If your ecommerce business has survived so far, congratulations. You probably worked harder in 2020 than ever before, whether you fought to stay afloat or to keep up with record-breaking demand. But now you have to face the world of ecommerce in 2021.
Last updted 11/11/2020.
Expect More of the Same
Everyone likes to talk about how terrible 2020 is like they can contain the bad to this one year. The fact, though, is that 2021 will almost certainly bring more of the same.
Even an effective vaccine produced in 2020 and distributed across the US wouldn’t solve everything. Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that such a vaccine could leave about half the population vulnerable. And the most optimistic timelines put such distribution at spring at the earliest.
Throw in the apocalyptic predictions for the winter and 2021 may actually be worse than 2020.
We shouldn’t expect an end to shutdowns or restrictions in 2021, at least not in the first or early second quarter. And that means ecommerce in 2021 will look a lot like ecommerce in 2020.
3 Ways to Prepare for Ecommerce in 2021
Whether your business has faced boom or bust, it will likely continue to see the same high or low demand it has seen so far. That means your survival depends on adapting to these changes rather than hanging on and praying for things to go back to normal.
If you’re reading this before Black Friday 2020, it’s even more important to make these preparations now. They’ll help just as much in the holiday season as during 2021.
The worst thing you can do in 2021 is get tunnel vision. There will never be a more important time to expand your business, especially if you are struggling.
If sales are low on the site where you built your business, explore new opportunities. Get your products in front of more people in more places. As painful as expanding can be, it's almost inevitable that your sales will rise with each platform you add.
Multimillion-dollar sellers rarely sell on only one website. Just check out our statistics on the best places to sell online. You’ll see that most big sellers list on sites like eBay, Amazon, Walmart and/or Shopify at the same time.
Most of these sites are easy to get started on. The hardest—and the best—for sellers right now is Walmart. Walmart’s exclusive marketplace has about 13 times as much traffic per seller as Amazon does. See “How to Get Approved to Sell on Walmart Marketplace” to find out if this is a practical option for you.
We’ve partnered with Re:amaze on their Re:vitalize project, a video series with ecommerce experts from 15 companies. Each video will explore the challenges of ecommerce in the pandemic, especially during this holiday season. Learn more here.
Our video for Re:vitalize covers one way to deal with drastic changes in demand: improving efficiency.
It’s hard to hire and train new staff when sudden increases in demand due to COVID-19 stretch your resources to the limit. It’s even worse to be forced into laying off workers and asking your remaining employees to handle a higher workload.
Nobody wants to end up these situations. But with roller-coaster demand, you may have no way to avoid them.
The best way to resist or adjust to such situations is to improve efficiency. When a small staff can handle a large workload, you’re less likely to need to hire or fire.
Our video for Re:vitalize, “One Support Agent Is as Good as Four,” demonstrates how tech can enable agents to handle four times their normal workload. A little training and good software can save you from hiring during the next boom in demand. Or if your agents are struggling to keep up after layoffs, you can give them the breathing room they need.
Customer service, of course, is just one area where you can become more efficient. Shipping is often even more critical. Our guide to ecommerce shipping solutions explores 10 services that can simplify or even take over your fulfillment.
Garden seeds were among the most in-demand items in 2020. Should you add them to your inventory?
Look for products that will have high demand in the year to come. 2020 saw explosive demand for things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, garden seeds and home improvement goods. This demand may cycle back up as new waves of COVID and memories of shortages trigger more panic buying.
Do your research and keep an eye on both the news and your competitors. Selling new, in-demand products can be the thing that turns a slump into a boom for your company.
Just be aware of risks like Amazon’s coronavirus restrictions popping up out of nowhere and slapping you down to zero. Items like masks and hand sanitizer—things meant to prevent COVID-19—are vulnerable to surprise rules and regulations. Lettuce seeds and insulation rarely cause so much trouble.
Finally, plan ahead. If you wait until demand for an item spikes, that same demand may disappear before a single overseas shipment can reach your warehouses. You have to use all your experience and know-how to predict demand and meet it in advance. This strategy is always a gamble.
Our advice here is broad, and broad advice will only get you so far. Tactics that apply directly to your situation get the best results. Learn the detailed, powerful ecommerce strategies you need to survive the 2020 holidays and the world of 2021 by joining Re:vitalize.