Creative ways e-commerce businesses are maintaining sales during the pandemic
While some retailers have been able to maintain, or even increase, sales during the pandemic, majority of businesses have not been so fortunate. Companies selling essentials, such as groceries, healthcare items, home workout equipment, and of course hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies, have been maintaining business through online sales and even limited in-person transactions.
Increase in quarterly sales were reported by retail superstores such as Walmart and Home Depot – with Walmart’s online sales increasing 74%, an overall sales lift of almost 9% from February to April. There was a significantly different outcome, however, when looking at overall retail sales. According to Commerce Department data, U.S. retail sales dropped 8.3% in March, then plunged 16.4% in April.
Let’s look at the tactics and strategies that have kept companies afloat during these unprecedented times.
Pivotting to Deliver Essentials
Many companies pivoted to use their facilities and supplies to shift production to essentials such as hand sanitizers or cleaning agents – creating a new revenue stream while providing much-needed products to consumers.
“It takes a village to keep the doors open and our community safe. Our leadership team gave every employee the option of staying home to shelter in place or coming to work. And out of 150+ employees, less than ten opted to stay home – and all for very legitimate reasons. Our doors remain open because our hard working employees care about keeping our community safe. We are an over-the-counter and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certified facility, considered an essential business under government guidelines,” says Crystal Gonzalez, senior private label account manager of Smith and Vandiver, a 40-year-old natural bath, body and skincare manufacturer.
“While we are still manufacturing products for our private label customers. We pivoted some of our line capacity to produce 70% ethyl alcohol based instant hand cleansers. It is important to us that we get these products directly into the hands of our community to help ‘bend the curve.’ We donated thousands (and continuing to) to our local first responders, hospitals, post offices, food banks and nonprofits like Jacob’s Heart.”
Giving Customers What They Want
Identifying and fulfilling a consumer need is always a sure way to drum up business. With a shortage of face masks when people needed them most, Y’our skincare company provided exactly what customers were searching for – washable face masks. “We offer a free face mask with every order. They are washable fabric face masks that can help protect from COVID-19, not the N95 face masks that health workers use, so they don’t take away valuable supplies from our health workers,” shares Jenny Hanh Nguyen, cofounder of Y’our.
Giving consumers an incentive, especially something that is essential and scarce, can give them the push they need to make a purchase – a win-win for both the brand and the consumer.
Optimization & Partnerships
“There’s been so much devastation to small businesses, that trying to optimize your e-commerce is the only revenue stream available right now. While many business owners are just scraping by, if they’re lucky, we still have to think of ways to capture an audience, giving them incentive to make a purchase, beyond supporting a small business in danger of losing their business,” says Katherine Sprung, owner of Squish Marshmallows, a handcrafted marshmallow confections and dessert company. “We’ll be teaming up with another small business in the food space and offering a bundle. This allows us to support each other, and also introduce each other’s customer base to the other maker’s product.”
Organic Bath Co., a skincare company, partnered with a family-owned Distillery, Bully Boy Distillers on Clean Giving, a Hand Sanitizer that gives back. The partnership has allowed both brands to give back in a sustainable way. “We donate ounce per ounce with every hand sanitizer purchased to frontline workers. It’s been a rewarding partnership that our team can feel good about. Everyone has pitched in to have a seamless launch and to ship hand sanitizer within 48 hours of ordering. It’s given our entire team something positive to focus on,” says Gianne Doherty, cofounder of Organic Bath Co.
Focusing on Community & Giving Back
“As a brand focused on female wellness, we invest in building and sustaining community, and the medical community makes up a large part of our clientele and partnerships. In the face of COVID-19, we’re offering to support physicians’ practices and patients with helpful content around emotional and psychological wellness at home,” shares Keira Kotler, founder & CEO of Everviolet, a company that creates beautiful and functional lingerie for women who have experienced breast surgery, cancer and other life-changing events.
It’s important to use this time to reconnect with the aspects of our lives that are most important — relationships, health, community, safety, and collective consciousness.
“We are committed to better basics and better business. Therefore, we decided first to commit to raising up businesses affected by this hardship – highlighting female-founded companies on our social media and their needs. Then we added a donation app to our site, where our community can donate to AmeriCares to get medical supplies to first responders in this crisis. We will also be giving a percentage of our sales to this cause,” shares Tamara Laine, CMO of A.Lynn Designs, a sustainable apparel company.
Making Personal Connections
“Our business model relies heavily on outdoor events. With so many events being cancelled – and uncertainty about the future – we’ve rolled out two temporary initiatives. In addition to waiving any charges associated with changing or cancelling gear rentals, we’re also giving customers a chance to sign up for 15-minute one-on-one virtual shopping experiences through Zoom. These sessions give us a chance to make personal connections (which are so important during social distancing), help our customers feel more confident about their choices, and give these women something to look forward to. Rather than promoting markdowns that reflect our current challenges, we’re providing our customers with a positive experience and a reason to get excited about the future,” shares Tana Hoffman, founder and CEO of Mountainist, a women’s outdoor gear-rental service.
Open and Transparent Communication
“We set up a weekly all-hands meeting, where the lead team provides business status for all team members with real numbers not only “we’re good”. We’ve done an online kitchen at lunchtime, so everyone can join a call and not eat alone. And we have online yoga together. We automated daily work status via Slack bot, so the team doesn’t waste time on a work call, but can join any “life” calls any time they need it,” shares Victoria Repa, CEO and cofounder or BetterMe, an ecosystem of health and fitness apps. “A business crisis is an excellent test of human values. It is easy to be good when you have profitable business and money, it is much more difficult to make the right decisions when every step you take can be the last one. Be human first, do the best you can, and talk with your team honestly.”