Boost Your E-Commerce Presence Now to Prepare for a Possible Second Wave of COVID-19

Epidemiologists are predicting a fall resurgence of COVID-19, which could lead to another shutdown, reports Yahoo Finance. Businesses should prepare now for a possible second wave of the virus by investing in an e-commerce strategy, which could become their business’ lifeline.

It doesn’t take long to create a functioning e-commerce site. In fact, it takes a mere 24 hours or less. Which, in the grand scheme of your business, is not long at all based on the ROI it will bring you over time.

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To easily launch your online presence, consider using a shared platform like Shopify. This one is great since the training is free, the software is only about $30 a month, and they offer a myriad of easy lessons that walk you through the entire setup process. The lessons start with a simple welcome series to teach you how to add products to your store, how to link up payment methods and how to launch your store, as well as tips for kick-starting your marketing plan. No more guesswork here.

Surprisingly, this can be done with little investment. Launching a website doesn’t have to come with a crazy upfront cost. The biggest cost you have to face is the investment of time, and as an entrepreneur, let’s get real: What doesn’t take time in creating a stellar brand?

Related: When To Sell on Amazon… and When Not To

Some of the best, cost-effective solutions to launch an e-commerce site are as follows

  • Shopify: Offers plans that start at just $29/month.
  • Wix: The base plan will cost you $23/month to accept payments.
  • Squarespace: The base plan is $26/month and will get you an e-commerce site with a 3 percent transaction fee. But a mere $4 more a month will waive that fee entirely so you get pure profits.

The commonality in all of these plans and platforms is:

  • Ease-of-use and
  • Access to tools to help you get started

For the cost of what you spend on coffee in a week, there’s no reason not to create an e-commerce site. Plus, most platforms offer live support options, as well, in case you get stuck in a rut.

During the first shutdown, in which most brick-and-mortar businesses were shuttering up their stores in March and bracing for a possible indefinite close, online brands were quickly pivoting and breathing new life into their sales routines. For those that were online, success followed suit.

As TechCrunch reported, while total retail sales are expected to fall by 10.5 percent in 2020, e-commerce businesses are expected to grow by 18.1 percent.

This alone shows the longevity of building a presence online; even in the worst of times, your business can stay open. What’s more important to note is that from a year-over-year perspective, as noted in Forbes, online retailers’ overall revenue grew by 68 percent, and as you can concur, for physical retail stores, that number plateaued at 0 percent for months straight. Yikes.

All this is to say that if you start setting up your e-commerce strategy now, the low investment will pay high ROI in the long term.

As many of us know, humans are creatures of comfort, oftentimes going down the more routine path out of expectation and safety. However, during the shutdown, the world was turned on its axis and consumer behavior reflected this. Many consumers were turning to their favorite, well-known brands, only to find that they were sold out of essentials they needed, then finding solace in smaller brands that sold those same products. This is major for any small-sized or startup business that can capitalize on basic human needs; think online grocers, skincare companies, and the like. Additionally, Amazon’s shipping times and stock of items lagged across the board, seemingly removing them as a shopping option for some consumers during quarantine.

In fact, it was noted in a national survey by the Sloan Review that 54 percent of respondents said they made purchases from new brands and that new brands accounted for 30 percent or more of their online shopping carts.

Let that sink in. More than 50 percent of people turned away from big businesses and bought from small ones that were more reliable. Talk about the development of brand loyalty during hard times!

Smaller companies can compete with the big guys online. The thing about the online world is that the playing field is more even than physical retail. There are limited overhead costs, which means more money can be funneled into paid ad campaigns. Plus, if you build your store well, create a solid brand, and know how to create a marketing plan that the big guys use, you’re setting yourself up for success.

This is especially true in the beauty and skincare sector. In fact, it was recorded during the shutdown that the health, beauty and personal care industry was up by 34.2 percent, just 26 percent less than online food and beverage sellers. That’s massive.

The keys to competing with the big guys are branding and marketing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make your site look and feel professional. Make sure you take the time to get it done right and start by designing with a mobile-first mindset.

As an entrepreneur, you pretty much have access to all of the same digital marketing tools a big business has. Start with organic search engine optimization, email marketing, social media marketing, Amazon paid search, and Google AdWords. One advantage a smaller business has is that they can often move and pivot quicker, so make sure you stay privy to any changes that are going on with the sales channel you are promoting.

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Selling on Amazon only: Pros and cons

Selling on Amazon is risky. It really is feast or famine! Here are the top problems with an Amazon-only approach:

  • Amazon owns your business and your customers, you really don’t.
  • Amazon should be just one, yes one, of your sales channels. This is a big mistake many startups make: focusing on Amazon only and not additional sales channels. Other channels are needed, including your own e-commerce store (Shopify, etc.), Google ads, physical mail, email marketing and more.
  • When Amazon shuts down their shipping or your store, you are sunk, and the scary part here is they can do it anytime they wish.
  • Beware of dishonest competitors. They can leave bad reviews, and file false trademark claims, which can shut down your account.
  • Expert tip: Make sure your liability insurance policy company covers your losses in case Amazon shuts down your account.

How did Amazon’s freeze on non-essential items impact small businesses?

Amazon has always been seen as reliable, which is why about 64 percent of its merchants rely solely on it for its business. It removes the logistical headaches of stocking and shipping goods; however, a nightmare occurred when Amazon decided to freeze non-essential goods and prioritize essential items during the pandemic.

The result left hundreds of sellers without easy access to their goods, causing them to essentially fend for themselves when it came to finding ways to ship products. It was a loss of revenue, while simultaneously providing a wake-up call for many.

Prepare for another wave

Startup companies should prepare for another shutdown. It’s just the smart thing to do as of right now. There are several things that small businesses can do online to help ease the storm, should COVID-19 hit again in the fall.

Here are the top five ways to begin to prep:

  1. Make sure you are private labeling your own brand, not just pushing others. The brands you are retailing are most likely your competitor already (if they sell direct to consumer).
  2. Get online with Shopify or Wix, dial in the branding, and try to set up at least six different sales channels.
  3. Get your shipping department in order.
  4. Set up your marketing, especially paid search.
  5. Get access to funds, a line of credit, SBA Loan, etc.

If you’re wondering if it’s time for your business to go online, it is now more important than ever, especially with the onset of a possible second wave and shutdowns in the fall. Better to ready yourself before it’s too late.

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