Don’t Panic: Practical Strategies for Ecommerce Businesses Struggling During The Pandemic

April 1, 2020 | Posted By Sarah Whedon
Don’t Panic: Practical Strategies for Ecommerce Businesses Struggling During The Pandemic

How’s your working from home going?

With COVID-19 rapidly sweeping across the globe, we’re all in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, trying to understand how the pandemic is going to affect us, our families, our communities, and our businesses. 

Nothing is business as usual. Many people are figuring out for the first time how to work from home. Others are determining how to most safely continue showing up for work, or figuring out how to handle elder care or kids being home from school. 

And there are plenty of bumps along the way. Last Wednesday Senator Tammy Duckworth, while working from home, forgot to mute herself before saying to a bunch of U.S. senators “…mommy is working honey, please go potty and wash your hands then mommy will come downstairs.” Her commentary on this mess-up? “How’s your working from home going?”

Screen shot of Tammy Duckworth's tweet about working from home

We’re all doing the best we can to face this crisis with care for each other, family members, coworkers, employees, and neighbors who we’re protecting by avoiding going into public places with them. And if we haven’t already, many of us will be touched by the devastating losses this virus is bringing to the world.

New business challenges during COVID-19

At the same time, anyone with a business to run is constantly facing new challenges related to the impact of COVID-19. You may be wondering how your business is going to be affected, whether you’ll have to lay off workers or whether your business will survive the pandemic.

For ecommerce businesses, specific concerns may include:

1. Supply chain management. The supply chain was initially affected by factories closing in China and, although they’ve been coming back into operation, has spread to potential challenges globally, regardless of whether you directly import from Chinese manufacturers. 

2. Amazon not accepting shipments to their warehouses. In light of the demand for certain kinds of products during the pandemic, Amazon put off accepting shipments on most products in order to prioritize a few critical categories. Since the initial announcement, Amazon has been able to broaden the list of prioritized products.

3. Delays in delivery to customers. We’re also seeing delays in Prime delivery to customers, with much longer anticipated delivery times than usual.

4. Amazon’s responses to price gouging. Unethical sellers taking advantage of the demand have radically raised prices on products like hand sanitizer and face masks, leading Amazon to crack down on those sellers and suspend thousands.

These are all issues that could be troubling in the best of times, but they have a lot of sellers panicked during this global crisis. We humbly suggest taking a deep breath, looking at the bigger long-term picture of ecommerce, and adjusting your plans accordingly. In other words, don’t panic.

Let’s explore some reasons why to not panic, and then some concrete steps our expert analysts are working on with enterprise clients that can apply to any size business.

Don’t panic

Here’s why we think it’s okay to take a breath. Ecommerce may be changing, but it isn’t collapsing. In fact, many commentators think the pandemic will accelerate the shift from retail to ecommerce with Amazon coming out on top. As people are practicing social distancing and unable to access needed goods in person, they’re turning to Amazon and other online sources to meet their needs. 

Ryan Walker, Senior Director of Client Strategy at Teikametrics, observed: “As brick and mortar stores continue to close temporarily due to stay-at-home orders, ecommerce will become the primary avenue where consumers can continue to buy the goods they need.”

While Amazon had to delay shipments to its fulfillment centers in order to prioritize urgently needed goods such as food and medicine, it simultaneously took steps toward meeting the increased demand by doubling overtime pay for all hourly ops workers and planning to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers.

Practical tips for ecommerce businesses right now

Amazon is responding to the crisis and aiming to remain a dominant marketplace for the long haul. For businesses that are able to nimbly adjust to these challenges, we anticipate ecommerce is going to continue to be an even more critical part of our economy.

So how do you adapt to these circumstances? Here are four suggestions for adjusting your Amazon business to meet these challenges:

1. Listen to ecommerce experts who aren’t panicking. Teikametrics’ Ecommerce Strategy Team Lead Kelsey Robb joined a roundtable immediately following Amazon’s announcement that it would be prioritizing certain categories of products coming into its warehouses and delaying receiving non-essential. This roundtable featured experts from ecommerceChris, Avenue7media, Buy Box Experts, and Payability calmly discussing strategies for weathering this storm by looking at the big picture and taking a long view of your business on Amazon.

2. Address your supply chain. If supply chain issues are affecting your business there are a number of things you can do to help get through this difficult time. Check out our blog post on how to evaluate the impact of supply chain problems on your business and strategies for handling that impactMake strategic adjustments based on how significant the inventory impacts are for your business, how competitive your category is, and how the Amazon marketplace fits into your total business.

3. Adjust your advertising.  Ryan Walker suggests that in order to make informed decisions about advertising, it helps to first get a clear picture of your current ad performance and fulfillment timeline at the product level. If you’re seeing your advertising performance change, consider strategically adjusting your advertising spend until performance returns to normal.  If some products are showing normal delivery times and others are showing 30-day delivery estimates, be sure to adjust your ad strategy separately for products with different delivery estimates. Considering reallocating advertising spend to focus on spring seasonal products, and products people may particularly want while sheltering at home, such as toys, cooking supplies, and health and fitness items.  

4. Consider switching to FBM. If Amazon won’t receive your shipments now, consider whether you can shift from FBA to FBM. Our partner Deliverr can help you make this switch. Ben Ryan Schwartz at Deliverr told us, “For those merchants stuck in Amazon limbo, the team here at Deliverr is ready to assist with fulfillment and has created a guide for FBA sellers looking to transition to FBM. We want to be of service and help businesses stay afloat in these unprecedented times.”

Finding hope in the beacon of entrepreneurial creativity

We hope these suggestions can help you navigate these new and uncertain times, and help you keep your business sailing in the right direction while you’re juggling new problems both personal and professional. 

Teikametrics is experienced in remote work. Although we’re not immune to occasionally forgetting to mute ourselves in meetings, our teams are well versed at staying connected with each other, and with the daily changes in the marketplace, even as we practice social distancing. 

Our CEO Alasdair McLean-Foreman wrote last week,I’m looking forward to the world emerging from beneath this dark cloud. I’m sure you are, too. Where I find hope is in the beacon of entrepreneurial creativity. The Teikametrics team is determined to use our creativity to support thousands of businesses to maintain growth and performance during these testing times.”