This is a guest post from Philippa Halliday, Head Of Content at OnBuy.
As a business owner, it’s essential that you’re prepared for all situations - in a way, you have to expect the unexpected. Planning for an unknown crisis that hasn’t happened yet might feel impossible, but there are many ways you can proactively crisis-proof your online business to ensure resilience in the face of anything.
1. Embrace multichannel selling
Ideal for safeguarding your income streams in times of crisis, multichannel selling is a smart business strategy even when there’s no crisis at hand. The essence of multichannel selling is that the more channels you sell through, the more exposure you have, so the more chance you have of making sales.
Diversifying your income streams gives you security during a crisis should there be an issue with one of your channels. From minor crises such as your own website going offline (wherein your other channels will keep the sales flowing in) to broader issues like a recession (where people’s shopping habits will likely change, so selling on a diverse range of channels will help), ensuring you don’t have all your eggs in one basket will help you navigate the situation at hand.
2. Ensure your entire product range is available
You’ll want to ensure that your entire product range is available. If one channel encounters issues or consumer spending habits change, ensuring you’re as visible as you can be will be essential in keeping sales flowing in. This rings especially true if you’re selling on marketplaces - with some marketplaces hosting tens of millions of products, the more products you list, the more likely it is that your products will be seen among the crowd.
The thought of importing your entire product range to multiple channels may seem daunting, but you can use an eCommerce platform integration like Linnworks - they offer multi channel eCommerce software to seamlessly sync your listings, inventory and more across multiple channels, saving you hours of time and resource.
3. Assess your inventory management
If your inventory management process is less-than-optimal, you could be wasting time and money. It’s wise to review this before it’s critical, so take time to examine your inventory practices now. Could you source your products at a better price from a different supplier? Are you over-ordering certain items, resulting in poor cash flow and unnecessarily high storage costs? Is your demand forecasting still accurate?
It’s a good idea to consider fulfilment options as well. Instead of spending time and money fulfilling your orders yourself, could you outsource this to a fulfilment company? By working with a fulfilment company, you can often get cheaper rates - not to mention, the time saved. Depending on the fulfilment company, you may even be able to store your products in their warehouses, allowing you to downsize your premises and save even more money.
4. Price competitively
If the economy is struggling or a health crisis breaks out, lowering your prices is undoubtedly not the first thing on your mind - but whether it’s a recession or a pandemic, people will still spend money on things they feel are essential to helping them weather the storm. You may not have much wiggle-room with your margins currently, but the strategies mentioned in point 3 should help with this - and remember, you only have to be better than your direct competition.
Speaking of which, there’s no use in having the best prices on the market if none of your customers know about them! Make sure you review your budgets to ensure you can still invest in effective marketing - you could look into quick wins with paid shopping channels, for example, while still putting energies into organic growth for long-term success.
5. Automate where possible
Automation is undoubtedly one of the keys to running a successful business, so don’t wait until it’s too late to adopt automation. Depending on the size of your business, it’s likely that you already automate some processes - but given that automation can free up precious time to focus on higher-value work and grant you flexibility in being able to react to crises quickly, it’s well worth reassessing your level of workflow automation.
If you’re not already utilising order management automation, this is a no-brainer. By automating the entire journey from click to customer, the right order management software will increase your efficiency, save you time, and help you identify and address any bottlenecks in your workflow.
Another major area of your business you should consider automating is marketing. You may be tempted to try and expand your customer base to counteract the crisis, but it’s more cost-effective to get your existing customers to repurchase than it is to try and convert new customers. Email marketing is one of the best marketing strategies, so where better to start?
By connecting your website analytics system with your email management tool, you can target the right people at the right time based on their specific behaviour and previous purchases. Set up automated email sequences with certain triggers, be it a post-order follow up or an abandoned cart sequence, and you’re sure to increase your sales with very little effort.
Along with employing the above strategies, it would be well worth stress-testing your business. Go through various scenarios - from suppliers hiking their prices to natural disasters - and assess how your business is currently equipped to deal with them. This will help you identify any weak spots and personalise your contingency plans to your specific business.
About the author
Philippa Halliday is Head Of Content at OnBuy. OnBuy is the fastest-growing marketplace in the world. With a uniquely fair and transparent approach, OnBuy offers online retailers a fairer, more trustworthy platform to sell through so that customers can make fantastic savings on a huge variety of products.