COVID-19

Did We Plan for This? A Look at B2B Ecommerce Disaster Planning

Do we have a disaster preparedness plan for this? Can we stop our customers from hoarding products? What can we do today? Due to some unfortunate circumstances, the answers to these questions are now needed for B2B businesses, especially those who depend on ecommerce for their day-to-day activities. Though we hope this COVID-19 outbreak will pass soon, there undoubtedly will be other national emergencies that arise down the road. Today, there isn’t time to plan. Instead, B2B organizations must respond quickly to help their customers with immediate needs.

First and foremost, what is a disaster preparedness plan? To put it simply, it’s a roadmap to help your business navigate through times of crisis. This plan is something that can be put in place when any disaster or significant disruption in business occurs to help weather the storm.

When putting together a disaster preparedness plan, it’s helpful to focus on three key areas:

C– Comprehensive

A – Actionable

T – Transparent

Comprehensive
The plan should be as comprehensive as possible. You’ll never be able to capture every possible scenario when planning for disasters, but it’s important to try and think of what feature functionalities you MAY need to leverage through your ecommerce platform in times of crisis. Some examples may include:

  • Product Restriction Workflows – There WILL be product hoarding that occurs. It’s unavoidable. Building out features that limit the quantity and frequency of key items will be vital.
  • Customer Messaging – Customer service teams will be overloaded with calls and emails in these times, so having key areas throughout your website that help mediate the influx of calls is key. In addition, any other supportive tools like live chat, daily status update webinars, or other outreach programs such as targeted email campaigns can help alleviate the increased stress on customer service teams.
  • Extra Mile Services – Key value adds such as extending business hours, enabling in-store pickups, emergency delivery services, and product availability notifications will go far with customers.

Actionable

This type of plan must be comprehensive, but it also MUST be actionable. Implementing some of the above-mentioned ecommerce features at the last minute isn’t realistic. The goal here is to have these feature functionalities already built, so when a disaster occurs, key features can be enabled and acted upon in real-time. Of course, there are situations where certain ecommerce functionalities can be built on short notice, but it isn’t ideal for the business nor the customer. Having the flexibility and agility to react quickly and enable site features will help to reduce customer frustrations and discomfort.

Transparent

Transparency in any business is vital, but during a time of crisis, it’s never been more important. Even more so for B2B organizations in the distribution or manufacturing space, where customers have expectations for the delivery of products required for their business operation. Imagine a scenario where an ecommerce product landing page lists hand sanitizer as in stock, but when a customer places their order the product never arrives. That business has not only disappointed that customer, but they may also have lost their trust and loyalty. What’s key here is to have site features, UI/UX, and workflows that are truly representative of customer expectations and provide as much transparency as possible where applicable for the business.

Disaster planning may not always be at the forefront of our minds. Let’s be honest. how often do these events occur? However, the harsh truth is this: they do occur and will occur again in the future. Organizations that leverage ecommerce need to be thinking about how they can act quickly and help customers today and leverage the lessons learned from this current crisis to build disaster plans that will provide value to customers for future scenarios.

If you need help understanding what actions to take immediately to navigate this crisis, or, what you need to do to plan for future disruptions, contact us.

About the Author

Justin Racine serves as a Senior Commerce Consultant and works with clients to build and achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies. Justin has over 12 years of experience within the ecommerce space, working with companies such as Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Olam International, and has spoken at over 20 global conferences on ecommerce and branding strategy. Additionally, Justin has been published twice for his thought leadership on branding and marketing in the Henry Stewart Journal of Brand Strategy, is a contributing writer for CMSWire.com, and a frequent contributor for many leading industry publications.

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