How agile is your ecommerce site?

As Coronavirus news continues to dominate the headlines, I found it interesting to see how China coped with change (since they had to face the issues first), such as asking whole cities to suddenly work from home. Many of the big name apps have added new sections with updates on the virus, online tools to look up how many infected people are in your local district, moved school education programs more online as schools were closed, and more. 

A massive undertaking, unplanned for, and from what I understand what has been put in effect has generally made a positive difference. It’s quite impressive frankly.

But one aspect that I also found interesting was how it was impacting shopping (and of course ecommerce). Consider the restaurant food delivery business:

  • Large portions of the population are suddenly asked to not go into public spaces (or leave home at all). So no more supermarket trips? How does that impact demand?
  • How safe do you feel ordering takeout from restaurants in the middle of a public health event, eating the food their chefs prepared, delivered by unknown strangers?
  • What can restaurants do about it?

Some examples I have seen include:

  • Putting in place process changes such as regular surface cleaning, recorded temperature checks on all staff, and delivery staff always wearing masks and gloves.
  • But process changes alone are not useful if you do not communicate them. So you also need to put up new content online showing all the steps taken, in a positive way (not just adding to fear). It has to be compelling, comforting, not scary. Think of the UX challenges involved!
  • Introducing new “touchless” delivery practices from as simple as allowing “leave food on door handle” as a delivery location, to adding support for new lockers with electronic lock codes (can anyone say “integration”?) for deliveries to apartment blocks.
  • You could imagine going further with aspects such as putting up a livestream of your chefs in the kitchen showing how food is prepared to show the level of hygiene.

I am not suggesting all restaurants should immediately do all the above, but they might be worth thinking about. What I also found interesting was not so much the innovations that were suddenly being forced on businesses to address suddenly changing customer priorities, but the question of how flexible the underlying platforms needed to be to incorporate new content and new shipping approaches. How quickly can your online presence adapt to changing market pressures? 

Coronavirus is obviously an extreme circumstance, but how much more value could your business drive if you were able to experiment and adopt new practices or create new experiences online quicker? How quickly can you adapt to changing user needs? Next time you are thinking about your ecommerce platform, I suggest making agility one of your evaluation criteria so you can adapt and benefit more rapidly and cost effectively from any market change, big or small.

PS: Best wishes to anyone impacted by current events!

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