The world has been rapidly and irrevocably changed by the spread of COVID-19 and the consequences resulting from the related economic shutdown. Though no one can deny the devastating impact these events have had on business, there is a clear beneficiary from the shift in lifestyles and behavior.
E-commerce is stronger than ever. Consumers have been forced - and have the ability - to take care of all their product needs online as a direct result of the governments' stay-at-home orders. Companies positioned to facilitate purchases through online channels, with home delivery or curbside pickup, have continued to perform well in comparison to traditional location-specific businesses.
There are important lessons we can learn from those that are faring the best, as well as from those who may not survive the COVID-19 crisis.
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Whereas many businesses have struggled to adapt, others have nimbly pivoted towards a predominantly digital operation. Companies that have spent time developing robust e-commerce channels across compelling verticals have not only weathered the storm, but have begun to thrive as more consumers flock to online shopping.
This recent uptick in digital sales recontextualizes the adage, “you want to be where your customers are.” Great products mean nothing if you can’t get them in front of eager shoppers who want to purchase them. If a business waited for a global pandemic to completely shut down brick-and-mortar retail channel before developing an e-commerce strategy, then it may be too little, too late.
Moving forward, businesses should dedicate time and resources to building out a strong digital presence, some of the primary ingredients include: Engaging with customers through social media, launching and/or refining e-commerce sales channels, and integrating online marketing with their existing strategies. History doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes. Preparation today can be the best defense against the next 'black swan' event.
Understand the Trends
Research is an important part of planning for the future. High-level business strategies can be influenced by emerging trends in the marketplace, as well as technological developments and consumer behavior. Learning to anticipate changes and prepare accordingly can mean the difference between taking full advantage of every opportunity and operating on a subsistence level.
Gone are the days of brushing up on industry reports and calling it a day. In today’s business climate, you must also understand what is happening in the market and how technology is being leveraged to provide an edge and improve the customer experiences.
For example, neglecting to update your website can be a catastrophic mistake, even if you make most of your sales in person. Prospective customers look to websites for information before committing to a purchase and when they get there, they expect a smooth, fast interface that is optimized and easy to navigate.
If instead they are met by a clunky, outdated webpage with few or no reviews, blogs, or product pages, you may lose the sale before they ever step foot in your brick-and-mortar storefront. Understanding consumer needs as well as standards in your industry removes that possibility and encourages customers to shop with you because a) it’s convenient for them and b) they have confidence in you.
Adapt and Overcome
There are some things you just can’t prepare for. In the case of an event like COVID-19, successful businesses assessed rapidly changing conditions and adapted quickly. We’ve seen time and again how businesses falter out of refusal to change or even acknowledge that their way isn’t working. The only guaranteed killer is inaction.
If you’re not online, what is your strategy to get online? Better late than never. Decide where to deploy your capital and follow through. There may never be a better time than right now.
The current situation has accelerated the paradigm shift of digital businesses and brands. As more people transition to online shopping, e-commerce will present further opportunities to grow both during and after this crisis has ended. Many companies are poised to emerge stronger than ever, a testament to the enduring spirit of entrepreneurs and their ability to tackle any obstacle no matter how large or unpredictable.
Read our most recent update in our COVID-19 series here.
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