Today, many sellers are in the same boat as their buyers: stuck at home with little more than their computers and phones to keep them connected to their daily jobs
While sales have jumped as much as 1,500% for certain products, sales around others (mostly “nonessentials”) have taken a sharp nosedive. And on both sides of the divide, state lockdowns are forcing some sellers to close their warehouses and hit “pause” on shipping.
If you find yourself in the same predicament, keep your chin up! There’s plenty that can be done even from behind a desk. Whether you’re searching for ways to keep revenue flowing or preparing business for when things reopen—time at home means time to think ahead.
Below are suggestions from actual sellers who’ve been impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and have had to make the best of the situation. If you have any additional tips for our list, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Our hope is that we can get through this uncertain time together by exchanging tips and ideas across our seller community.
1. Communicate with Your Existing Buyers
Right now is a critical time to keep communication lines open with your customers. They need to know that they can trust you and that their orders will be safely fulfilled, even if you can’t ship them right away.
At the bare minimum, you should email your existing customers acknowledging COVID-19 and its impact on your customer service levels. You’ll also want to send frequent post-purchase updates, even if it’s just to say, “We have your order (we haven’t forgotten about you), and we’ll get to it as soon as we’re able to.”
“Customers are genuinely nice right now,” says Ken McCombs III, whose Pennsylvania-based company McCombs Supply is only partially impacted by the state shutdown. “It’s actually more of a pleasure to deal with them now than before because they’re very understanding. They used to be so demanding before.”
By setting clear expectations with your customers, you’re more likely to see returning customers over the next few weeks. For this reason, consider placing a message on your webstore, social channels and other outlets informing new customers of the same thing. Let them know that you’re still taking orders despite delayed shipping, and that they can trust you with their money.
2. Refresh and Optimize Your Listings
Both in the short-term and long-term, the quality of your listings have a huge impact on the discoverability of your products. As things are slowing down, you’ll want to devote time into auditing your listings and ensuring that they include the right keywords and all the elements of a high-ranking listing to continue capturing valuable organic traffic.
“If I were stuck at home right now, I’d be on the backend of my listings hammering keys,” says McCombs. “I’d make sure every keyword possible was in there and that my descriptions were up to par. I’d be critiquing [my listings] to no end..that’s all that I have two of my staffers doing from home right now.”
Note that your SEO playbook should look slightly different for each marketplace. The anatomy of an Amazon listing is slightly different from that of a Walmart listing. But across all, you’ll want to provide as much product data as possible.
If you’ve got too many listings to edit manually, consider automation. Zentail’s PIM tools, for example, include bulk editing tools so that you can easily refine product details, prices and listing errors across hundreds (or thousands) of SKUs. Zentail will also help to auto-fill essential data on your listings with its SMART Types technology, which can format data according to marketplace requirements.
3. Promote Special Discounts or Perks
Promotions can incentivize buyers to continue purchasing your products, even if shipping is delayed.
Case in point: though all of their warehouses are temporarily shut down, intimate apparel company Felina has been experimenting with a variety of strategies to invigorate sales.
- A buy-one-get-one 50% off campaign
- 15% discount if you donate a dollar to charity
- A loyalty program offering extra points per dollar spent
“Right now the focus is on how we can leverage our own marketing channels—things like email—and build those channels out,” says Felina’s Head of Ecommerce Neil Popkin. Most of Felina’s campaigns are targeted at existing customers who already trust and have had positive experiences with the company. “We’re seeing conversions, and no customers have complained or canceled their orders.”
Similarly, shaving company Supply, which rarely discounts their luxury razors and accessories, has seen success offering a special discount. This comes after their first promo failed to yield as many sales as they had hoped. After pivoting their strategy to speak to a new buying trend (namely, the desire to hoard or stock up on products), they experienced their best weekend of sales since Black Friday.
4. Offer Gift Cards
If you’re looking for an easy way to keep revenue flowing, gift cards can help you receive money up front. With buyers and their loved ones stuck at home, you can promote e-gift cards as instant birthday gifts or ways of telling someone “I’m thinking of you.” Free tools like Canva exist to help you design cool gift certificates without a designer’s help. Get creative, and engage buyers through other mediums outside of your listings.
5. Sell Your Products in Packs
Induce the “Costco effect” by listing your products as multipacks or bundles. Not only do kits allow you to create unique, noncompetitive ASINs on Amazon, but they can also increase your average order value (AOV).
At a time when consumers are stocking up on products, multipacks are extremely relevant.
Bundles similarly harp on the trend that buyers today are seeking a good value. Bundles work best when you group together complimentary items (Amazon, in fact, has very strict rules around what you are and aren’t allowed to offer as bundles). Consider pairing higher-ticket items with smaller accessories, or top sellers with newer items.
One word of warning though: kits and bundles can be tedious to manage if you don’t have a solid inventory management system. You’ll want to make sure your system can accurately track inventory around single and bundled units of a SKU to avoid mis-shipments or overselling in the future.
6. Test Free Marketing Channels, Like Social Media and Livestreams
There’s no better time than now to test channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or even Amazon Live to promote your products. (Just yesterday, Facebook reported a 50% increase in total messaging and a 70% lift in time spent on its apps since the COVID-19 crisis hit the U.S.)
Video is an especially powerful medium for engaging customers. You can live stream product demos, Q&As or special events like company anniversaries. Some sellers have even expanded their revenue streams by creating pay-to-watch videos through sites like Vimeo. While product sales are down, some sellers are taking a more consultative approach and creating how-to videos related to the products that they sell.
7. Go Multichannel
Aside from bringing more exposure to your listings, selling on multiple channels can reduce your risks if, for example, Amazon’s de-prioritizes your products and throttles your sales.
McCombs cites this as one reason why his business is thriving amid the turbulence caused by COVID-19. His company is listed on five different sales channels, including Amazon, eBay and Walmart Marketplace. As major retailers across the country are experiencing a dip in sales, McCombs is seeing a 2% increase—only a quarter of which come from Amazon.
Maximize your time at home by setting up new marketplace accounts. You can tap Zentail for help getting listings up on multiple sites without having to duplicate your work. We know that listing can be a monotonous task—and tricky if you don’t know the rules of each channel—so we’ve built tools that make multichannel listing a breeze. Just plug in your data once and list to various channels with a mere flip of a switch.