How online retailers can ensure their business success even during the Corona crisis

How online retailers can ensure their business success even during the Corona crisis
Published on: May 1, 2020
Updated: Aug 18, 2022

In Germany, strict measures have been taken to contain the spread of Covid-19, with everyone nationwide being urged to stay at home, maintain social distance, and isolate themselves. So we've already seen in the last week that non-essential businesses have had to close, leading to a huge increase in online orders. But how are businesses coping? Even experienced and successful retailers don't know how to act and react in this unprecedented situation.

People who haven't shopped online often, or perhaps never before, are very likely to start now. If they find the experience convenient and stress-free, there is a great chance that online shopping will become a lifelong habit. Could Covid-19 be the driving force behind the continued rise of e-commerce around the world?

We are certainly experiencing a peak period in online retail. However, unlike planned seasonal peaks such as Christmas or Black Friday, retailers have had virtually no time to prepare. Where they would normally ensure they have appropriate inventory, staffing and marketing, Covid-19 has taken global retailers by surprise and online retailers are having to adapt quickly to survive.

Which industries are experiencing a peak and which will be negatively impacted?

Obviously, there is a big spike in food and healthcare goods, but the stores that sell these items are still open, so there is little restriction on their daily sales. The biggest challenges for these retailers are the issues of having enough staff and their well-being, as well as any production and supply chain issues.

Food retailers and independent stores have seen a large increase in sales both online and offline.

Aside from the obvious, what else are German consumers buying? We've seen a big increase in sales of DIY and home improvement products, craft and hobby items, electronics and multimedia, children's toys and adult toys. With boredom setting in right now in Germany, many people are trying new activities or pursuing old hobbies, many of which fall into the above categories.

Unfortunately, we believe that the fast fashion industry is and will continue to be one of the hardest hit by social distancing. Customers don't need a new outfit for their weekly outing. When money is tight, such purchases are not essential. In addition, many people use their time at home to clean out and will find that their closets are much fuller than they imagined. In fact, has already reported a sharp decline in online clothing sales. In a survey, 38 percent of Germans said they spend less money than usual on clothing.

How can retailers relieve stress, create loyalty and increase sales during a crisis?

It's nice to see that the news about the corona virus isn't all doom and gloom. The daily updates of distributors offering discounts to medical staff or Neil Clifford, CEO of Kurt Geiger, giving up his salary for a year to help the company. This news provides hope in these stressful and uncertain times. We believe that the brands that focus predominantly on wellness and positive messaging are the ones that will emerge as "winners of hearts."

Kurt Geiger delivers vouchers to caregivers across the country. (Source: Kurt Geier, Instagram)

As an online retailer, what can you do to reduce customer stress and build loyalty during the corona crisis?

Show humanity and communicate proactively


Delays are inevitable or will become inevitable as online orders continue to increase. Your customer will understand this as long as you proactively communicate any delays. Provide regular updates on where your customer's order is, when it will be delivered, and if there are any delivery delays. Acknowledge and apologize for any delays or issues and you won't see an influx of WISMO (Where is my order?) customer inquiries.

In addition, many customers are concerned for their safety when taking their order. Reassure them and guide them in your shipping messages how the delivery will be made so that both the package carrier and the customer are not exposed to unnecessary risk.

Include cross-sell and up-sell products


Items that are currently predominantly ordered online lend themselves well to cross-selling and up-selling. Encourage customers to repurchase by including product recommendations in your shipping messages. How about "If you like this book, you might also like this book." or "This pair of sports shorts would go perfectly with the sports top you bought."? Show your customer what they want and need.

Reward Loyalty

Loyal customers should be rewarded all year long - but now it's more important than ever to show them appreciation. Use shipping emails to send discount codes to existing customers. Send them offers to encourage them to order again. Many customers may be struggling financially during this pandemic, so discounts will make them feel valued and they'll order from you again after the crisis subsides.

Think outside the box and show your brand's personality. Add some joy to your customers' day. You could add an extra gift to the package or include some wellness tips (for home, of course) in the shipping communication to help them cope with this new lifestyle. Are you a sportswear brand? You could include a free workout video in your shipping message to encourage the customer to use the item right away. The possibilities are just takes a touch of creativity.

Provide Inspiration

Many of the items that will be purchased online in the coming months will be bought by consumers who want to try new hobbies or decorate their homes. Include videos, blogs and other content around the product in your shipping and marketing emails to inspire your customers. For example, if the customer bought a guitar, include a beginner's guide to chords. Or if he bought a desk, you can include an article about decorating your home office.

Share positive content

For those retailers who may not have anything suitable to sell at this time, for those who have made the hard decision to close their online stores or for those who are still active, now is the time to work on your brand image. Sharing positive content with your audience will not only create a community within your customers, but it will also create a positive vibe around your brand. Or lend your social media channels to spread positive or informative messages: H&M has allowed global charities like the Red Cross to use their social channels to spread messages about Covid-19. What can you do to create something positive in these difficult times?

Prepare for life after coronavirus


Although it may not seem like it right now, there will be life after coronavirus. We are in uncharted territory, and brands have never before had to roll up their business as well as marketing efforts from scratch. Take time to evaluate your customer journey from start to finish and identify areas for improvement. While it may seem scary to partner with service providers and put some budget into it, now is the best time to implement new tools so your customers can get the best customer experience possible.

Post-purchase communication and coronavirus

Effective post-purchase customer communication is more important than ever. Online retailers now need to be even more proactive in communicating with their customers to minimize customer inquiries. Take a look at our blog to learn how parcelLab can help retailers in this crisis.

parcelLab can help merchants through this time with proactive shipping messages.

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Create new reasons for people to love your brand. Build standout post-sales experiences tailored to your customers. Deliver personalized touch points that grab attention and spark loyalty.

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