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The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Retail

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Retail

Online supply store DK Hardware examines how the pandemic is changing the habits and overall consumer behavior of online shoppers.

After more than a month of confinement, we all dream of the day when everything returns to how it was before, and we can resume our not so old habits. However, it is more realistic to think that COVID-19 has come to stay and that, after this first devastating wave, the entire population will have to remain extremely responsible and we will suffer the consequences of this pandemic for longer than we would like. We do not stop living one of those moments in history in which the foundations of our society are shaken and we experience profound changes that will prevent us from returning to the point where we were a few weeks ago.

This first month of confinement is forcing us to adopt new habits and customs that we will maintain once the state of alarm is lifted, customs that will leave consequences in multiple aspects of our lives. In this post we are going to focus on everything related to new buying habits, otherwise, it would be too long.

Change of Habits

One of the first pieces of news that hit us all hard was knowing that we could only step on the street to buy basic necessities. When we found out, we all ran to loot the supermarkets as if we had seen the four horsemen of the apocalypse arrive. Once the first moment of panic was over (fear is very powerful and completely irrational), we gradually adapted to the new situation and discovered that these small forays into the streets in search of food, medicine, within others, it was anything but pleasant: lines surrounding the supermarkets with people more than 1.5 meters dressed from top to bottom with gloves and masks, security measures to access the premises, lonely buyers fleeing from anyone who invades their personal space … measures completely justified and that we must respect, but that makes it almost traumatic to go shopping.

But this change does not stop here: during the last month, we did not know very well if the rest of online retailers dedicated to the sale of products that are not essential items would continue to operate normally. This uncertainty took its toll on this ecommerce, but once the doubt was cleared and, seeing that the orders were made and arrived relatively normally, we found the second great change in habits: buying everything that we need or want in online stores. Yes, even supplies for your home.

Has your bathroom shower window broken, and you cannot go to your usual store? You can buy it online. Have you been thinking about changing your kitchen’s plumbing system now that you’re spending more time at home? Well, you can buy it online. Companies like DK Hardware, one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada, have your back.

Think Global, Act Local

Online retail is there to satisfy your needs and now it has more prominence than ever. This situation is causing many SMEs and local businesses that saw that the online channel was only a complement or did not even consider working on that channel, have woken up from one day to the next and now consider it their priority (and if not I don’t know what they are waiting for). While many companies, both large and small, keep their productivity levels in check thanks to the option of telecommuting, many businesses are going digital so as not to be left behind and remain part of the game.

And After This, What?

The post-coronavirus world will be an even more digitized world in which the battle to get users to choose us will be even fiercer: let’s not forget that a large part of the population does not have the purchasing power it had before the pandemic and that the longer the confinement lengthens, the longer and more severe will be the economic crisis that the country is facing. In these circumstances, these factors will be key:

Price: The price war will continue to be something that online retail has to live with. The excessive stock in the warehouses together with a society that is going to look at the price with a magnifying glass, will force the stores to have competitive and attractive products.

Loyalty: With so many new players on the board, it will be more difficult to get your buyers to be loyal and make recurring purchases in the same store. Therefore, establishing a good loyalty strategy is going to be mandatory.

Omnichannel: It is more important than ever to attract and retain users, so we cannot forget the power of working multiple channels at the same time, building a powerful brand image and with the aim of being more in contact with our users: social networks, email marketing, SEO, SEM are some of the examples of channels that must be perfectly coordinated and that will work as one.

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Featured in the Best Online Shops 2020 – Newsweek, DK Hardware is one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada.

quarantine

Surviving and Thriving in Quarantine: 3 Ways Businesses Can Turn Time into Opportunity

At this point, the story is global – businesses in communities around our country and world have shuttered, many at the direction of local, state or national governments as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

But grim as the picture may be today, millions of small business owners around the country need to grapple not just with the challenge of what to do while their operations are closed, but how to prepare for what lies on the other side of this crisis as the world emerges from quarantine and returns to the business.

In pursuit of a silver lining during this trying time, below are three opportunities to turn a quarantine shutdown on its head and help build businesses stronger than ever before.

