The COVID-19 pandemic has left many brick and mortar stores reeling in losses. Recent studies suggest that some retail stores may be wiped out entirely as the epidemic continues.
The situation hasn't been the same for their online counterpart, though. The eCommerce industry has experienced drastic spikes in orders, some of which were even in the most unexpected of product categories.
In the first weeks of April, the US and Canada recorded a whopping 56% increase in online orders for retailers, which are primarily store-based. On the other hand, web-based retailers experienced a 52% increase in orders.
While increases in online orders can be great news for retailers, brands who are not prepared for sudden spikes in order volume face the challenge of fulfilling customer expectations under difficult circumstances. From the lack of available resources to sustain the provision of extra services, increase the production, manage customer queries, and order fulfillment, etc., it can be overwhelming.
For retailers looking to implement a pandemic proof strategy and thrive in circumstances of unexpected volume spikes, here are a few tips to focus on now.
Craft an Extensive Future Growth Plan for Customer Support
Due to increased orders and queries, you may need to bump up a few critical areas of your business—especially customer support. Customer support is particularly crucial since 79% of shoppers use it to gauge how a brand values them.
70% of customers will remain loyal to your brand if you offer excellent customer service. Your customer support can, however, be stretched thin if you're experiencing increased sales and demand for products.
You don't want to lose a customer because of poor customer service. To prevent this, it's important to have set aside discretionary budget to allow for increased customer service staff or temp workers. It is also recommendable that you keep set aside resumes of past applicants in good standing or a reliable temp agency, so that when the need arises you have ready a pool of talent to pick from.
Increase Your Site Bandwidth
Increased orders also come with increased web traffic. If your server cannot manage the increased traffic, you risk losing sales due to poor user experience on the website.
Scaling up your bandwidth limit will make it easy for you to handle surges in traffic without customers experiencing delays. To do this effectively, reach out to your hosting provider early so you can discuss available scaling options that are best for your business.
A reliable web hosting provider will also give you tips and insights on how you can prepare for an unexpected increase in traffic at affordable market rates.
Inform Your Customers
Customers are more likely to take it easy on you if you alert them about a potential delay in delivery speeds or provision of services. To achieve this, be sure to have a dedicated communication channel that you will use to pass timely announcements to customers in case of any unexpected changes, whether that's via email or a dedicated customer service social media page.
Let customers know the expected delivery times and, most importantly, assure them that you have the situation under control and they can count on you to deliver. Most importantly, provide order tracking information as soon as it becomes available and order updates along the way.
Make Extra Stock Readily Available
Customer satisfaction is a multifaceted component of any business, and having products available all the time is its primary determiner. A customer who visits your store with the intention of buying, will go elsewhere if the product they are searching for is not available.
Furthermore, a customer is less likely to come back again if they can't find a specific product they were looking for on their first visit. To leave a long lasting positive impression on your clients, you must have inventory well stocked at all times.
During periods of increased demand, having additional stock readily available will help you absorb the pressure easily. To get this done on time, ensure that you maintain proactive communication with manufacturers and vendors, and do not rely on a single source for inventory needs.
Be sure to make restocking arrangements with your vendors or manufacturers early, so you don't run out of stock when you get unexpected and more significant demands. Making early restocking arrangements will also make it easy for the suppliers to fulfill your orders swiftly.
Partner With 3PL for Fulfillment and Shipping
Increased demand may not only lag your delivery speeds but also impact accuracy in order processing and complicate returns. Here's where the 3PL for fulfillment and shipping also comes in.
An experienced provider with multiple fulfillment center locations will help you reduce the transit for products delivered to your customers. By reducing package transit, delivery times are reduced, as well as costs. This allows your customers to receive orders faster, while saving you money.
In addition to faster shipping and reduced shipping costs, moving to a reliable fulfillment partner can greatly improve order accuracy through highly trained warehouse staff and automated warehouse processes.
Apart from natural problems like pandemics, other factors like change in fashion and trends may also bring you a sudden and unexpected increase in demand for your products. Being prepared for such changes is the only tactic for keeping up with the challenges that come with them and allowing your business to thrive. Craft your growth plan and get in touch with a reliable 3PL today to make arrangements for a scalable online business that can withstand any obstacle that comes its way.
Rakuten Super Logistics is a leading eCommerce order fulfillment company that provides the scalability, flexibility, and cost savings retailers demand.
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