Hong Kong was one of the first locations to report Covid-19 cases in the current global pandemic, and saw the advantages of early, decisive intervention. Its lockdown policies resulted in a successful fall in cases, with a total of just 110 reported by the start of March 2020. However, Hong Kong is a travel hub, with the majority of its cases coming from travellers into the region rather than residents. With the predicted “second wave” showing signs of hitting Asia, and after travel restrictions were relaxed, Hong Kong has experienced a dramatic spike to 846 cases, as of Thursday 3 April 2020. The Hong Kong government has announced a HKD120 billion package to help its economy deal with the immediate effects of the crisis.
The pandemic has caused a major change in the shopping habits of Hong Kong’s citizens, with 83% of respondents to a YouGov poll saying they were avoiding crowded places such as shopping centres, and global online sales showing an increase of 52% against the same period last year. Although no one can be sure of the long-term effects of the crisis, e-commerce is currently stepping in to fill the gap in supplies essential goods and services, and businesses are having to move fast to deal with the rapidly-shifting situation.
In order to protect your e-commerce business, there are several steps you can take straight away:
- Encourage all your existing customers to move online. Reassure them that you are still operational and offer tutorials and help in navigating your website.
- Make sure your site has the capacity to deal with sudden increases in traffic. Ensure you have a stable web host and optimise the loading of your pages. Consider streamlining graphics and features which slow your pages down – a study from Gomez.com found that even a 1 second delay in page loading decreased conversion sales by 7%.
- Keep your website up to date – consider making stock levels visible to customers, give updates on when new stock is expected, and give realistic delivery estimates. Do not promise what you can’t deliver, such as guaranteed next-day delivery, or a 24-7 staffed helpline
- Consider what support will be useful to offer to your customers – perhaps give discounts on certain products, or allow your services free of charge for a limited time. Can your business support initiatives in your community, or offer priority to support workers or essential services?
- Highlight your products which are popular right now. Hygiene supplies are an obvious area showing overwhelming growth – Bloomreach reported that sales of face masks were up 590% in the week of 22-29 February alone – but many, less obvious products such as gardening supplies and jigsaws are also booming.
- Considering expanding your online business to new regions or markets, especially in areas which would have previously been served by physical stores. If you can, expand delivery options to cover previously-unserviced countries and regions.
Although the precise long-term effects of the coronavirus outbreak on e-commerce are impossible to predict, customers gained during this time are unlikely to walk away even after restrictions are lifted. Treat your customers well now, and your business could keep their support for years to come.