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15 Nov 2020

How Ecommerce Can Help Businesses Reopening Post COVID

Getting your business back to pre-covid levels of revenue can be challenging. It can also be discouraging to hear about all the permanent business closures worldwide resulting from the pandemic.

However, with determination and willingness to adapt, your enterprise can overcome the difficulties and experience growth in a post-covid environment.

For instance, even if your business never embraced ecommerce before, or has dabbled in it merely as a sideline, this could be the right time to consider a digital sales strategy. Many businesses have found that moving online offers a golden opportunity to bypass health & safety and other post-COVID reopening struggles.

Know the Challenges of Reopening Post COVID

Before exploring ecommerce as an anti-COVID business strategy and considering preparations for the longer-term future, let’s consider some of the challenges your enterprise may be facing. We’ll then move on to look at how an ecommerce strategy can help you overcome many of them.

Challenge #1: Capital and Costs

According to a recent report by Facebook, around a third of small businesses are unlikely to reopen post COVID. Of those, more than half say it is because they will no longer have the cash flow or capital to do so. While your business’ doors are closed, you can’t receive any revenue, but you still have to pay bills, and possibly rent, for your premises.

If you have already reopened, you’re probably all too aware of how things have changed in conventional business environments.

The need to limit people’s numbers in indoor spaces and apply social distancing has compounded difficulties for retailers and other businesses that rely on face-to-face revenue generation.

Restricting entry to premises and spreading customers out is sure to constrain daily sales transactions’ volume and value. As a result, it is hard to generate profits on the scale that might have been possible before the pandemic arrived.

Challenge #2: Retaining/Rebuilding a Customer Base

Before the pandemic struck, a shift in consumer behavior, from traditional, in-store shopping, to ecommerce consumerism, was already underway. Even in the business procurement domain, more vendors and buyers had begun acting on a preference for doing business via digital channels.

The COVID crisis has only accelerated this trend. Indeed, in many cases, purchasing and shopping processes have been forced to move online.

With a millennial generation attuned to digital commerce, and the older demographic now embracing it, the future of conventional, in-store shopping is not assured. You could be forgiven right now for wondering if you’ll see the footfall in your stores post-COVID that you enjoyed before.

Challenge #3: Health and Safety

In any reopening scenario, the health of your staff and customers will be of the highest priority. Social distancing restrictions may well remain enforced by law for some time, and other health protection measures will add to the burden of running your business.

Challenge #4: The Need for Change in the Workforce

Whether you continue with in-store sales, add ecommerce channels to your business, or pivot to online sales exclusively, changes in your workforce will be necessary.

These changes could range from some minor downsizing or reshuffling to a radical transformation of your business's talent-base. Not only does this require smart planning in time for reopening, but it will also need intelligent change management and communication before and during the transition to new business processes.

Perhaps you have already had to make painful decisions as part of the reopening process. Even if you have not had to let people go, you can probably sense your workforce's insecurity and worry. Like everybody right now, they are doubtless wondering if they’re assured of continued employment in the longer-term.

Challenge #5: Future Supply and Demand Issues

During the pandemic, enterprises in all sectors have seen wild fluctuations in supply and demand. Whatever sector your business operates in, stability is unlikely to be assured in the short, mid, and possible even the longer term.

When you reopen post COVID, you may face sudden peaks and troughs in demand and supply, making inventory management harder and increasing the risk of customer dissatisfaction.

These issues can be particularly troublesome when you are trying to renew the confidence of those who buy your goods or services.

Challenge #6: Business Continuity Disruptions

The Coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way that governments react to the threat from transmissible infections. At this point, there is no way to know how long COVID-19 will continue to affect society. It's uncertain whether it will become more, or less, prevalent, or whether any vaccine will reduce its impact sufficiently for life to return to pre-pandemic norms.

There is no ruling out the possibility of future tightening of movement and social distancing restrictions. For example, in the UK, in September, the government imposed tightened restrictions on social gatherings . That was in response to a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases after several weeks of relaxed measures led to a false sense of security.

After reopening your business, the question will remain whether your doors will need to close again or whether other restrictions will impact your ability to attract revenue.

The Case for Ecommerce as a Post COVID Reopening Strategy

While there will be many challenges ahead for your business in a post-COVID era, those mentioned above are likely to be the most critical to face and overcome. Several of them apply more acutely to face-to-face, as opposed to online business and sales. That fact creates a strong argument for transitioning to an ecommerce model, adding an online sales channel, or strengthening your existing ecommerce proposition.

So should ecommerce be your go-to strategy for reopening post-COVID, or should you maintain the traditional in-store model and add an online sales channel?

