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How to Navigate Covid-19 as an Online Store Owner

By on March 26th, 2020 Reading Time: 4 minutes

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Governments are taking measures to slow down the spread of Covid-19. Citizens are encouraged to practice social distancing and limit non-essential travel. We’re all doing our best to navigate this new normal. 

Online businesses also face unique questions and uncertainties. One thing we don’t want you to feel uncertain about is whether your store will keep running. 

Printful is following the guidelines issued by the CDC, WHO, and local authorities to keep our team safe. Everyone who can is working from home, and we’re increasing the frequency of cleanings at our fulfillment centers, taking extra care to disinfect highly trafficked areas.

The safety measures we’ve taken (social distancing, the use of PPE, regular cleanings, etc.) as well as the industry-wide changes are making us reduce our speed by more than double. Even so, we’re committed to work hard and fulfill your orders so you can keep running your business. In these circumstances, we believe slow and steady wins the race.

In this blog post, we’re going to talk about what you can do for your business right now: how to talk to your customers and manage their expectations, how to adapt, and how to look ahead.

Stay current

The news is changing every day. Follow current updates (while taking breaks when you feel overwhelmed), acknowledge what’s going on in the world, and adapt your strategies. Here are some things you should consider:

  • Your products. Just like you might rotate your products based on seasons and spending events, look at whether all of your products suit current events. For example, with people avoiding crowds and beaches, rash guards might not be a bestselling product. But expanding your home & living category while people are spending time at home makes sense.  
  • Your messaging. You don’t have to acknowledge Covid-19 in every single marketing material, but be sensitive to what people are experiencing. Now might not be the time to promote an all-over skirt as the perfect date night outfit. 
  • Your finances. If you anticipate you’ll have fewer sales coming in, then start saving where you can now. Do an audit of your website and the tools you use and stop spending on whatever you don’t need right now.
  • Your campaigns. You can also run an audit of your marketing campaigns. Got a low-performing Facebook ad? Stop running it. While you might not want to drop all of your marketing activities, you definitely want to focus on the platforms that work.
  • Your social media. People are spending a lot more time at home and on social media. To engage with your customers and followers, share what projects you’re working on and what’s on your mind in general. Now that there’s so much uncertainty around, it’s important to show support to others and raise spirits.
Example of this week’s social media activities on Printful’s Instagram account

On a practical level, follow the news as it relates to your business. For example, are shipping carriers delivering orders as normal to your main regions? With countries closing their borders, cargo shipping times might increase.

Research what’s available to you

Governments and companies alike are starting to offer relief. Research what’s available in your area and what applies to you and your business. Start with Shopify’s compilation of social relief measures by country.

Here are some other offers that might help you run your business: 

  • Etsy is investing in offsite ads and offering merchants extra time to pay the bills.
  • Shopify now offers extended free trials, gift cards, live webinars, local delivery and curb-side pickup.
  • BigCommerce has created several ecommerce and coronavirus focused resources to help businesses navigate this new environment. 
  • Adobe has enabled distance learning globally for schools impacted by Covid-19.
  • Wix has created an informative guide for business owners.
  • Canva offers coronavirus prints and social media templates.

Communicate with customers

First of all, assure your customers that you’re still accepting orders, and follow updates from Printful and any other providers you work with so you understand what’s going on.

Let customers know about the expected shipping delays and manage their expectations about order fulfillment under the given circumstances. The more transparent you are about the impact of this “new normal” on your business, the more likely it is that they’ll hang in there and wait for their order.

Communicate in any channel that works for your brand, whether it’s an email or a social media post. Here are some questions you might anticipate from your customers:

  • How does Covid-19 affect [your store]? 
  • Will I receive my order? 
  • Are any shipping delays expected?

Remember that your storefront and non-marketing messages are channels as well, so consider including essential information in:

  • order confirmation emails
  • product descriptions
  • FAQs and content related to shipping
  • a popup or header banner

While Printful is a white-label service, it’s a good idea to let your customers know that you work with a print-on-demand drop shipper and that you’re communicating with them about any updates.

Follow this FAQ for up-to-date news on Printful production, products, and shipping. Study the information, communicate to your customers what they should expect, and send them extra love for supporting your business.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for a free copy template about Covid-19 that you can add to your store.

Promote shopping small

Small businesses are getting creative and adapting to stay afloat during this time. Think of what you can do differently, too. People want to support small businesses, so make it easy for your customers to support you. 

Be honest and let your customers know that their order will take longer to get to them, but encourage them to place orders anyway. Deliveries everywhere are slower than usual, so people are understanding and know it’s worth the wait. And if buying something from your store will help support your business now, chances are your loyal customers will be more than willing to help. You can also add gift cards to your store that customers can buy now and spend on a product later. 

Now is the time to adapt and to encourage your customers to support small businesses.

Keep moving

Hopefully, soon, Covid-19 will be contained and we’ll start getting back to normal. Where do you want your store to be when that time comes? If you have the time and resources, start thinking ahead now.

Now is a good opportunity to make small changes and improvements to your store: create or update your About Us page, update your product mockups, or create artwork for new designs. In other words—work on the content that will help your store in the long run.

While there are things that are out of your control, try to focus on what you can control and keep yourself busy with things that bring you joy.

Most importantly, stay safe! Follow your regional public health guidelines and do your part to flatten the curve. Uncertainty is always scary, but we’re in this together, and only together is how we’ll pull through.

Click on the button below to download a free copy template about Covid-19 that you can add to your store.

Nora covers all things ecommerce for the Printful blog. She appreciates good dad jokes, new books, freshly baked cookies, and evening jogs.

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