Best Practices during COVID-19 for Online Retail Players


To shun human contact and stop the spread of deadly Coronavirus, governments across the globe have announced strict measures. While countries like Denmark, India, United Kingdom, and Norway are under complete lockdown, realms including Singapore and Japan are urging citizens to practice social distancing.

The early offset of the Corona pandemic had people running for essentials; supplies like toilet paper, noodles and rice went out of stock within the first week of March. A week later, shopping malls, marts, and other fun places turned into deserts. With people staying inside and trade at its lowest, both online and offline businesses are suffering.

Online retail players were certain that local authorities will allow them to function and cater to the needs of common people but India and the United Kingdom have allowed e-commerce players only to deliver essentials. Healthcare, daily usage, and groceries are the only categories that are exempted from the lockdown regulations.

The impact of COVID-19 on the E-commerce Industry?

Digital commerce 360 conducted a survey and here’s what they found:

  • 48% of e-commerce players reassessed their future revenue projections.
  • 47% of them believe buyer confidence is declining and impacting the industry.
  • 38% of e-commerce players are experiencing an inventory shortage.
  • 37% of them have already adjusted their financial guidelines.
  • Amid all the downtrends, 30% of sites are experiencing traffic improvement.
  • 20% of online stores are receiving more orders than before.

How have E-commerce Players Adjusted to the COVID Pandemic?

  • 85% of employees are working from remote locations.
  • 65% of e-commerce players have communicated their customers about the COVID impact and plans.
  • 38% of organizations had to cut employee hours.
  • 35% of players are experiencing increased email frequency.
  • 23% of online stores have offered customers more flexible options.

Best Practices for Online Retail Players during COVID-19

1. Keep the Communication Channels Open

As reported by Digital Commerce, online sales in some countries have increased by 52% whereas countries under complete lockdown have witnessed a downfall. There are millions of customers who were expecting their packages to arrive, some of them are still waiting to get their returned packages picked up and some are still hopeful about their impending refund.

Lack of workforce disrupted communication channels and erratic logistics have put everyone from e-commerce managers to common delivery agents under immense pressure. While e-commerce players are trying every weapon in their satchel to get products delivered, customers are growing impatient.

Communication here is the key to keeping things in under control, by intimating customers about the delay in delivery, return pickup and refund, online retailers can save customers from the churn.

Must Read: An Overview of Impact of COVID-19 on E-commerce Industry

2. Work in Sync with Government

Amazon India head recently met the Commerce Minister and discussed the possibilities of opening online stores for delivering more than just essentials. The government was initially in favor of letting online stores deliver more products than just essentials but outrage from offline players coaxed government reconsidering the decision.

Big players like Amazon, Flipkart, and Zomato are now only delivering essentials including healthcare, baby care, groceries, and personal care products. In a few cities, governments have leveraged the fleet of online retailers to deliver subsidized ration and food items to common people.

3. Strengthen the Weaklings

A study by Invespcro found “30% of all products ordered online were returned” and the measure reason of returns was:

  • 20% of the products delivered were damaged
  • 22% of products delivered looked different
  • 23% of the products delivered were wrong
  • 35% of returns occurred due to other reasons

Now that the corona pandemic has rendered all operations shut, online retailers can focus on improvements that control return rates. Some of the common ways of controlling return rates are:

Catalog Quality Check: Often sellers add incorrect information in product descriptions to acquire higher on-site search ranking. With catalog quality check all such errors can be rectified that will help customers make better decisions.

Catalog Enrichment: Traversing the existing catalog for missing attribute values and then adding them can help online stores reduce return rates and brand interference. Catalog enrichment can also be leveraged for creating theme-based bucketing to offer an enhanced buyer experience

Also Read: Omnichannel Customer Experience for E-commerce Players: A Primer

5. Optimize the Website

With lesser orders to process, e-commerce players can work on website improvements and offer a more personalized experience. Working on website optimization has multiple benefits including:

Less cart abandonment rate: Slow site speed and hectic login process are the top reasons why carts are abandoned. Optimizing your online store for faster loading and smoother login, you can control the cart abandonment rate, which is averaging at 77% globally.

Better Product Recommendations: Amazon increased its revenue by 29% by leveraging product recommendation techniques. “Often Bought Together”, “Similar Products” and “Other Customers Also Saw” are some of the common up-selling and cross-selling tabs used for recommending products. Other online stores can also take a cue from Amazon and work on their product recommendation game during this pandemic.

6. Plan for Future & Get a BCP in Place

 Corona pandemic has made business continuity plan stand among the most sophisticated piece of document. An efficiently created business continuity plan helps organizations survive such tough times. The illustrated information related to database management, alternate seating arrangement, and process restoration helps enterprises get back in business.

Here’s how online retailers can plan for future
  • Make note of every challenge they faced during corona pandemic
  • Create an informative document that includes details of all necessary processes
  • Identify employees from every department and seek their guidance in creating a BCP
  • Get IT people involved and see how their data management is functioning
  • Learn from the mistakes they committed during COVID-19 and find their solution
  • Create an efficient plan and test it often

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 Final Thoughts

The sudden outbreak of coronavirus has taken businesses by shock, while some industries are growing exponentially some are experiencing heavy losses. The E-commerce industry is luckily placed at the helm of this pandemic. While a huge percentage of employees are functioning from home, online orders are increasing. The supply of essentials is keeping e-commerce players alive in some countries while in some countries products like indoor games and gardening tools are in huge demand.

The E-commerce industry has reacted impressively to the pandemic and going forward they are more likely to adjust according to the notification by government meanwhile they can use the time and opportunity to build for the future and come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.


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