COVID-19 Reflections: 5 Strategies Online Brands Can Use to Cope With Sudden Spikes in Demand

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with strict shelter-in-place orders has hurled eCommerce growth into hyperdrive. Here is how online brands are keeping up with demand.

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eCommerce Strategy

Ecommerce has grown exponentially over the last decade... But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with strict shelter-in-place orders has hurled it into hyperdrive. Online brands have witnessed a sudden surge in sales. More and more customers are trying digital grocery apps (such as Amazon Fresh and Shipt) than ever before... Even a delivery slot is hard to come by these days!

Consumers have responded to these unprecedented times in diverse ways. Their shopping behaviors have changed, inevitably so. From retail buying to digital shopping, we've seen people change what they buy, where, and when.

Brands who are well-versed with adapting to eCommerce fluctuations have the upper hand. Unfortunately, most are not. Many of them are struggling to fulfill surges in demand from stay-at-home consumers. Other retailers are on the receiving end of frustrations and their customer support just doesn't cut it!

Numbers Don't Lie

  • The volume of eCommerce orders has spiked by 50% since 2019
  • On average, retailers are taking 1.5 days longer to honor orders
  • Fulfillment times of larger products have more than tripled over the past two months, from 32 to 96 hours
  • 71% of leading eCommerce brands are not braced for a full haul of demand
  • Shipping volume was up by 55% by the week ending April 12

For most brands, the next stage of hyper-demand in eCommerce presents a significant bottleneck. It's not all doom and gloom, however. We've compiled the following guide to help you keep up with surges in demand, for NOW and into the FUTURE.

Five Punchy Strategies to Consider When Faced with Demand Surge

1. Increase Communication with Customers, Manufacturers, and Vendors

It should come as no surprise that people or business partners like attention. No individual wants to feel like they are just a number. In the height of the COVID-19 crisis, ignoring parties that make up your sales strategy is akin to suicide. This is the perfect time to ramp up supply-chain engagement.

So how do you make it work?

Go the extra mile. Liaising with manufacturers to work up the production process will help meet unexpected demand. Plus, you need to create personalized user experiences. That includes enabling digital touch points and activating every available purchase option. Make sure you also erect a 24-hour customer support system to handle any urgent inquiries. As for vendor engagement, set precise performance metrics: on-time delivery, reporting, cost, quality, and so on. With faulty supplier communication, a lot can go wrong— incorrect shipments, missed targets, product shortages... Not to mention the hassle, on either side!

2. Partner with a 3PL for Fulfillment and Shipping

The COVID-19 pandemic is substantially affecting order fulfillment in the US. Close to 40% of ecommerce brands report that they are facing shipping issues. But how does a third-party logistics provider lend a hand? Here, you have the opportunity to partner with supply chain players to outsource all or part of your brand's order fulfillment and shipping. You collect the orders, your 3PL partner fulfills them.

With this strategy, you not only achieve scalability but also provide the level of customer experience your customers desire. You also get the benefit of seamlessly handling future order spikes.

3. Stop with Offline Tactics!

In-store and online brand competition are two DIFFERENT tales. Online, your brand is locking horns with thousands of other potent brands. Assortment, pricing, and promotional changes happen frequently. Don't forget that retailers can also leverage algorithms to match competitor prices when dropped.

If you want to keep up with volume surges, you have to draw a line between offline and online marketing tactics. Take the pinch to craft personalized product assortments. Couple that with unique promotional strategies, and you are on your way to becoming a LEADING brand.

Tip: The one-size-fits-all strategy is detrimental in the long-run. It can damage your brand and profitability. AVOID it at all costs.

4. Less Talk, More Action

Leading retailers don't just promise a cutting edge eCommerce experience. They walk it as they talk it. This trickles down to how well you can make eCommerce a part of each team's job. Hold sales and finance teams accountable to digital profit margins. Alternatively, hold marketing teams accountable for the quality of content on your website. Setting functional and clear-cut eCommerce goals is the only way to handle unexpected volume sales. However, Kantar and Profitero's study found that 40% of brands lack fundamental eCommerce goals. If your company is in this bracket, you are setting yourself up for FAILURE.

5. Be Found

Amid a spike in demand, there is a narrow inventory of essential items. Consumers are more than ready to replace brands if they are VISIBLE and ACCESSIBLE. Here is when investing in SEO pays off. You must employ top-notch product discovery tactics to cut it. That includes doing all that is feasibly possible to gain strong reviews and ratings. In short, ensure that all your products show up brilliantly.

Capping Off!

The next few months is a matter of 'make or break 'for many retailers. Many consumers will try online shopping for the first time. The opportunity for your brand to win lifetime product loyalty is huge. So, act quickly now. We hope that you utilize the above strategies to cope with a future surge in demand and sales. Make sure you test first before executing any digital strategy. And then, watch your brand become a sensation.

Rakuten Super Logistics provides its clients with order fulfillment for scalable eCommerce. We care about your logistics and order fulfillment concerns and are ready to provide a custom solution to fit your needs. To learn more, request a quote today!

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Rakuten Super Logistics is a leading eCommerce order fulfillment company that provides the scalability, flexibility, and cost savings retailers demand.

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