Move your store online and automate it
Shopping malls have become haunted castles, the government is limiting people’s movements, consumers are bored at home and all the things they have ordered from China are unsafe and might not even reach them at all – it is high time for you to move your store online. And to achieve the best possible results, you only need to pick the correct platform and implement automated processes.
Offers based on current conditions
Life has not stopped, it has changed – people are still consuming things, they are just doing it in a different way. And over the course of the last month, their expectations for stores and the service provided by the stores has completely changed from what merchants have been accustomed to for years. Huge sales and even the various bonuses that are offered to customers, such as free parking or a concert in the mall’s atrium, hold no importance now. Since shopping has almost completely moved over to the internet, then concise product descriptions, product photos and competitive prices are no longer enough to make a sale. Now, the most important thing is to ensure that the available product selection is appropriate for the current conditions and that those products can be sent to the customer quickly.
In general, most online stores always have something in their selection of goods that meets current requirements. It is important to make the customers understand that as well. For those who have not done so yet, my suggestion is to add a separate section to their online store (e.g. “Stay at home”) that would include all products useful and necessary during this home isolation period, from sports goods and cleaning supplies all the way to game consoles. If these products were already previously available in a store, then they should now be brought together in a logical set of items, they should be connected to other similar products and the store should offer flexible payment options for these products. Although these methods might not help stores to achieve similar sales numbers to the previous year, they may still offer significant relief during the biggest economic standstill in global history.
Campaigns and sales
Before the crisis, spring was a time of huge sales, and although the rules may have changed somewhat now, it is still clear that retail cannot survive without sales. Compared to physical stores, it is much easier to implement sales in online stores and it can be done with nearly no extra costs – no new designs or tags need to be created, the till system does not need to be updated and product does not need to be moved around. Additionally, online stores can implement automatic sales that are activated when specific conditions are met – for example, when competitors launch their sales campaigns, when the customer purchases a specific product or when any other important trigger for an online store is pulled. Most importantly, online campaigns and sales can be targeted with extreme precision.
Reaching consumers is possible even during difficult times. While most customer relations had already moved online previously, then now, consumers are online most of the time, which means that reaching them is easier, faster and less expensive. It is recommended to go over any previously planned campaigns again and to adjust their messages and tactics to the current situation and, if necessary, to launch new campaigns instead.
Many sales techniques have already changed significantly, but we can assume that these changes are far from done and that we will be seeing many other important changes in the near future. Although no one knows exactly what kind of changes await us, we should still strive to be ready for them and think about how to ensure sales profits in the long-term perspective. For example, if an online store sells spare parts and consumable goods, then they should think about setting up monthly subscriptions that would give the customers the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that they will always have the things they require anyway. And for the merchant, this means the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they will still have paying customers in three months’ time.
The easiest online stores can be created and set up in 48 hours. Two days is enough time to map out the store’s requirements and possibilities, to choose the appropriate platform, to set up the most important parts of the store and finally, to “open the doors”. After that, the merchant can start focusing on offers, shipments and the marketing of the new store. And if you do not have enough knowledge in any of the areas concerning online stores, then it is definitely worth it to consult with experts who know these platforms and know how to automate their processes.
When creating an online store, you should start thinking about the future right away, about the time when you will have more orders and will not be able to do everything manually any longer. It is good to know that, in theory, everything to do with the customers’ online shopping experience can be automated: from how products and marketing messages are displayed to the management of orders, shipments and stock numbers. To a certain extent, logistics and delivery companies can even automate the process of putting together shipment orders.
Customer service is no exception to this either and it is something that every online store must have, regardless of whether their country of operation is in quarantine or not. If you cannot hire additional staff to handle customer service questions, then there is the option of implementing chatbots that can answer the customers’ most frequently asked easier questions and find automatic solutions for them and if neither of these two actions is enough, then they can direct the customers to the right people, thus bypassing the need to map out their problems and create tickets for them since these people will be able to offer the customers immediate solutions.
Automation also enables to gather data in a much more efficient manner, which in turn can be used to conduct automatic analyses, the results of which can be leaned on to make more beneficial choices immediately as well as in the future thanks to the constantly updated datasets.
The Ten Commandments of an online store merchant during the crisis
- Share more information with your users than usually as consumers are very impatient right now and if their order is delayed for any reason, then they might be displeased with you.
- Communicate any issues quickly and honestly. If an online store has any problems with their shipments, if their logistics company is overburdened or understaffed, then the right thing to do is to inform your customers immediately instead of dealing with the consequences of later problems.
- Remove any irrelevant products from your product selection. For example, there is no point in promoting hiking gear in a country that is currently under a lockdown where people are not allowed to go outside and need comfortable indoor clothes instead.
- Offer new additional values based on the changing environment and the customers’ consumption habits.
- You can do it alone, but it is better to do it together. When planning the creation of your online store, map out which activities you can manage yourself and which ones you will have to buy in. The rule of thumb is that it is least expensive and most efficient to buy all of your external services from one provider. For example, if you need a robot for managing your store’s customer service AKA a chatbot, to automate various processes in your store and to market your store, then it is recommended that you hire one agency who can do all of these things and can thus manage the bigger picture.
- Be flexible with your customers, your suppliers and your partners. These difficult times require flexibility from all of us and it is not the right time to try and train your customers or to impose new, inconvenient solutions on them.
- Be ready for the end of the crisis. No crisis lasts forever, and the coronavirus crisis is no exception. Although there are no signs of it happening yet, at some point parties, wedding, jubilees and mask balls will be made legal again and people will get together again. If your online store has a huge surplus of party supplies, then right now is not the time to use your whole marketing budget on promoting them. Use your time to plan for the future instead.
- Keep up with the changes in media consumption and prepare for it in advance. Should you invest in a social media channel and if so, which one? How has people’s ability to focus changed?
- Any investments and changes made right now are long-term investments and changes. It is highly likely that people’s consumption habits will be permanently changed after the virus crisis. You should not wait around to see whether that happens or not, but you should be ready for it right now.
- Always follow the strictest hygiene rules!