The answer will depend on your personal and commercial propensity for change. Still, the specific benefits offered by online business supported by an integrated platform are worthy of consideration. Let's explore some of them.

Lower Cost and Capital Demand

Many options exist to procure ecommerce software products and connect them to form an integrated platform without excessive expenditure. Better still, if you and your team are currently on downtime due to closure, you can start an ecommerce enterprise without leaving your homes.

Low Cost of Entry

With a wealth of software-as-a-service products available to create storefronts and checkouts, it’s not difficult to get an online store established affordably.

It's even possible to set up an entire integrated platform to support your full sales and supply-chain domain in a short space of time. You can do this by partnering, for example, with last mile delivery and e-fulfillment providers that can integrate with your systems for a seamless, labor-minimal exchange of data.

Operate with Fewer, Less-Costly Human Resources

Once established, you should find that your ecommerce enterprise requires less labor to operate than a traditional, face-to-face business. There are several reasons for this, which include:

  • The automated transfer of data across integrated systems, which saves the need for human labor

  • The ability to operate without a central facility, so you can potentially save on the cost of maintaining sales outlets and other physical business premises

  • The possibility to handle some or all of your online business using self-employed remote professionals such as virtual assistants, instead of a more-costly employed team

Perhaps your business is one of those that have, unfortunately, let go of employees during your period of closure. If so, an ecommerce model might be ideal for your reduced workforce and could be more achievable than rebuilding a traditional on-premises team.

Capture a Share in a Surging Market

Right now, the customers who can't deal with you due to your closed doors are seeking or engaging in alternative methods to meet their goals. Perhaps your business is in the B2B sector. If so, your customers are looking for suppliers with which it's easier to do business online. If you serve the consumer, you have the same issue.

In recent times, many more business professionals and consumers have become comfortable with ecommerce. Indeed, the surge of the online business tide had begun even before the pandemic struck.

Maybe you've reopened already and are noticing that business is slow compared to the pre-COVID era. That's probably a result of lost consumer/customer confidence in traditional retail and face-to-face business interaction.

After all, everyone is a potential threat to another's health. That reality doesn't enamor anyone to the idea of spending time in enclosed spaces—especially people in higher COVID-19 risk categories.

That's why taking to a digital business model now will place you in the best possible position to re-engage existing customers and attract new ones. If you take your business online, you won’t even need to wait until Coronavirus-related restrictions are relaxed. You can start to rebuild your customer base right away.

A Safer Way to Change Your Business

Without the need to have your entire team in one building, you'll have fewer of the health and safety issues associated with reopening after COVID to tackle.

Even if you retain a workforce and sales presence in the traditional retail environment, you will be able to direct the safety focus on those employees and your in-store customers. For the online element, meanwhile, you can concentrate solely on building the business.

Of course, if you take your enterprise entirely online and work with a distributed team, social distancing and other health concerns will barely feature. Your customers won’t even need to think about it. You can incorporate even more safety into your operation by working with a last mile delivery partner that provides contactless services at the customer’s doorstep.

Build a More Robust and Resilient Business

Supply and demand fluctuations can be problematic for all businesses, both traditional and digital. However, by building your ecommerce sales channel on an integrated platform, connected to suppliers and partners, you'll gain end-to-end visibility. That, in turn, will make it easier to see potential issues and help you to respond early to peaks and troughs in supply or demand.

Moreover, while interruptions may continue to affect business continuity while the pandemic persists, your online operation will be resilient to changes in social distancing and movement restrictions.

Ecommerce sales and fulfillment models are eminently scalable, too, offering opportunities to enter new geographies and do business across borders. Therefore, you can always consider a slow transition away from traditional commerce to a wholly online model.

As another advantage to think about, suppose future restrictions should reduce your physical outlets' viability, whatever their location. You may find possibilities to convert them temporarily into local warehouse/collection points, making it easier to continue serving customers online in those localities.

Ready to Improve Your Post-COVID Business Performance?

It doesn’t have to be that hard to get your business back on track after post-covid reopening. Whether you have already restarted or are still considering opening your doors again, the customers are still there. However, many have adapted to a changing world in which face-to-face transactions are less desirable than they used to be.

A shift to ecommerce, or (if you already have a commercial presence online) an increased focus on your online business opportunities, could help you regain traction in your market and grow.

Shipa.com can help you make those changes rapidly. We can assist you in building an integrated platform using our solutions and services. Our products combine to create an end-to-end ecommerce ecosystem covering everything from international shipping and fulfillment to fast, affordable last mile delivery into markets in the GCC.

Visit Shipa Ecommerce’s website now to learn more about launching an ecommerce business channel quickly, at a realistic cost, with Shipa.com, and getting past the obstacles of post covid reopening?