Coronavirus eCommerce Strategy

Boris Johnson issues stay-at-home order, sending UK into lockdown to fight Coronavirus pandemic

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic represents a huge challenge to our health and way of life, it also represents a very serious economic threat.  We are all collectively facing uncertain times and it’s imperative that we put our best foot forward and work together to traverse the choppy waters ahead.   eCommerce Strategy during COVID-19 is imperative to not only survive, but hopefully thrive in these challenging times.

In saying that, at Built for Growth we believe that with great threat comes great opportunity.  In the online arena, reassurance, messaging and positioning will be hugely important in the weeks and months ahead. 

We’re pleased to share our ultimate guide on eCommerce Strategy during the Coronavirus Pandemic.  We hope this is useful to the wider business community and wish everyone well during this difficult time.

Keep your customers up to date

As much as the landscape is very uncertain, customers should still have an understanding of what the very latest is with your business.  Particularly when it comes to fulfilment. 

Is delivery to USA currently impossible?  Make it clear to your US customers.  Is it business as usual in the UK for now?  Make it clear to your UK customers.   If customers feel well informed and confident then your conversion rates and revenues will benefit by proxy.

A lot of our clients work on the IRP platform.  Where the IRP is particularly useful is with the capability to have different messaging on different countries so we can keep the right people abreast of the right information at all times.   Information should be a cornerstone of your eCommerce strategy for as long as the Coronavirus is a present threat to society.

Unique Proposition

Providing fulfilment continues as normal, eCommerce companies have a real strength in this landscape. 

  The anxiety of venturing onto the high street does not exist online. 

  Couriers are increasingly moving towards contact free delivery to ensure they can remain operational whilst keeping themselves and their customers safe.  If your couriers work in this way, let it be known to increase consumer confidence in your brand. 

  It is possible to add additional information to customer orders during the checkout process.  Signpost this as a key field at this time so customers can easily give key information. (Leave Beside Bin / Ring Doorbell and Leave etc.).

  If customers are unable to leave the home for a period of time, you can still send gifts directly to recipients for birthdays and special occasions.

Silver Lining

Current circumstances won’t stop Easter, Black Friday or any other key trading date. 

If isolation increases or prevails, the online arena might be the safest, most reliable way to exchange gifts or acquire goods and services.  With that in mind, stick to your marketing calendar and keep trading! There will invariably be peaks and troughs here, but there will always be a demand for your offering.

Be Sensitive

This is obviously a very difficult time for people all over the world.  Steer away from tacky promotions and making a quick buck. No one wants to see ‘Stuck at home? – get 20% with code Corona20’.  

Be mindful of the difficulties people are facing.  Focus on the strength of your products and service levels and ensure any promotions are tasteful and appropriate.

Consider positioning yourself as a part of the solution by donating a % of profits to the Coronavirus effort even.  This would encourage sales and reinforce your reputation as an ethical, considerate retailer.

Be Aware of Costs

There is a very real possibility that customers may be browsing as much, or more than ever before.  In all likelihood, disposable incomes will be significantly affected by this pandemic so you might find conversion rates drop.  Keep a close eye on your CPA % on all your paid marketing channels and ensure your investments are making a reasonable return. 

Expand your Reach

Many countries are experiencing varying levels of impact with the likes of China now seeing a reduction in cases. Considering your international sales strategy at this time will be key to your success.  

Contact your couriers to see if improved shipping rates are possible.  It’s in their interests to keep working and handling shipments. Work closely with your BFG Digital eCommerce Consultants to establish where demand and opportunities lie.

Inspire Confidence

This is an uncertain time, and customers may be reluctant to place orders for non-essential items.  Therefore, it has never been more important to use trust messaging and configure your site in a way to instil confidence and trust that their purchases will be stress free and safe.

Be clear and concise.  Focus on minimising disinformation and keeping everything right up to date.  Don’t be afraid to sell the benefits of your business.  These benefits are no less valuable today, than they were last year.

Make it easier for your customers

To thrive online during this time, it may be necessary to go the extra mile to make your offering as strong as possible.  There are a few options that would be warmly appreciated at this challenging time:

  Free Delivery on all items in your core / home market.  Keep your sales volumes as high as they can be by removing the conversion barrier of shipping costs.  Even if it is free shipping over a certain threshold be sure that this is clearly communicated across the site.

  Free Returns.  This will give further customer confidence in your brand and the knowledge they can easily return their orders without incurring fees will help mimic the bricks and mortar retail experience in the short term.

