Recent data reveals e-commerce sales have increased by as much as 25% in parts of the world where social distancing is the norm. This, in combination, with the fact that experts predict the earliest a vaccine would be available for COVID-19 is early 2021, entrepreneurs in retail need to consider adopting a highly effective E-commerce strategy going forward.
What Can You Sell Online?
For offline-first entrepreneurs and freelancers, going digital is challenging. There’s constant misinformation about what you can sell – and how you can sell it – online. Remember, nearly every physical product or service can be adapted to a digital version of itself, all it takes is some ingenuity and creativity to understand how you can adapt your business for digital success.
What you need to realize is that every digital product originated as a physical product that evolved as technology improved. To adjust to this digital-first environment, you can follow two primary digital models: selling knowledge or selling convenience.
For offline-first businesses like hair and nail salons, trade services, etc, the first step to going digital is to monetize your knowledge and benefit from the DIY economy. To do this, you’d need to create a worthy course, digital guide, or ebook, which you can then sell to existing clients. For example, as a plumber, you can sell guides detailing how to fix everyday leaks or remove blockages from dishwashers, etc.
If you’re skeptical about this sort of business practice because clients can go to YouTube to get this information for free, remember that they trust and rely on your expertise, and therefore will see the value in purchasing a digital guide from you. Additionally, they have the advantage of reaching you directly should they need help, or require advice, something you should highlight in your offering. If you’re concerned that once things return to normal you won’t have clients because you gave all your secrets away, remember that some of the most profitable businesses fall into the convenience niche. And given the choice, most people will choose to have someone else complete the service, as it’s more convenient.
For those selling physical products, to adapt to a digital-first environment, you need to make your products convenient. This means eliminating excess selection, features, and requirements to deliver an effective product that requires little to no effort to acquire.
This can be described as the “Fast-Food Menu” approach. Fast-food menus are convenient, not because they give you excess choice and options, but because fast-food restaurants limit your options and simplify the process to order and get your food.
However, for smaller retailers, the idea of offering more to compete with multinationals has become the norm, but, the opposite is true. By making your selection, order, and delivery process as uncomplicated as possible you’re making it extremely convenient for both yourself and your customers. Besides, you’re eliminating the extra cost involved in making, storing, and transporting all those additional products.
When you establish this simplified approach to your retail model, going digital and creating an e-commerce store becomes easier. And it becomes an experience your customers enjoy.
How Should You Sell Online?
When selling digital products like ebooks, guides, or courses, use an aggregate like Gumroad that takes the hassle out of delivering digital products to customers.
But if you’re selling physical products that require in-person delivery, you’ll need to adapt your approach to be mindful of social distancing guidelines and hygiene requirements.
For this reason, it’s important to consider the human impact of your e-commerce store and plan on ways to reduce it.
Regardless of whether you use the service of a third party courier agency or you’re doing neighborhood deliveries, as this pandemic continues to spread, there’s a right and wrong way of doing deliveries.
1// Go Contactless
Contactless deliveries simply mean that instead of requiring that people sign something or accept the delivery from you face-to-face, you have a drop-and-go system. You can carry this out by ringing their doorbells and dropping deliveries on their doorstep.
For deliveries that can’t be left on the doorstep like deliveries of hot food, you can utilize a system that allows customers to retrieve food from an elevated surface like a mobile folding cart, a portable utility cart, or a foldable shopping cart. You can set up the items in any of these carts, call the customer to retrieve the items, wait for them to retrieve it, and remove the cart, ensuring that you wipe the cart with a disinfectant before removing it.
2// Practice Strict Hygiene
Speaking of disinfectant, if you’re doing the deliveries yourself, practicing strict hygiene is paramount. Use disinfectants to clean frequently touched surfaces like your steering wheel, door handle, and delivery equipment, in addition to protecting yourself and others by wearing a homemade reusable mask.
3// Give Clear Instructions About Hygiene To Customers
Add tips and instructions in your shipping alert emails that include information about how customers should accept parcels from drivers. You can create an informative video tutorial yourself, or refer customers to information already available online.
What To Do If You’re Using A Third Party Courier
If you aren’t conducting the deliveries yourself, there are ways you can manage the safety of delivery drivers and customers during this time.
1// Do Your Research
When looking for a courier company to partner with, focus on how they conduct deliveries, how they protect their drivers and workers, and how they protect customers. When conducting research, look at how they’re practicing hygiene standards, social distancing, and contactless delivery, before making a decision.
2// Choose a Responsible Delivery Service
If you’re shipping to customers across the country and even across the world, it’s time to do some investigating. You can start by conducting a trial delivery to someone you know who isn’t in your country or region, and have them film the delivery process. Don’t go with the most popular delivery service, just because, but choose a courier that’s mindful of the crisis and the risk posed to its drivers and customers.
3// Donate To Front-line Workers and Their Families
If you use e-commerce aggregates like Shopify, you can add the option for customers to donate to a good cause during the checkout process using a donation add-on. While delivery services are often overlooked, during this pandemic, they have become essential front-line workers and are also at risk of contracting the disease, but for the sake of our comfort and safety, they continue to deliver products to our doorstep.
If you’re still stuck as to how you can take your offline-first product or service online ask for help from other digital entrepreneurs. In a time like this so many entrepreneurs and creators will be more than happy to help!