COVID-19 Pushes Merchants Online: Are Your Customers Ready?
For years now, brick-and-mortar retailers have battled against online competitors like Amazon. The consensus advice to merchants who didn’t have an e-commerce presence was simple – get your store online to have a fighting chance. Today, with the spread of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders in place for most of the world, merchants that have relied on sales solely from physical locations are wishing they had heeded that advice. There’s never been a greater need for, or interest in, online commerce solutions. If you have merchants who haven’t yet adopted unified commerce, now is the perfect time to be the lifeline they need.
Tips for moving sales online
Determine a go-to-market strategy
Taking sales to the internet doesn’t equate to instant success. Indeed, there’s even more competition than merchants face in their own backyards. However, with the right strategies and technologies, merchants can tap into a potential customer base exponentially larger than they currently have.
Getting online requires an e-commerce platform. Some POS (points of sale) software has online components built-in or available with integrations to robust solutions like Shopify or BigCommerce. Once online, the first step should be to help merchants target their existing clients. If they have customer lists and email addresses, engagement will be much easier. If they don’t, they might have to rely on targeted web and social media ads.
Alternatively (or additionally), merchants can sell their goods in places where customers are already shopping. For example, many merchants have an e-commerce site, but also list their products on eBay. The online shopping powerhouse recently launched a special promotion to help merchants during this pandemic. Sellers fees are being waived through June 30, 2020. For some merchants, this could be a helpful first step into the world of e-commerce.
Create a fulfillment strategy
Online sales are fantastic, but customer satisfaction can be harmed if there are delays or issues with fulfillment. Help your customers adopt and implement e-commerce solutions that include or can integrate with shipping providers. Related, make sure the returns process is streamlined and doesn’t negatively impact the customer experience.
Keep payments simple
At some point, stay-at-home restrictions will ease and we’ll return to some version of normal where brick-and-mortar sales pick back up. Merchants with both offline and online sales—and separate payment accounts for each—will have double the administration work and siloed data, which makes it challenging to have a complete view of customer behavior. The right payment partner can help in this regard. For example, NMI’s omnichannel payment gateway is built to handle payments across channels, removing data silos and giving merchants one view of all electronic transactions, regardless of their origin. Not only does this simplify back-end operations, but it could also lead to better rates by having transactions consolidated under a single account.
Plan for the future
Most experts predict that when restrictions do ease, we’ll still have to obey best practices in social distancing for some time. There will be some segment of customers who won’t be eager to casually browse and spend unnecessary time in-store. Therefore, BOPIS (by online, pickup in-store) solutions will be a critical requirement for merchants going forward. Ensure your merchants’ POS/e-commerce solution has BOPIS functionality ready to go.
Align with forward-thinking partners
Turning the above concepts into reality requires vendors that can deliver on complete software and payments solutions today. Even more importantly, the right vendor partners are already investing heavily in next-generation solutions so you can rest assured that you and your customers will not only survive this pandemic but thrive in the months and years ahead.