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Commerce During the Coronavirus – What Businesses can Do Now, Next, and for the Future – Part 2

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This three-part series focuses on what digital commerce teams can do to shore up operations and remain effective right now, over the next few months, and in the mid-term future. Obviously, times are tough and every organization has unique challenges, so not everything below might apply, but sometimes the most stressful situations result in the most effective innovations. As your customers have more time at home and online, digital is where they are.

Part 2 – What To Do NEXT

There is no ‘normal’ right now. Things are still in flux. In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about initial actions digital commerce teams should take to shore up operations. It’s not a bad idea to have daily grooming sessions on what you triaged to make sure priorities are clear each day as the situation changes. After that, the question to answer is, what’s next?

What you do next largely depends on the type of products and services you provide. If you sell what is deemed ‘essential’ products or services, you are likely understaffed and under-serving your customers relative to demand right now. If you are providing ‘non-essential’ goods and services, you may be in a situation where production and shipping is halted for the time-being. In either case, use the analysis initially performed to inform how to proceed over the next month or two, and as with any recommendations given right now, your mileage may vary.

That said, we are already seeing significant shifts in customer digital behavior due to the circumstances and, as a business, the next thing to do is start to try and understand these behaviors so you can start planning for the longer term. While these behaviors may be somewhat forced right now, as Clay Shirky discusses in his book Cognitive Surplus, new technology drives new behavior and we will emerge from this crisis with a new set of customer behaviors that will stick.

Talk with Your Customers

It’s always business-critical to get feedback from your customers, but it’s more critical now than it has ever been. A great example of this occurred last week as quarantined people started making cotton masks to donate to healthcare centers. As they were delivered and used, healthcare workers used social media and online communities to give ‘product’ feedback in real time and makers rapidly adjusted.

While you might not be able to respond immediately to your customers’ asks right now, input gathered can be leading indicators of behaviors that will stick post-crisis (and that time will come). In order to gather direct voice of the customer input right now, you should leverage tools and platforms you already have in place including:

  • Social media – start a discussion with your customers on your social media platforms. With more time on their hands, your customers may be willing to have more in-depth conversations with you.
  • Customer service and call centers – are you able redeploy your customer service teams, armed with scripts, to speak live with your customers?
  • Surveys – customers with extra time may give more thoughtful feedback via surveys, whether delivered via email or offered via other digital properties. If you are a Survey Monkey customer, they’ve launched a series of tutorials and templates to help you get started.

Brainstorm What Could Be Possible

Get a video conference going with your team and start brainstorming which products and services could be delivered virtually right now and, with some support and investment, in the future. Build ‘what if’ scenarios and conduct some design-thinking based exercises to dig in. Depending on the industry, consider how to digitally enhance or virtually deliver:

  • Sales consulting
  • Garment styling or fitting sessions
  • ‘Hands-on’ product customization or configuration
  • Live product training and tutorials
  • ‘Face-to-face’ product support
  • Real-time product feedback
  • ‘Shop Together’ features (has there finally come a time to make this a reality??)

Don’t Forget About Digital Marketing

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention digital marketing considerations right now.

  • Paid – If you haven’t already, take a hard look at your ad spend right now and adjust according to the day. Forget about last year’s performance as a guide. Just look at the last few days and assume you will be adjusting budgets daily for the time being. Also, now might be the opportune time to shift your paid strategy to customer lifetime value (CLV or LTV) versus ROI.
  • Organic – SEO and content marketing have always been powerful tools to drive traffic to your digital properties and now is no exception. Be sure to review your internal search and Google search trends to ensure you are taking into account what key words and phrases your customers are using right now. Google has a special data view focused exclusively on Coronavirus Covid-19 search trends.

Friday we’ll move on to Part 3 – What To Do for the FUTURE. In the meantime, Perficient is here to help. Reach out to us if you would like more information or guidance on reviewing your digital commerce strategies during this crisis. We’ve also created a collection of guiding content that businesses can refer to during this crisis.

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Kim Williams-Czopek

Kim Williams-Czopek is a Director of Digital Strategy at Perficient. She’s been a senior leader in several digital agencies, digital product companies, and served as VP of Digital on the brand side. She specializes in customer experience, commerce, digital responsibility, and digital business strategies.

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