  Extended Returns Policies.  We don’t envisage this will lead to a higher return rate. This is more to promote comfort in the knowledge that customers have more time to return orders should they really need to.

  Interest Free & Flexible Finance.  Disposable income may decrease for some people in the short term.  Having flexible payment options will help customers to spread cost and balance their books a little in the interim. 

IRP is fully integrated with V12 Finance, who offer a variety of interest free (and interest bearing options.   Klarna will also be coming to the platform in the next month.

Many of our clients already offer Paypal, which has a great credit product also.  Speak to your Paypal reps to get the marketing collateral and site scripts needed to represent this on-site in the best ways.   These finance options all ensure your customers have a degree of flexibility whilst ensuring that you, the retailer, will get paid instantaneously.

All these mechanisms will make a difference but will fall completely flat without clear signposting.  If your online business has unique propositions like these, it is imperative that these are clearly communicated on-site. 

Stay Connected

A lot of shoppers enjoy the personal touch that a bricks and mortar outlet can offer.  Great customer service, insightful advice and someone who cares. In the absence of traditional bricks and mortar retail, it’s important that we try and offer this in the online arena.  Don’t position yourself as a faceless website where it’s impossible to get through to anyone. Prove that you’re open for business and ready to help. 

  Activate Live Chat & Telesales:  Even when working remotely, it should be possible to operate this.  It will help customers make decisions and provide reassurance on key issues.  You may face a lot of (the same) questions. Ensure that colleagues working on this are well informed and are communicating the very latest information.

  Easy to Reach: Make local contact numbers clear on site & highlight in banners the ability to shop and transact over the phone.  This is particularly important if you have an older customer base.

  Contact Us: You might experience a high volume of customer contacts either via forms or emails.  Be sure to treat these as a high priority. These are engaged customers who either have purchased or are on the cusp of purchasing.  Be sure to alleviate their concerns and answer their questions as promptly as possible.

All the above methods connect us to our customers.  In these potentially isolating times, a warm, friendly customer service experience can really make someone’s day.  Try and go the extra mile and it could instil customer loyalty that can last a lifetime.

Marketing Channels

Email Marketing  

Whilst it is important to keep people informed on-site, proactive outreach will be greatly appreciated.  Get in touch with your customers and let them know you care in this difficult time.  

Use segmentation to carve your audience into different groups and demographics.   This will allow for USA updates for US customers and Ireland updates for Irish customers and really help you communicate core information to those that matter!

Are you putting in place any safeguarding routines (contact free delivery) or initiatives (extended returns)?  Customers won’t know unless you tell them. Be proud to share what measures you have taken to help and don’t be afraid to let your customers know you are open for business and agile enough to tackle this adversity head on.

PPC & Facebook

On PPC, take advantage of sitelinks and callout extensions to highlight if you are offering contact-free delivery or have any specific information which the customer needs to be aware of or will help them make a decision to use your business to purchase from.

Focus on your USPs & UVPs for example: shout about next day delivery to “X” market or anything that will prove to your new and or existing customer base that it’s business as usual.  Instil confidence and maintain conversion rates!

 Whilst sitelinks are great for signposting positive messages, they can also be used to be transparent about challenges you face.   If deliveries are going to take an extra 2-3 days, then call this out in an ad extension. You won’t be alone with this problem and customers will appreciate the honesty and clarity of information. 

Work closely with our team to ensure your marketing channels and on-site messaging work together to convey the same key information at all times.   Avoid inconsistencies or contradiction 

Maintain focus on your promotional calendars and keep doing what you always do.   When the dust settles and anxiety dissipates, it’s entirely possible that eCommerce will become more powerful than ever before.   We are all collectively facing uncertain times and short term survival and positioning is of paramount importance. 

Affiliate Marketing

Given the current climate, many customers will turn to coupons and cashback sites to save a little bit extra, or perhaps get something in return. If you have a BFG Digital managed Affiliate Program please reach out to your account manager about how you can avail of these opportunities.


The reality is that we were not expecting, nor are trained or prepared for these circumstances.  Whilst it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to focus on what we’re good at and remain optimistic and confident in our abilities.  This will pass

Collectively, we are leaders in eCommerce and that will not change overnight. We want to work together to explore the opportunities that will invariably exist.  For some, this isn’t a matter of growth, but a matter of survival and we are here to support you. 

This is a very serious pandemic that has had a significant effect on the lives of people all over the world.  Above all, our thoughts and best wishes lie with everyone affected by this terrible disease. 

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