During exceptional circumstances, the usual routine goes out the window, and one of the keys to maintaining a high level — even survival for many companies — is adaptation. To paraphrase the great naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin — for whose last name is incidentally the name of the street to which our Buenos Aires office is located — it is the one that is most adaptable to change that survives.
And one area in particular where this is highly poignant right now is commerce.
We have seen that many retailers are experiencing disruptions and uncertainties, and according to a recent survey, 47% of retailers expect some downside revenue implications from the coronavirus pandemic, with another 9% expecting significant losses.
With one third of the world’s population now in lockdown due to the pandemic, customers have understandably been forced into digital-only experiences. This has resulted in businesses having to think of new and creative ways to provide better opportunities to connect with their customers.
It doesn’t matter the size of your business, or where it’s located. The ongoing crisis is forcing us to rethink and remodel our practices, because necessity is the mother of invention. Let me take you on a short detour: I was reminded of the power of personalization last night when, having not much food in my kitchen, I decided to order from a local eatery. When it was delivered, it came with a handwritten note that said “Thanks for your help. With this we can pay our staff’s wages.” They have also adapted which products they sell: on their menu is an alcoholic drink in which gin is the key ingredient; with demand currently much lower, they are now selling the bottles of gin to customers, which previously was unavailable to them — I couldn’t resist.
This is at the small scale of change that businesses are forced into making. For the kings and queens of the ecommerce industry — many of which use Demandware (now SFCC) for their ecommerce purposes — they are using a range of practices.
Let’s take a look at the best of them, so that you can pivot more towards the digital sphere.
With many of us either practicing social distancing or in mandatory quarantine, consumers are looking for and expecting fresh and innovating ways to pay for their purchases. And with Salesforce Commerce Cloud, you’re able to adjust multiple functions of the payment process.
You can give customers the option to receive their products without the need for a signature, ensuring they receive them without the need for physical contact. Another possibility is to merge your ecommerce with your customer service to make it possible for customers to place orders by phone as well as on the site. This is particularly beneficial if you have products that customers typically want to discuss before purchasing them. And for companies whose products may require specialized services, consider offering them for free. For example, if you’re a carmaker, you can provide free crisis-assist services for drivers to access which provides a digital channel to resolve car issues without the need for physical human contact.
Alternatively, companies can offer help by extending gift card expiration dates that are set to soon expire, given that many customers will not be able to realise these gifts in time. Or provide loan relief by spreading out payment installments, and so those who are struggling to maintain a steady income will be able to at least have a steadier repayment plan.
Deeper digital experiences
Retailers can’t currently rely on physical experiences to entice customers into stores. Businesses are reacting to temporarily having an all-digital customer base, for which online experiences are king. Take this time to reconfigure your team — which, optimally, you are already doing — to work in fresh ways.
Get your retail staff to transcend the shop floor and work on social media where they can continue to provide their expertise. Makeup assistants can highlight their routines and styles by video; tech helpers can feature common issues heard in-store and explain online. And so forth.
If there are experiences that you provide in-store, such as musical instrument stores, transfer them online, such as providing guitar lessons via video, or creating a campaign in which the first 1,000, or 10,000, or even 100,000 — depending on the size of your company — can receive special discounts or online services for free to entice new customers.
Online consultancy is a unique feature in which you can provide a 1-1 experience. If your products are technical or upmarket, then it’s quite normal for customers to want to speak about the products before purchase. Consulting is a key part of these types of customers, and so to continue this core function, extend these services online via video conferencing.
If none of these digital experiences apply seamlessly to your business, there is always something you can offer. Provide instructions for how to make your own games, suggest DIY designs, or offer instructions for your products.
Get involved and contribute
Customers have high hopes and expectations for their brands. According to a recent study, 88% of respondents believe that brands have the ability to help them live sustainably. We live in a social environment where businesses are expected to make the world a better place. And it is in times of crises that businesses can rise to the occasion.
This comes in all shapes and forms, from making donations to charities to providing extra support for their own employees. Many companies are restructuring themselves to produce and manufacturer supplies necessary for hospitals to combat the coronavirus. For example Denver Mattress is restructuring their facilities to manufacture masks and face shields for healthcare workers.
If you have influential networks then use them to activate a public response. Whether it’s celebrities, social influencers or all-star athletes, work with them to inform citizens about the current situation, and what they can do to help.
Unprecedented times leads to unprecedented change, and many businesses have been quick to remodel and rethink their strategies. And while everything remains uncertain, the ones who ride the storm and adapt, are going to be the ones that come out of this crisis much stronger.
PS: UV is one of the world’s leading Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware) consultancies. Contact us to see how we can work together.