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Five tips on expanding e-commerce during the coronavirus pandemic

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With the global economy in lockdown and customers looking for online options, now is the time to expand your e-commerce strategy.

That’s the advice of digital marketing expert Neil Perkin of UPS learning collaborator, Econsultancy. In the first of a UPS webinar series offering resources for small businesses navigating COVID-19, Perkin lays out five steps to review and reboot your approach to e-commerce.

1. Revisit your strategy

As businesses scramble to adjust to the new stay-at-home economy, e-commerce has never been so important.

Consumer behavior is adapting fast to the pandemic’s disruption, with many shoppers purchasing certain products online for the first time.

Now is the time to ask yourself if  your e-commerce strategy accounts for these potential new customers. The first thing a business should do as it looks to the future is to review its strategy, says Perkin.

He recommends using the Business Model Canvas—a series of questions probing core aspects of your business— to redefine your value proposition and identify new ways of doing things.

“It’s an opportunity to think about your business in a different way,” Perkin says.

“You don’t need to have a perfectly crafted business plan out of the gate. One of the key things is to start small and scale fast. Set out with a small budget, understand what works, and go from there.”

Reinventing your business while serving the needs of your existing customers is a balancing act – even during the best of times. “It's a bit like changing the wheels on the car while you're driving along,” he adds.

That said, the global pivot toward e-commerce and the growing adoption of direct-to-consumer sales began long before the coronavirus. “To me, this is an acceleration of something that has been an underlying trend for a number of years now.”

2. Segment your customers

After you reboot your business strategy , you need to execute against the plan. But that can’t happen without properly understanding your customers and segmenting your client base.

Creating detailed buyer personas that capture their emotional as well as practical needs is central to this process, according to Perkin. This buyer information will help you reach the right people in the right place at the right time.

You don’t need expensive research tools to do this. Simply go and talk directly with your customers. What do they need during this difficult time? How can you better serve them?

3. Journey map your key personas

Now that you have a handle on your personas, it’s time to chart the different interactions that prospective buyers may have with your brand.  How can you piece these exchanges into a seamless user journey that runs from awareness and consideration through conversion and retention? 

“This is really where the digital marketing kicks in,” Perkin says. “Once you've set up your new proposition and new route to market, you need to make people aware of it.”

Search engine optimized content (SEO), online advertising, and promoted social media posts are examples of digital marketing in action. “Understand where your customers are and where the messaging is really going to resonate. Use those platforms in smart ways.

Perkin highlights Google’s “See, Think, Do, Care” framework as a helpful method for organizing the various stages of the user journey.

4. Take a ‘Hero, Hub, Help’ approach to content

Digital content is a vital element of any effective e-commerce strategy. But what kinds of content will you need and how will you produce it?

In another nod to Google, Perkin recommends its “Hero, Hub, Help” model as effective for creating e-commerce content. “Hero” content, which is entertaining and inspiring, gets promoted to the largest possible audience. “Help” content answers search and social media queries that your prospective customers might be asking.

Meanwhile, “Hub” content sits at the core of your business and serves to convert interested visitors into paying customers.

5. Make sure your website is easy to use 

It’s all about customer experience these days, and that starts with your website. An overly complex or underwhelming digital experience and your online visitors will abandon your site in droves.  

Instead, aim for simplicity of user experience. Perkin advocates for “short, seamless journeys” that please visitors and maximize conversions.

The prospect of building your e-commerce website doesn’t have to be intimidating. There’s a raft of plug and play options on the market, such as Shopify’s platform, for getting your revamped e-commerce site up and running in no time.  

Getting ahead

In today’s uncertain times, it’s clear that getting ahead of your e-commerce strategy is more important than ever. Watch the UPS/Econsultancy webinar and learn how to take the first step toward reinventing the next chapter in your business’s success story.

Watch Now

Find Out More

  • Help for small businesses during Coronavirus

    Ideas and programs aimed at guiding your small business through the pandemic.

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  • How UPS is responding to the Coronavirus pandemic

    As always, our highest priority is to help ensure the health and safety of our employees, customers, and suppliers while meeting our service commitments. 

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