you are safe is more important.

On a people front:

– Remote working if possible

– Keep events and travel to a minimum

On a sales front:

– Prioritise Stock for main sales channels (whether its retailers or DTC)

– If you’re low on stock then shut your ads down (?)

— Charlie Instone (@CharlesInstone) March 3, 2020

Remember, it’s not just about making sure you don’t get sick, it is also about making sure you don’t get someone else sick (especially someone who might get a lot more sick than you).

6. Keep Customers Informed

If you are low on stock, or orders are going to get delayed, or you have a subscription product and you know orders won’t go out next month, tell your customers. Be transparent with them, let them know what it going on. This situation is tough, and you don’t want to disappoint them, but they are going to be a lot more understanding if you are upfront with them.

We have some merchants who are experiencing production issues. They’re adjusting their launch announcements as needed and I’m recommending to them that if they’re going to have any orders that won’t get fulfilled (e.g. recurring subscriptions) to alert their customers now.

— Kelly Vaughn ? (@kvlly) March 3, 2020

7. Make Sure To Use Automated Facebook Ad Rules

If you are using Facebook ads, now would be the time to make sure you have automated rules in place so that your ads will turn off if they go below a certain level of revenue.

If we look from an Ads perspective this is a good time to utilise automated rules if you don’t already.

Ex: Drop in [Sales/Clicks/Conv. Rate] then lower bids / pause campaign.

There’s no immediate data from my clients to show sales dropping, but being prepared never hurts!

— Scott Wright (@scright) March 3, 2020

8. Prioritize Stock For Your Main Sales Channels

If you are sitting on limited stock, make sure you are prioritizing your main sales channels. If there are retail partners that really matter to you, or if a certain channel is more profitable than another one, make sure to prioritize those.

On a people front:

– Remote working if possible

– Keep events and travel to a minimum

On a sales front:

– Prioritise Stock for main sales channels (whether its retailers or DTC)

– If you’re low on stock then shut your ads down (?)

— Charlie Instone (@CharlesInstone) March 3, 2020

9. Turn Your Ads Off If You’re Low On Stock

If you are low on stock, and there is no chance that you will be able to get more soon, it may be smart to turn your ads off. You don’t want to accidentally find yourself in a position where you spend a lot money on your ads but you have no more inventory.

10. Let Your Team Know They Can Talk To You About Concerns

The coronavirus is stressful for people for all sorts of reasons. People can be scared of their health, the health of their loved ones, their jobs, their company, finances, or they can just become overwhelmed with the amount of news and information being shared online. Make sure your team, and others around you, know that they are welcome to reach out to you if they want to talk to someone about what is going on.

We’ve acknowledged that it’s scary, encouraged team members to talk to me if they feel extra anxious, and put WFH in place immediately if NY meets the “outbreak” conditions. In the meantime, sing your ABC’s while you wash your hands.

— Karen Young (@k_young_one) March 3, 2020

We’re Here

I know a lot of you already work remotely and work on remote teams, but if you don’t and you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @MattPRD (or anyone on the Octane AI team). If you’re all good on remote tips but you just want to chat, we’re here for that too.

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This article originally appeared in the OctaneAI blog and has been published here with permission.

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