Whilst many businesses are sadly struggling to keep going during the Coronavirus, there are some that are seeing excess levels of demand for their products and services cause strains on their website, workforce and logistics. If you’re lucky enough to be in this category, there are a number of things you can do to manage the order flow and ease the strain on your colleagues, website and business.
Try not to disable your site altogether except as a last resort
According to Google, disabling your site altogether is generally not a good idea as a means of dealing with excess orders:
“Turning your site off is an extreme measure that should only be taken for a very short period of time (a few days at most), as it will otherwise have significant effects on the website in Search, even when implemented properly”
Source: John Mueller, Google trends analyst
A better option is to disable the checkout, and have clear and prominent messaging across all steps of the ordering process that new orders won’t be processed at present (one additional option could be to set up opt-in email capture to let users know when things are back up and running again)
Banner messaging, popups and emails
Long delivery times are one of the pet hates of any self-respecting online shoppers, and although it may be churlish of them to complain about next-day delivery being unavailable at the moment, it’s still advisable to put a fairly prominent banner along the top of all your site’s pages, informing users that whilst you’re still open for business and taking orders, there might be more of a delay than normal. It’s also a good idea to have a dedicated Coronavirus FAQ page or a relevant blogpost on the site, going into more detail about how your business operations may be different from the consumer’s perspective whilst the pandemic is ongoing.
This can be a difficult area to get right at the moment, particularly with some consumers starting to get annoyed with some of the inappropriate communications being aimed at them:
Not impressed that @VennStRecords @NorthcoteRcrds have used #covid19UK as a cheap opportunity to email me to say they’ve got loads of hand sanitisers and so are business as usual. So much for safe distancing. I won’t be back 🙁
— Seán Donnelly (@Seanog1982) March 16, 2020
Just got an email from my university’s career strategy office, saying they’re fully operational for all our career questions in this confusing and stressful time, and reader, I laughed
— maryam مریم ivette (@MIParhizkar) March 18, 2020
Still, appropriately-toned email marketing is a vital tool for communicating with large numbers of customers at the moment, and combined with social media can help to maintain brand strength and reputation under current circumstances.
Got product schema? It will help to alert users to out-of-stock products
Schema data, for those unaware, is additional code that you place on your site to ‘mark-up’ certain parts of the page, so that search engines can better understand it. In the context of eCommerce, explicitly stating through schema data that a product is out of stock will allow search engines to show it as such within the search results (see below) which is demand is excessively high may help to alleviate pressure (the opposite is true otherwise, where users seeing that your product is in stock in the search results is more likely to choose it compared to a competitor)
There have been numerous instances recently of websites going down due to excessive demand (such as the NHS volunteering website, which saw unprecedented demand crash the server as hundreds of thousands visited it in a 24-hour period) which aside from being poor for users will also cause SEO issues if left unresolved for too long, as mentioned earlier. Solutions such as Cloudflare, which ‘throttle’ the number of visitors to a site during peak demand to smooth out server demand and prevent problems. One prominent example of this is the UK’s premium bond website nsandi.com, which employs such a system for when the monthly prize draws are announced, and large numbers of users all go on to the site at the same time.
Livechat-if you have it active, is it necessary?
Whilst Livechat has become a go-to form of communication for many customers, depending on what you use yours for, it may be prudent to analyse whether it’s necessary and whether it might be placing unnecessary strain on your support staff. If Livechat is used for lead generation or sales when plenty are coming in anyway, temporarily disabling Livechat and reassigning staff to help elsewhere may be best in the short term.
Push demand to other products
Anyone selling PPE, particularly masks, will most likely be rapidly running out of certain products whilst others go unsold. Creating blog posts or other informational content linking to products that have the potential to sell but are being overshadowed by trending products might help to drive extra revenue without upsetting customers by driving them to products low on availability.