While in most Western European countries the pandemic crisis is easing and people are accepting of the changes toward social responsibility practices, in other parts of the world, the US in particular, COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate
The changes that have occurred in the Fintech and eCommerce industries since the declaration of the pandemic in April this year were already happening, the news simply increased the pace of change.
For eCommerce in particular, lockdowns offered a prime opportunity to capture the market in a way never seen before. Bored workers working from home, unsupervised and looking for any distraction from the fear that COVID-19 was delivering in minute-by-minute updates. Same retailers fast developed ways to continue to sell and deliver their products.
During the pandemic, year-on-year eCommerce sales have seen a significant increase in the US:
- global Amazon sales went up by 26% in Q1,
- North American chain stores’ online sales are up 80%
- buy-online, pickup-in-store orders surged 208% in April
- construction suppliers reported an uplift in B2B eCommerce sales
One of the only sectors to see a decline in sales were luxury and non-essential goods and services, as well as the travel industry (including airlines).
What to do now?
For B2B companies, the most advantageous move to make right now is updating all online products, services and functions.
Your website should be up-to-date with any of the changes that you have had to make to accommodate changes due to the pandemic. If you have delays and backlogs, adding a timer to your website can help customers understand what to expect. If you are able to add tracking on deliveries, these should be included with every order.
Your level of clear and consistent communication with your customers should be your top priority. Every person in the world has been affected in some way by the pandemic. Customers understand that things are delayed and on hold, but they will not tolerate less than total transparency.
- Notify your customers that your online store is live, even if your physical stores are closed.
- Have your sales team follow up with leads from their home office via Skype, Zoom or Facetime so the client feels the one-on-one connection.
- Help your customers place their orders online if they have not done it before. Your customer service at this time is paramount to retaining customers.
Look after your customers
The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on the economy in many countries. Massive staff layoffs and deferral of payments mandated by states mean that cash flow is not strong for many businesses.
However, if you are in a position to offer your B2B clients an additional service or a respite on purchases, this is the time to do just that.
Offer free delivery or free access to your SaaS for a month. Any gesture you can make shows your business customers that you care more about the relationship than the money, and this is the loyalty customers look for in a partner.
- Prioritize your stock for existing customers over new leads.
- Offer additional return options or extended invoice payment dates.
- Highlight products that can benefit your B2B customers, and their B2C customers, during the pandemic, such as a bulk purchase of 50,000 face masks that includes an additional 10,000 masks free.
Streamline your returns process
During the pandemic, people are likely to spend money they do not have and then want to return items. For your customers this could be costly, especially considering the delays on deliveries. If your customer has purchased 500 summer dresses that do not arrive until autumn, they are unlikely to sell and the retailer – your customer – might not have the storage space or liquid funds to absorb such costs.
In this case, you can make returns as stress-free for your customers as possible. Allow your clients to authorize returns via your online store and to track the progress themselves. This will not only be more convenient for your customers, but it will also prevent any surges in calls and emails for your service teams.
Deal with demand and supply chain disruptions
There have been massive spikes in demand for certain products as disrupted supply chains struggle to meet demands. Manufacturing shut down in many parts of the world for 6 weeks over April and May, and in some parts of the world, those closures are persistent.
Transportation restrictions have also impacted supply chain management, with many products taking far longer than usual to reach destinations. A poll by the Institute of Supply Chain Management found that nearly 75% of companies reported supply chain disruptions. To try and mitigate such issues you can:
- Develop a large, stable online infrastructure using the right web store host to support your site.
- Take the pressure off your online system by load balancing your online store.
- Delay the loading of certain web page elements to ensure loading times are optimal for users.
To deal with disruption in the supply chain and ensure minimal impact on your customers and service teams, enables the following features on your website:
- Real-time stock levels and pricing display
- Tracking on customer deliveries
- Mark out-of-stock items as such, and let customers know when to expect them back in stock
Put in safety measures to protect your employees and customers
Distance is not enough. As a supplier of physical goods, you need to ensure that your logistics follow the highest standards of safety.
You need to talk with your suppliers, manufacturers and delivery chains to understand the safety precautions being taken at each stage. You then need to summarise this information for your customers and display it on your website.
For example, if you are having a product delivered direct to a store, ask your delivery service:
- Are they using gloves and wearing masks at all times?
- How are they disinfecting packages?
- Are they meeting with customers for signatures?
- Do they have their safety procedures on their website and can you link your site to theirs for your customers?
Working with your suppliers will help everyone to understand the stages of the logistics chain and feel more comfortable with the measure they take in response.
things to consider when answering this question: the short-term possibilities and the long-term changes in customer behavior.
It looks like the consequences of the pandemic will be ongoing for years to come. As many nations brace for a second wave in the coming months, customers are already preparing themselves for winter lockdowns in Europe.
The pandemic has simply accelerated services that were already available and improved them in many countries that were lagging behind. Many people are likely to be deeply fearful of venturing outside this winter, so ensuring that you are ready to answer the needs of your market is essential to the success of your online B2B operation.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.
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