The Coronavirus pandemic has transformed how people interact with each other through measures like social distancing and lockdown. Not surprisingly it is also having a huge impact on ecommerce conversion rate optimisation (eCRO).
The pandemic has had a profound effect on most people’s daily lives and has made millions of people reliant on the internet for social contact and shopping for goods and services. With online demand for specific items outstripping supply some ecommerce websites have been forced to create virtual queues to limit the number of users on their websites.
Many websites selling non-essential items have temporarily closed due to government pressure or because companies were unable to guarantee the safety of their staff. However, for those ecommerce sites still able to operate during the Coronavirus pandemic there are some important changes to consider to improve conversions. Sites which quickly adapt to the current environment are most likely to prosper and benefit most when lockdown ends.
Here I outline strategies for improving ecommerce conversion rates during the Coronavirus pandemic.
1. Have a clear COVID-19 message:
As many sites are temporarily closed or restricting access with virtual queues, ensure your site clearly states whether the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your ability to do business. Uncertainty always leads to declines in conversion and so it’s important users instantly understand you are open for business.
For some sectors, such as online gaming, messaging around coronavirus could be counterproductive. Users go to these sites for escapism and may not want to be reminded about the realities of the outside world. Be careful not to raise unnecessary concerns.
Update your delivery terms:
2. Be transparent about deliveries:
Make sure your delivery arrangements have been adapted to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Have you implemented new hygiene standards for goods being delivered to homes by stating items will now be left on the doorstep and will there be a need for couriers to get a signature?
3. Extend your returns period:
As a result of the pandemic there has been a surge in demand for home delivery but many stores which normally receive online returns are temporarily closed. In addition, customers are being advised not to go out unless it is for an “essential purpose”. This means customers have fewer options and opportunities to return items. Extending your returns period during the pandemic will reduce customer anxiety about their ability to return unwanted items to you in time.
4. Minimise the potential for packaging to be exposed to Coronavirus:
People are especially sensitive to hygiene practices and concerned about the risk of infection. If your organisation is despatching items in the post be careful to explain any new processes to safeguard customers and staff. Customers want reassurance that you are taking the correct measures to minimise the spread of the virus within your distribution network.
5. Prioritise the vulnerable and key workers:
Customers are likely to be supportive of ecommerce sites that prioritise the vulnerable and key workers, such people working in health care and food processing. In the UK a number of ecommerce sites offer health care workers in the NHS free delivery or priority timeslots. Food retailers are giving people in at-risk groups such as the elderly and the sick priority home delivery slots.
Most people support these kinds of policies provided they are informed about them before ordering. Cleary communicate to visitors about these policies on your landing pages or via a link from your Coronavirus message.
6. Limit items that are selling out:
The pandemic has seen certain items in high demand and some ecommerce sites have sold out without putting any controls in place. Use stock control systems to monitor demand and if necessary, restrict the number of items that users can place in the basket.
Customers who are buying in unusually large quantities are more likely to be reselling the goods on auction sites and less likely to be browsing for other goods. By maintaining reasonable stock levels, you can help attract more loyal and profitable customers who are not solely interested in scarce goods.
7. Offer click and collect:
Many ecommerce retailers have limited capacity for delivering goods to the doorstep and are struggling to increase delivery slots in the short-term. However, click and collect allows ecommerce sites to increase online sales without having to increase delivery capacity. It also has the advantage that social distancing guidelines can be followed when customers come to collect their purchase.
8. Meet customer needs:
Identify products that your site can offer to meet customer needs during the pandemic. For example, millions of people are being forced to work from home without an established office environment and many millions of children are being home-schooled even though their parents have no teacher training or equipment.
Use your CRM and web analytics to identify and target segments of visitors struggling to cope with these new challenges. Give prominence on your landing pages to products and services that can help people find solutions to these problems. Alternatively, team up with a supplier of products or services that can help customers meet these new needs (e.g. a VPN for home workers) to promote an introductory offer.
9. Offer helpful advice:
Pandemics create a lot of fear and uncertainty. People find themselves in a situation they are unprepared for and have limited experience to fall back on. In these circumstances people crave useful information and advice to avoid making mistakes and want to learn from others.
Stories and tips about how people are coping with the pandemic can help engage visitors and encourage people to share your content. If the advice is related to a product you sell this can also help increase conversions and improve customer loyalty. Customer testimonials can be especially powerful at communicating the benefits of a product or service. Make sure these are visible on your product pages.
10.Use your analytics to drive site performance.
Don’t forget to check your site performance metrics in your web analytics console. Make sure important pages are loading quickly and your bounce rates are reasonably low. Slow loading pages are a conversion killer and users will often abandon your site for a competitor if they find your site is difficult or slow to use.
Keep an eye on your automated conversion funnel reports to see if drop-off rates between certain steps are rising. If you see an increase in users dropping off on a page or field, investigate it immediately to find out what is causing the problem. Often fixing the basics on a site can have a much bigger return than sophisticated A/B testing.
The coronavirus epidemic has created huge uncertainty and many well-known ecommerce sites have struggled to keep up with the pace of change. However, we can learn from the successes of sites that have been quick to adapt to the new environment. Make sure your ecommerce site reduces uncertainty and anxiety by clearly communicating that you are open for business.
Review your delivery and returns policies to ensure you are making allowance for the challenges of life during a pandemic. Communicate how you have changed working and hygiene practices to reassure customers about your staff and the risks associated with packaging.
Give priority to key workers and the vulnerable to demonstrate your corporate social responsibility pedigree. Monitor stock levels and look to see if you can offer click and collect to customers unable to get a delivery slot.
Consider new unmet needs caused by the new work and home environment. Offer advice or tips to help customer cope with new norms. Finally, use your web analytics to identify site performance problems so that you can resolve them before they become a major problem. This will all help to improve your ecommerce conversion rates.
Here at VISU.AL , we’ve been busy helping brands optimise their online presence , from creating online ecommerce sites in a matter of days to improving ecommerce conversion during this crisis. Please feel free to contact us and talk to one of our specialist for free, relating to any challenges you are facing during these troubles times. Stay safe, stay home and stay online!
(Neal Cole is a web analytics and CRO consultancy and has worked in many sectors including financial services, online gaming and e-commerce retail. He has helped brands including Hastings Direct, Manchester Airport Group Online (MAGO), and Assurant Solutions to improve their digital marketing measurement and performance)