We are in uncharted waters right now. Health, for good reason, has become the number one priority for everyone, and the usual rules of business have been rewritten. Dramatically and suddenly.
Faced with a crisis of this scope, our human instinct is to hold on. Try to keep things operating as close to normal as possible. Stick with what’s familiar. It’s only natural.
After all, for the overwhelming majority of us, the coronavirus pandemic is a problem that is far beyond our immediate control. Collective efforts are vitally important, but none of us can take action that will snap things back. If you’re a typical businessperson, accustomed to steering the ship, this lack of control creates extraordinary anxiety.
We get it. We’re all dealing with the same feelings. Without turning this into a therapy session, let’s talk about things you can control. Despite the overwhelming nature of this moment, what can you affect right now? What steps can you take that will positively impact your business in the future? How can you use this time as an opportunity? Along with finding greater efficiencies in EDI and order management, what else can brands do right now to position themselves well for better days?
Here are three ways your company can emerge stronger.
The scale of this crisis can make anyone think that hanging on is the best you can do. But this could be the time to make your business operations as efficient as possible. And guess what? You still have control over that.
Start with your supply chain and EDI. If orders have come to a halt, neither is being tested right now. But they will be at some point. When we emerge from this—and we will—our economy will come back. People will shop again, and that will mean stores and eCommerce sites that were carrying the lowest inventories possible will need to stock up. Fast.
In other words, you may find yourself going from zero to 200 miles per hour. Quickly. Or adjusting to an entirely new consumer economy that has been reconfigured because of the way we are living during the coronavirus pandemic.
With that uncertainty looming, use this slow period to dig into how you manage EDI and eCommerce transactions. Take steps now to ensure that when this crisis lifts, you’re agile, and ready to tackle orders more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Is your system as integrated as much as it should be? Can you create more automation and reduce both manual entry and errors? We’re all stuck in this same moment—we may as well use it to see how we can improve once we’re out of it.
Of course, if you’re a company that sells, say, toilet paper—okay, we don’t totally understand this one—your supply chain is already being tested. Fact is, most grocery items are in high demand, whether you’re in the snack aisle or the wine section. Chances are, you’re shipping more items, and they’re needed more quickly than ever. You’re also dealing with delays in shipments from your suppliers—factories in China are just now coming back online while manufacturing here in the United States is dealing with all kinds of challenges.
If you didn’t notice shortcomings in your EDI and order management before, you probably are now. There’s a spotlight on you and your process. Make sure you come through this—and we will all get through this—with a solid understanding of the areas you need to improve. Working with an EDI provider that can step up and help you manage order processing easily is especially important as you navigate these choppy waters.
2. Be transparent and empathetic.
Brands and retailers are wise to increase their communication efforts right now, and provide regular updates about their operations or statements about the safety of their stores. Shoppers want to know that all necessary precautions are being taken, and that front-line workers are being treated well.
Right now, your best retention strategy is to generate feelings of goodwill. When this is all over, you want your customers to remember that you were supportive and human.
As painful as it might be when times are tough, you’ll win people over if you are flexible when it comes to issues like returns or refunds. Don’t overdo it, but sending email messages that share valuable health information—not just typical discounts—will be appreciated.
3. Deliver positive customer experiences.
Nothing is easy right now, and most consumers understand that. That said, maintaining a high level of service will cement positive relationships with your customers. It’s reassuring for everyone right now when things unfold as we have always expected, and creating positive brand experiences now will go a long way towards locking in customers for the future.
Obviously, millions are turning to eCommerce stores and online marketplaces right now. According to Quantum Metric, online sales have increased 52% compared to the same time period a year ago.
It’s never been more important to ensure that your direct-to-consumer drop shipping process is seamless, and fully integrated. Even if you didn’t do much of it before, you can be sure that drop ship is going to become a much larger part of your business. If you can process these orders the same way you move others, you’ll be more likely to get products moved without errors and according to retailer standards.
Don’t sacrifice customer support. Here at eZCom, we have our team working remotely but with all the tools they need to handle issues efficiently. It’s vital for every business right now.
Don’t let today’s challenges keep you from looking forward.
Yes, we are in the midst of a crisis. But it can also be an opportunity. Some companies will come through the coronavirus pandemic stronger.
For some, it will be about gaining market share because they provided seamless transactions to both retail trading partners and consumers. They may have a supply chain advantage they can leverage to gain traction, and find themselves rewarded with a larger customer base in the months ahead. Or, “…this could be an opportunity for some businesses to develop their online capabilities or even omni channels.” (Johns Hopkins University/HUB)
At the same time, consumers are willing to consider new brands right now, sometimes out of necessity. That’s especially true for people purchasing personal care and beauty products. One survey says, “…81% reveal they are more open to sampling new brands and products than ever before.” After all, if we’re not leaving our homes, there’s no better time to test a new shampoo or anti-perspirant.
Others will use this time to analyze and improve. By creating greater efficiency in EDI and order processing, they will have more time to focus on capturing business once things get back to something we can all recognize again. By putting in some work to improve systems now, they’ll have fresh efficiencies they can leverage in the future.
It’s never been more obvious that companies can’t manage for everything. But they can control how they operate, and take steps to improve during even challenging times