Explore creative new ways to deliver your product or service – I’ve watched with fascination as many creative businesses have found ways to continue operating through a quarantine. Novel ways to deliver everything from orchestral music to personal training and therapy/addiction treatment have made the rounds as viral social media videos or popular articles. A similar solution may not be realistic for all businesses, but particularly if you deliver personal services (as opposed to hard goods and products that require in-person consumption), taking the time to invest in and perfect your digital delivery right now could pay benefits down the road.

Imagine a local personal trainer that works via in-person training sessions exclusively. These weeks (or months) may force their training sessions with existing clientele to video-conference, but if that trainer is intentional about streamlining their online offering they’ll be able to tap into a national (or international!) new customer base during and even after the quarantine ends.

Embrace any opportunity to explore an alternative delivery method for your businesses’ product or service, and you may reap benefits down the road.

-Take the time to complete bigger tasks you’ve been pushing off – there are some projects that are just hard to do when you are engaged in the full-time business of helping customers and producing a product each day. Large manufacturing facilities at companies like GE, Ford, Boeing, and more understand this as a fact of life – they proactively schedule dedicated plant-shutdown weeks where assembly lines stop completely to create space for large projects that wouldn’t be possible during normal operation.

Businesses of all sizes suddenly have this opportunity. What can you accomplish during your ‘plant shutdown’? Well, for ideas – there are physical changes (rearranging a showroom, gym, or restaurant seating arrangement to allow more functional usage), periodic maintenance (steam your carpets, paint your walls, organize your warehouse) and business tooling/service improvements you can make. Are you paying too much for your website, your payment solution, or your inventory management tools? Not all of these projects require significant investment, and it’s likely that some leg work today could save you money down the road.

Time and elbow grease could upgrade your physical space. Building a beautiful, more flexible site on Squarespace or Wix could reap benefits as customers experience your online storefront for months or years. Explore whether you’re using the best payments solution. What other tools do you use to run your business that you could evaluate right now?

Most businesses get one chance to make these decisions as you start operation, and the switching cost is very high once you’re locked in -mostly because change requires closing your business for some period. The quarantine might have forced the closure – take advantage!

-Build your skills – In my decade of experience working with small businesses (small ecommerce merchants with eBay, cash-flow solutions with Kabbage, and I currently work with Drum, focusing on providing new ways for businesses to market themselves), I’ve learned people start and operate businesses because they believe in their core mission, not because they’re a magical jack-of-all-trades superhuman.

Retailers sell things they love to produce and curate. Restaurateurs create amazing dining experiences. Contractors are able to bring remodels and renovations to life. In an ideal world, entrepreneurs should spend as much of their mental and physical energy on the thing they’re really good at and leave the other elements of a business to others.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality that most business owners live with. There’s always more work to be done than there are hands to do it, and any business owner wears multiple hats – you can’t offload everything. I’m sure there’s a hat every business owner wears that doesn’t fit so well.

If your poorly-fitting hat is marketing-related, maybe a few weeks of couch time is great for pouring over free marketing tutorials (courtesy of LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com). If you struggle with keeping your financials straight and organized, maybe this is a great time to dive headfirst into QuickBooks resources. Even better – leverage the collective power of the internet (particularly Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook) to find a subject matter expert. You may find a similarly stir-crazy professional with knowledge you’re looking to develop that’s willing to provide some free/low-cost advice or trade some consulting hours for business services or products.

There are no easy answers – we’re all going to muddle through the next weeks and months together. But business owners are resilient, and they’re resourceful – I’m sure there is no shortage of brilliant ideas floating around. See what these suggestions could do for you, then pay it forward – share your own ideas, whether on social media or directly with your contacts.

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Eric Nalbone is the Head of Marketing for Drum, a company building new ways for businesses to leverage the power of customer and community referrals. He has previously led Marketing for Bellhops, a tech-enabled moving company headquartered in Chattanooga, TN, and held a variety of roles with Kabbage, eBay, and General Electric. Eric resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife and three dogs.