The importance of e-commerce in the era of COVID-19 and how to get started

30 June 2020 | Blog

During the COVID-19 lockdown we saw the importance of e-commerce with 50% of households shopping online for products they had never bought online before*. Even as shops re-open, it’s important to understand that an increased reliance on e-commerce is here to stay.

There are still many factors that will limit your ability to transact in person, whether it’s due to social distancing restrictions, reduced staff numbers, customers still self-isolating or possible further lockdowns. 33% of households believe their future online purchases will increase* so now is the time, if you haven’t already, to ensure your business is set up to transact online as effectively as possible.

An e-commerce solution allows your business to continue trading in a way that meets your customers current needs. It doesn’t have to be a huge all-or-nothing commitment, although you will need a website!  You can get something up and running quickly by adding some data capture forms that email you customers’ requests and then complete transactions over the phone. Alternatively, if you only have a small number of products then you can create a simple product list with “buy now” buttons instead of a full cart solution.

If your business hasn’t sold via e-commerce until now, here are a few simple things to remember:

  1. Security is paramount
    It’s a legal requirement and your customers will expect it, so it’s essential that your site encrypts all traffic (i.e. runs with an address starting with “https”), and you have a secure website with the latest versions of your CMS and associated plugins.
  2. Good communication is essential
    Customers quickly get frustrated if they are left in the dark at any point during an e-commerce transaction. When customers interact with you online, make sure you follow up to let them know what happens next and when they can expect it to happen. Tell them when you are processing their order and when it is shipped, provide them with tracking details for your chosen courier. Make sure you provide an email address and/or phone number so that they can contact you if they need to.
  3. Ensure card processing is compliant
    You cannot capture payment details directly via your website unless you have proven compliance with the card industry scheme (PCI-DSS). You must use a reputable payment provider such as Worldpay or PayPal to collect payments on your site, otherwise you could face a large fine. If you have a card provider already, they will probably recommend a processor for you and many CMS and e-commerce systems have plugins to simplify this. It is worth noting that online card processing usually attracts a higher percentage fee than face-to-face transactions and sometimes comes with a longer settlement delay too, which can impact cashflow.
  4. Consider your fulfilment options
    Outside of the technical aspects, you will also have some business considerations to deal with, such as how you are going to fulfil your orders. You will need to consider how to package your products so they can withstand transportation and what shipping options you will be able to offer your customers. Shipping costs will vary by weight and volume and so you will need to look at which shipping providers are available at your point of despatch and what their tariff structure is. You will need to set up processes for dealing with orders as they come in and are prepared for despatch. If you do this within your e-commerce system, you can keep your customers up to date with the progress of their order automatically.
  5. Look out for fraud
    When you start selling online you need to stay alert to the fact that people will place fraudulent orders using stolen credit cards and false addresses. You will need to establish the means to assess each order and check that it is genuine, whether that is a phone call or an online service which checks the details that have been provided.

If this is new to you and feels overwhelming, engaging with a partner like KLOC can help simplify the process and guide you through it.

The KLOC team have over 20 years’ experience building e-commerce websites. We can build an e-commerce store using an off-the-shelf platform such as Shopify, wooCommerce, Magento or nopCommerce, or we can develop something totally bespoke to truly fit with every aspect of your business and processes. There are many options, including straightforward product catalogues and checkouts, bespoke quote generators, distribution of customer-specific reports, case management and CRM integration.

Whatever the requirement, we work closely with our customers to define exactly what is needed and understand all the different use cases. For more information or if you have any questions, please get in touch with us for a no obligation conversation.