6 things you should do right now to optimize your e-commerce site

If your e-commerce site is a supplement to your physical operations, now is the time to update your online business to better meet your customers’ needs

With the COVID-19 crisis, many brick-and-mortar businesses are finding themselves at a crossroads: With in-store sales at a standstill, how can they still be there for their customers? The answer lies in your e-commerce site.

According to Tyler Lockyer, Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services, this a critical time to focus on e-commerce, as many customers are looking online to buy many of the products and services they used to get in person. The key is to consider your customers.

“You want to make your customers’ shopping experience as frictionless as possible,” says Lockyer, who helps entrepreneurs adopt new technologies and innovate in their business. “Take into account the whole experience, from the time a customer lands on your site until they make a purchase. Think about the steps involved for the customer and what that means for you on the back end. Then make sure to connect all the dots.”

Here are six simple adjustments you can make to improve the efficiency of your e-commerce site, help your customers navigate this difficult time and make up for the loss of in-store sales with increased online revenue.

1. Reconsider the products you are promoting

Look at what your clients are searching for and make it easier for them to find those products on your website. This may even mean removing certain products from your website for the time being. Reorganizing your product catalogue and changing featured products based on current needs is an easy way to ensure a smoother shopping experience.

Also take the opportunity to review your product detail pages to make sure the content is still relevant or accurate. If there is a relevant new purpose for the product, be sure to mention that as well.

2. Update your automated emails

If you send automated emails to your customers, make sure your messages reflect any updates to your policies.

If extra volume is causing shipping delays, for example, make sure that your order confirmation email mentions this. All relevant pages on your site should also reflect any new policies.

3. Scale back on content marketing

Many businesses use blogging and video to support their brand. But if your content isn’t directly related to something that can be useful to your customers during the current crisis, hold off until the timing is better. Instead, focus on communicating process or policy changes or giving your customers updates on how your business is adapting through the crisis.

4. Double down on your customer service efforts

Now, more than ever, make sure you let your customers know how you can meet their needs. Communication is key. Show empathy and clearly explain the effect the situation is having on customer service to manage expectations. This means being clear about delays and even looking into new channels of communication to make sure you reach your customers where they are.

If you can, consider investing in more advanced customer service tools such as live chat to stay in touch with customers in real-time. This will set you up with an infrastructure that can help you and your customers beyond the crisis. It can also be a useful way to redeploy employees who can no longer physically come in to work.

5. Keep an eye on your competition

Look at other businesses in your industry and see how they are responding to the crisis. Is there anything you can adapt to your business as well?

Examine your competitor’s product catalogue and pricing, as well as other policies that may have changed or evolved. For example, many online businesses have waived shipping fees to lessen the burden for shoppers.

Now is also a good time to examine questions like whether your pricing model and margins can support the switch to an online-only business model.

6. Take advantage of social media

If you’re not already using social media for your business, now is a good time to start. Don’t worry too much about what to post for the time being; start by building an audience by linking to your social channels from your e-commerce site and posting updates related to customer service (product updates, shipping delays, operating hours, etc).

The focus right now should be about using all available tools to connect your customers, not marketing the business.