JD Duarte


Jose Duarte offers insight into how eCommerce stores can plan for the holidays

The coronavirus pandemic has altered plans around the world in recent months, from events and holidays to marketing calendars and revenue forecasts. During the coronavirus, eCommerce seems to be in a good situation. Shoppers who can’t go to a brick-and-mortar store can turn to online shopping. The factor of economic uncertainty, which can be seen reflected in stock market performance, and the move away from many of the activities we typically enjoy and the impact on brick-and-mortar retail, as well as in online sales, varies widely by verticality and even by the business. Jose Duarte, an entrepreneur and eCommerce expert from Costa Rica, provides insight into how eCommerce businesses can prepare for a hectic holiday period.

eCommerce has proven to be essential in the days of social distancing and store closures. Many consumers, however, have found themselves with less or no work as a result of lockdown requests and the closure of some business segments.

Others have restricted non-essential spending due to global economic uncertainty. It is difficult to predict the full impact of the coronavirus on overall online sales growth rates, but what is certain is that the results will not be consistent in all cases. It will depend on the niche, the change in shopper behavior, and how long communities are asked to distance themselves socially, among other things.

Explains Duarte, “Between settling for social distancing guidelines and accounting for brick-and-mortar store closures, shoppers — based on eCommerce sales numbers — seem to have taken much of their online business.” Sales in some verticals are very high, even leading to a shortage of products, but that’s not true in general. This may lead to a further increase in eCommerce for some verticals.

While the increase in demand is better than the alternative, there is concern that supply may not be able to meet it. Supply chain disruptions, which began in China in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, have impacted inventory availability and delivery times. A growing number of shelter-in-place orders are halting the fulfillment and distribution of some non-essential products, further complicating the situation for some eCommerce companies.

Social distancing, the hassle of having to cope with crowds and lines and frequent stock shortages have been increasingly frustrating people leaving grocery stores and entering the web. Online grocery delivery services are booming, acquiring new customers even outside their previous majority demographic.

eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify have lowered the barrier to entry to selling online, which is good news for retailers providing quality goods to consumers. Fortunately, with the emergence of the coronavirus, some sellers quickly rose in online stores to sell products they claimed could protect against or cure the virus – claims that are unfounded and completely untenable by medical professionals.

Business owners and operators can talk to their manufacturers about their production situation and how they anticipate the coronavirus will affect their business. You can’t plan for what you don’t know, so do your best to be as informed as possible about all aspects of your supply chain.

Conduct a customer needs assessment. Decide on your target or ideal customer group. “To better understand your current needs, you will be able to assess your readiness to meet them. Consider whether you currently have the inventory to support your needs or whether you should consider pivoting to serve them better,” adds Duarte.

One of the most obvious impacts of the coronavirus is the increase in spending much more time at home than usual. Think about how you can change your strategy to better serve their needs or even delight them in these stressful times. Restaurants have increased pickup and delivery services have increased to make ends meet and keep customers fed. On the eCommerce side, some stores have started stocking up on new items and/or introducing collections of existing products that are more relevant to many people’s everyday lives now – specifically, stay home.

One consequence of people being asked to stay home is, of course, a huge decrease in brick-and-mortar foot traffic – or even the closure of stores. This is a great time for bricks and mortars to start an online store if they don’t already have one or, if they do, to double their online presence and digital marketing.

Create an undeniable loyalty program. It has been said many times on countless retail blogs that most of them can bet that 80% of their future profits will be generated from just 20% of their current customers. This is where a powerful data-driven loyalty program comes in. Customers are currently more active than ever online, and rewarding them for shopping with you from purchase #1 is the perfect way to get them coming back.

The bottom line is that no one can predict exactly what will happen; the magnitude of the impact of the coronavirus is really, to use a word that a lot of people are pretty fed up with right now, unprecedented. No one has the option to be fully proactive anymore; we all have to react in real-time to information and changing situations around the world. Now is the time to make small adjustments in response to changes in buyers’ needs and behavior, as they prepare to return to normal.