E-commerce: good practices to face the crisis

Cyril Blondel
Posted on 24 April 2020 by Cyril Blondel
Reading Time: 7 minutes

During the first weeks of the lockdown, many retailers have reacted very quickly by initiating actions to ensure a continuity in their customer relationship and, when possible, to secure their sales. These projects sometimes accelerate developments already planned in the roadmap. Others completely disrupt the plans. One thing is certain, merchants are engaged and they have ideas!

Here is a pick from merchants’ actions that the Dalenys teams have spotted for you.

Must-haves for your activity

Communicate precisely on the impacts, in case of a current or future order

Messages to inform about the situation are essential. Whether it's about changes in delivery methods, the catalogue of available products, preparation or delivery times... the visitor will ask himself these questions, so it is important to be clear to reassure him and make him want to buy and come back. On the website: a clearly visible banner or pop-up on the impacts will reassure visitors and allow them to continue browsing with full knowledge of the facts. In the same way, don't be stingy in communication for current orders: precise information by email on delivery times are important.

Avoid an increase in unpaid orders by offering alternatives to consumers

In order to prevent as much as possible any unpaid bills that may arise as a result of services that could not be provided (stock shortage, supply concerns, unavailable service, etc.), merchants are encouraged to proactively offer flexible options to consumers: full or partial refund, credit, voucher, future alternative services, or fee exemptions. The Visa and Mastercard banking schemes have issued recommendations in this regard.*

Adjust product return procedures to the situation

Returning parcels is complicated in this period, and you may have been offering to return parcels to the point of sale, which is no longer possible once they are closed. Many merchants then extend the return times, so that they are possible until after the lockdown. This gesture, to be adjusted of course according to your business sector and your possibilities, will necessarily be appreciated by your customers, and can encourage them to order and have the product delivered even during the lockdown. Showing flexibility in the management of returns can thus fluidify your relationship with your customers.

Adapt your automatic procedures to limit the use of customer service

Also be sure to indicate how you will handle service orders or cancelled reservations: your buyers will then know if your processing is automatic or if they should plan to contact you. This allows you to automate the generation of credit notes or vouchers offered to your customers. Feel free to indicate the topics or slots you will be able to answer, especially if you work in a small team. A well-informed consumer will be more understanding at this time.

Good practices to maintain sales

Limit time spent in the store with click and collect (for essential businesses)

Even if your stores are open because they are part of the essential shops, consumers are reluctant to come and shop on the spot. They are afraid of queues and seek to spend as little time as possible in store to limit their risk of exposure to the virus. The click & collect, then makes it possible to offer a much faster route in the store, with preset slots and online payments. Since it makes the time spent in store shorter, this service is positive for both sellers and buyers.

Offer to create a wish list, which can be transformed into an order after lockdown

Consumers can bookmark the products they spotted while surfing on your site. Be careful if you usually have a limited time wish list (e.g. 15 days) to track the different collections, it is important to keep track of the products a little longer. These initiatives are seen in the world of fashion, and fit the "slow fashion" trend: consumers are no longer in the immediacy, in impulse buying - as quickly bought, as quickly consumed and then thrown away. On the contrary, purchases can be thought through and anticipated, with long-term product choices.

Set a minimum purchase amount, while offering shipping costs

To get the orders to the consumer's home, a whole network is being set up. By applying a minimum purchase amount, you encourage your customer to ask a key question: do I really need it now? This can put the brakes on orders, or encourage them to think before making the purchase. In return, you can offer the delivery costs, which goes hand in hand with a longer and less controlled delivery time.

Solidarity and creative initiatives

Carry out solidarity actions, taking advantage of your know-how

This terrible situation we are living through also sees many solidarity actions, which could well transform certain habits even after the crisis! There are hundreds of them, and it is difficult to list them all. We regularly relay the actions of our merchant clients on our social networks. Here are already some of those we have identified:

  • The Strategic Committee of the Fashion and Luxury Goods Sector is organising the manufacture of protective masks for French companies, with the support of Le Slip français, which has developed digital tools to help this sector structure its action.
  • Oscaro.com is mobilizing for health-care providers, offering them a dedicated service to deal with the unforeseen events related to the operation and maintenance of their vehicles.

Be creative and generous in your communication, by offering access to content

This unprecedented crisis situation is pushing many players to make some of their content available free of charge: new temporary actions linked to the context that build customer loyalty by introducing them to services that they may become ambassadors for, or simply by giving them the opportunity to change their minds. The current crisis is an important time to connect with your audience.

  • Burger King "reveals" its recipe for homemade burgers, a humorous way to cheer up addicts while they wait for restaurants to reopen.
  • Pandacraft is releasing several free contents every week via its facebook page or on its website for the delight of children (and their parents!).

Actions to anticipate the post-crisis period

Setting up a subscription, a feature that can be precious

Cash management is a crucial issue, especially in times of crisis. To better manage it, especially in the post-crisis period, retailers can offer subscription packages to receive carefully selected services or products each month. This option, which facilitates the collection of payments throughout the year, is much less subject to the fluctuations and hesitations that can occur when placing an order. A subscriber, as long as he or she is informed, can accept a small delivery delay on a recurring paid purchase, while the same delay or uncertainty about delivery time can slow down a one-time purchase. Subscription can also be a way for your customers to support your business.

Open a marketplace, to diversify your product catalogue and get more sales

The crisis is highlighting supply problems for many players: when raw materials or stocks come from the other side of the world, production itself is at risk. There are, of course, many possibilities for dealing with this problem. Opening a marketplace can be part of the panel of options: it allows you to increase the value of your traffic by opening your product catalogue to third party suppliers. A way to quickly offer for sale products likely to meet the expectations of your visitors, while waiting to refine your production and/or supply strategy.

Questions or other ideas to share with us? Our teams are available to answer your questions and discuss your projects.

Take care of yourself, and stay tuned.

* Sources: Visa: 'Managing Disputes Through COVID-19- Programs, Best Practices and FAQ' (30/03) and Dispute Provisions Related to COVID-19 16 March FINAL (27/03). Mastercard: Dispute Resolution Management During COVID-19 (24/03)

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