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eCommerce in the times of Covid-19

Let’s face it! The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across the globe and now is gradually spawning in India as well. This global health scare will have a profound impact on supply chains across industries, in China and across the world.

While many multinational corporate houses have dedicated teams and risk management departments experienced in dealing with supply chain disruptions, for many small e-Commerce businesses who source products from China, this kind of disruption might be something that they are completely unprepared for.

In this scenario, there are many measures that you can take to limit the impact of the Coronavirus or a similar pandemic on your e-Commerce business. Sharing a few that we have learned from our customers who import from China

1. Stack up your inventory

Whenever such outbreaks occur, expect a significant impact on manufacturing as workers will be forced to stay indoors from the fear of getting infected. If possible contact your suppliers early and place a purchase order for a larger quantity than usual as it will not be clear when the supply chain will be restored. We have heard stories of how workers in the factories get their bonuses on the Chinese new year and not show up after the holiday. Due to coronavirus scare, it will lead to more people not showing up for work which will affect production. A seller dealing with sanitizers was over-burdened with orders but was not able to ship it out to customers since they did not have the required amount of packaging bottles! If the inventory is not replenished as of yet, try an alternative source to procure, preferably from a local manufacturer. Sentimentally a lot of buyers are not open to buying Chinese products currently.

2. Manage Relations with Suppliers

An outbreak can cause a substantial impact on their business with a range of ramifications. If you maintain a good relationship with your supplier in these hard times it might help in ways you might never be able to quantify. They can help you understand the ground reality and give you a better picture of ground zero than what is shown on news channels and may also go the extra mile to ensure your business does not suffer. You could also ask for other potential suppliers from a different region not affected by the outbreak. But this would work only if you have earned sufficient goodwill from the supplier

3. Stay updated on regulatory changes

We have a shipper who deals in apparel and was not able to get his inventory due to customs clearances. The International Chamber of Shipping has recommenced exit screening at all ports in the affected areas. The Indian Commerce Department is considering imposing duties on over 100 products that India imports heavily from China in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

4. Manage Customer Support queries

The customers will be worried about the delivery timeline and status of the orders placed. As the number of cases is rising, panic seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. It’s best to mention the safety precautions being set up on your website itself so that the customer support gets lesser queries. Also, some eCommerce sellers are communicating that their stocks were procured before the health scare broke out to ease some of the concerns that a buyer will have

5. Manage shipping

It’s best to confirm with the customer if they will be accepting the orders before shipping it out since we are seeing a steady rise of cases where the customer is requesting deliveries be left at doorstep or outright refusing to accept deliveries as they fear that the spread of the virus through physical contact by some persons like warehouse workers, delivery executive, etc.

What next?

Keep calm and carry on - Winston Churchill

Concentrate on what you can control: what steps would you be able to take to confine the outcomes? What would you be able to do now, and what would you be able to do later on? What are the expenses?

Utilize this emergency to make your business stronger for the long haul. Also, this isn't a "bad news only" situation. Your rivals are experiencing the same – so be on the lookout. This turbulent market may give rise to some unforeseen opportunities after all.

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