In this guest post, our strategic marketplace partner OnBuy outlines 5 different types of resilience that will help you weather the uncertainties of the ecommerce environment in the 2020s.
If there’s one thing the last eighteen months has proven, it’s that there are no guarantees. No one could have predicted that a pandemic would sweep the globe in 2020, nor did we expect the threat of a global shipping crisis just before peak season in 2021.
The continued disruption has highlighted something crucial: ‘the norm’ in society can change overnight, so we shouldn’t take it for granted.
How can you expect the unexpected?
We get that planning for scenarios that haven’t happened yet might feel impossible, but we’ll share the secret with you: resilience. If you build resilience into your business, it can help weather any storm.
Here are a few different strategies you can use to strengthen your business for peak season and beyond, focusing on operational, staff, technological and reputational resilience.
Operational resilience: Keeping things running smoothly
Review your inventory
Keeping accurate stock records is vital. If a crisis strikes and you need to reroute stock to a different store or fulfilment center, knowing what you have and where it’s stored is essential. With the latest systems, you can manage your stockrooms and warehouses down to the individual unit, with automation to eliminate common errors like misplacing or mislabelling stock. This is one of the handiest features of Volo Origin, which lets you keep track of over 3 million different product SKUs and redirect them as needed.
Diversify your online presence
Consumers are flocking to online shopping in greater numbers than ever before, so eCommerce is one of the safest moves a business can make right now — especially if you’re looking to capitalise on the Q4 rush.
Make sure you’re meeting your customers where they’re shopping: diversify and expand your online presenceby selling on multiple marketplaces. Don’t just host your products on the huge household names, but on their rapidly growing competitors too. One such marketplace is OnBuy. The fourth largest marketplace in the UK, OnBuy supports retailers by never competing against them, instead simply offering them a platform to reach a wider audience.
Fulfilling orders on multiple marketplaces might seem like a headache, but there are solutions to help you manage this. For example, OnBuy has a range of integrations to make selling simple, such as Volo Origin’s marketplace integration. This lets you run all of your marketplace storefronts from a single screen, making it just as easy to sell on six marketplaces as one.
Consider your shipping providers
The same strategy applies to shipping and logistics. We’ve seen just how quickly supply chains and delivery networks can be disrupted, so consider making connections with companies offering access to multiple shipping providers. That way, should there be an issue with one company, you’ve got plenty of options at your disposal to help you meet customer expectations.
Technological resilience: Stay on the cutting edge
Modern technology offers almost limitless opportunities, but it doesn’t come without its risks. Cyber-crime is the most dramatic of these risks, but common computer hardware issues and software bugs can play havoc with your business if it’s not properly prepared.
Invest in your infrastructure
Did you know that several high-profile organisations have fallen victim to hackers because their IT infrastructure was out of date? For instance, the British NHS was so badly affected by the 2017 WannaCry malware attack because it failed to install necessary security updates. Basic security training for all employees is also essential for keeping your company safe from cyber-threats.
Assess your digital tools
Working from home, we all found that video conferencing apps and shared digital workspaces were as important for success as the laptops and PCs we used to run them. Your business may also require specialised software for certain tasks that’s not covered by popular office suites. This software must be reliable and malleable to changes in your processes. Software with open APIs — with code freely available for your IT staff to configure and adapt as necessary — are fantastic in this regard.
Staff resilience: Look after your people
Just as market shocks and crises can hamper your processes and technology, they can affect your staff too. You can protect your workers’ morale and productivity by fostering strong staff resilience.
Upskill your staff
Did you know that several high-profile organisations have fallen victim to hackers because their IT infrastructure Investing in proper staff training is important. When training your staff, think beyond the skills they need for their job and encourage them to learn secondary skills as well. Not only does this result in a stronger, more resilient team, but your employees will feel valuable.
Welcome fresh perspectives
Another strategy to strengthen your team is through developing a diverse workplace, filled with a variety of personalities and life experiences. This promotes flexible thinking and different approaches to problem-solving, making it more likely your company can handle challenges as they arise.
People have plenty of reasons to be stressed at the moment, so make sure you’re in tune with your employees’ wellbeing. Keep in mind that not everyone will react to a scenario in the same way. The transition to working from home during the pandemic is an excellent example – some were more productive, while others faced burnout. Don’t hesitate to offer your staff additional support – you could try lightening their workload, changing their working pattern or giving them some time off to recharge.
Reputational resilience: Build trust in your brand
Your business’ reputation is less tangible than the stock in your warehouses or your website, but it’s just as important. It can take years to become a brand trusted by your customers, and all that work can be destroyed in an instant without a proper communications plan.
Use social media to connect with customers
An easy way to boost your brand’s reputation is social media. Don’t just use social media to promote products or special offers – use it to communicate with customers and address concerns, too. Your customers will feel heard, and are more likely to trust you in the future.
Create a recognisable brand voice
If your communications all sound like different people, your customers will struggle to connect with your brand. The solution? Creating a clearly defined tone of voice that’s in keeping with your brand image and the topic you’re talking about. Making a joke at a sensitive time, for example, would backfire.
Prepare crisis comms before you need them
If the worst happens and a scandal erupts around your company, it’s vital to act quickly. Many businesses create a crisis communication plan containing a list of likely scenarios and answers and a set of comms that are ready to go. If you prepare your own plan, create different messages for key recipients: your own staff, partners and shareholders; the media; and your customers.
Proactive resilience: Seize the day
Let’s think about how fostering resilience can not only help you maintain your business during uncertain times and crises, but can actually help it grow. While market disruptions can present clear risks to your business, they offer amazing opportunities as well.
By using web analytics tools to track search trends and the paths that your customers take from website to website, you can see which areas your competitors are failing in during a period of disruption. Your well-trained, flexible and happy staff will then be ready to offer up ways you can fill those niches.
With the right investment in technology, operations and logistics, your business will be working at a steadier pace than the opposition. And with the public relations rules you created during your reputational resilience planning, your social media team will soon put the word out, attracting new customers to your business. Invest in business resilience and when other companies falter, yours can thrive.
There are innumerable ways that OnBuy and our partner Volo can help strengthen your business. Start diversifying your online presence now by selling with OnBuy or get in touch with Volo to see how they can help your business.