Along with toilet rolls, orange juice, and flour, something else has been in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic: online commerce.
As businesses with little or no digital presence have been scrambling to sell online, the Magento Commerce team has been getting calls from two types of businesses: One type needs more of everything. Their volumes have exploded; they’re suddenly processing hundreds of transactions every minute, and they can’t cope.
The second type has no online commerce capability at all but wants it, preferably by this afternoon. These companies come from every industry, from millers to garden centres, that have lost their usual retail outlets and need to sell direct.
The old adage that drastic times call for drastic measures holds true as never before. It has never been more important to act fast and to be decisive. But it’s also more important than ever to not lose sight of your long-term business objectives. Settling for stop-gap fixes now could shackle your business growth and make it harder (not to mention be more costly) for you to adjust to the next shift in the market.
Because, in a matter of weeks, customers have been forced to change behaviours created over decades, and a lot of them are discovering they quite like the new experiences they’ve encountered. If you can be a part of those experiences, you’ll go from short-term stop-gap to long-term partner.
For example, for years I’ve been getting a coffee on my way to the office. In less than a month, this habit has been broken, and you know what? I don’t miss it because I have a grinder and I’m buying beans. The coffee I make at home is nicer and cheaper than the takeout stuff. There’s no cup to dispose of either.
It’s not just me. Demand for coffee is so high now that coffee bean stocks in Brazil are running low. And when we go back to work, I’m not going back to takeout coffee. I’ll keep buying beans and making better, cheaper coffee. It’s an opportunity for a seller of beans to acquire me as a new customer and, crucially, retain me.
Additionally, my family, like many others, has turned to a local farm’s vegetable box for our fresh food. We really like the convenience, quality, and lack of packaging. In fact, there’s no reason for us to go back to buying vegetables from a supermarket. As the farm’s new customers, we’ll be with them for longer than the virus that pushed us into buying from them in the first place.
Now, if you’re that farmer and you’re in urgent need of a website to replace your farm shop, you might be tempted to go for anything that allows you to sell three different sizes of vegetable boxes. But what happens when your customers want more from you? Maybe they’d like to add milk to their orders, or you see a chance to expand into recipe boxes? Or when you reopen your shop, you find that most of them have switched to online? That quick-fix solution won’t be able to handle it.
This is why it’s important to not lose sight of your long-term opportunities. Of course, you need to pay staff and the rent, and cash flow matters. It might feel like you’re being backed into a corner, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Making an investment in digital commerce can and should be about more than the quick fix. The current pandemic has only accelerated the shift to digital in the past 25 years.
This presents a chance for companies to build a continuous customer journey and develop the relationships that go with it. What started as an emergency provides retailers and customers with an opportunity that, two months ago, didn’t exist.
Such is the speed at which these changes have happened that many businesses have fast-forwarded five years. If you’re one of them, the fire-fighting investment in digital will not only keep you trading. It will gain you new business and drive you in a direction better-suited to the new world we’re living in. Odds are, the competitive landscape will be quite different than when we started the year, so make sure you’re ready.
Dive deeper into the evolving trends in how people shop online. Watch Magento’s on-demand webinar with Simon Kemp, Business as (Un)usual: How to Adapt and Thrive.
This article was first published on the Magento blog: