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4 Steps to Prepare for the Future of eCommerce after COVID-19

By: Ernest Sampera on May 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended economic projections and caused many industries to reassess their business strategy for the future. While a large percentage of companies are struggling to adapt to negative trends, eCommerce trends tell a much more optimistic story. Online retailers are experiencing a major rise in consumer demand even as they face challenges elsewhere. This demand is no guarantee of future success, however, so companies must take steps to ensure that they are in a position to make the most of the latest eCommerce trends.

Understanding Coronavirus's Effect on eCommerce Trends

While it was relatively easy to predict that widespread social distancing guidelines and statewide “stay-at-home” orders would lead to a spike in eCommerce trends, the long-term consequences of that increased demand may not be so obvious. If retailers assume that consumer habits will go back to normal once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, they could be in for a rude awakening that leaves them flatfooted in the competitive retail market.

That’s because the data demonstrate online shopping tends to be a “sticky” behavior in economic terms. As the term suggests, sticky behavior is something that becomes entrenched and difficult to reverse, eventually becoming permanent. Looking at eCommerce trends over the last decade, online spending tended to be consistent over the first three quarters before surging in Q4 as consumers entered the holiday buying season. This spending didn’t level off afterward, locking in the majority of eCommerce gains to set higher baselines for the next year.

The explanation behind these trends is that new groups of consumers decided to try shopping online each holiday season. While they might have intended to make only a few purchases, the positive experience caused them to permanently shift their buying habits. What began as shopping online for that one specific gift slowly transitions into making everyday purchases from eCommerce retailers.

4 Ways to Prepare Your eCommerce Business for the Aftermath of COVID-19

If the eCommerce surge associated with the coronavirus crisis follows the usual trends of online shopping behavior, businesses can expect much of this new behavior to become permanent even after physical stores begin to reopen. While online retail has been steadily growing for many years, not every company is prepared to accommodate this unexpected increase in demand. If they do not adapt quickly, they may fail to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity before them.

Here are a few ways eCommerce businesses can prepare for the aftermath of COVID-19:

1. Plan for Capacity Growth

Technology investments that allow online retailers to handle more eCommerce traffic can be expensive and difficult to implement. Having enough servers and bandwidth in place to accommodate growing demand takes careful planning and investment. No one wants to overestimate demand and be stuck with wasted infrastructure, but not having enough capacity to allow a business to grow is equally deadly.

Cloud computing makes it easier than ever for companies to right-size their digital customer experience and respond quickly to eCommerce trends. Unlike on-premises infrastructure, cloud computing capacity is easy to scale upward or downward to accommodate demand. Of course, there are drawbacks to relying entirely upon cloud-based solutions, which is why many retail companies turn to hybrid IT solutions within a colocation data center. These facilities offer direct cloud on-ramps while still allowing customers to retain control and visibility when it comes to their most essential data and applications.

2. Build a Strong Digital Customer Experience

In an increasingly crowded eCommerce market where many sellers are offering identical products and similar services, providing a high-quality customer experience is one of the biggest differentiators that help companies stand out. There are many factors that go into the digital customer experience, such as an intuitive user interface, streamlined payment options, and quality support, but the underlying infrastructure that makes it all possible is among the most important.

High latency networks and poorly secured data can quickly undermine an otherwise well-designed customer experience. With so many options available, nobody wants to wait around for slow-loading websites or payment portals. They’re also not going to put their data at risk if they know a company has a reputation for security breaches. Taking the time to get the foundational infrastructure right will make it easier for an eCommerce business to grow in the future.

3. Invest in Uptime

Having to wait for a website to load is one thing, but not being able to access it at all is quite another. System downtime has a tremendously negative impact on an eCommerce retailer. Not only does it make for a frustrating user experience, but it also creates substantial security risks. When a company’s servers go down, it may lose the ability to enforce the policies and controls that keep sensitive data secure. Customers are left wondering whether their orders will be completed or if their financial information has been compromised. Even if the company can provide them reassurances when systems are back online, there’s a good chance that customers won’t be coming back.

Migrating essential systems into a colocation data center environment that’s engineered for perfection and backed by a 100% SLA can help retailers ensure that their networks will stay up and running no matter what happens. Combined with disaster recovery planning that establishes backups and redundancies, a good data center strategy allows companies to protect their eCommerce business more effectively.

4. Diversify Supply Chains

One of the biggest lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis is that the global economy has come to rely upon supply chains that are vulnerable to disruption. For all the focus on digital customer experiences, at the end of the day, eCommerce businesses must be able to reliably deliver products to customers if they want to remain viable. Disruption to supply chains can cause shipping and manufacturing delays if a company doesn’t have a flexible strategy in place to meet ongoing demand.

While network uptime is an important part of supply chain security, eCommerce businesses need to identify multiple options when it comes to sourcing materials and labor. That means building relationships with a diverse array of vendors, all of whom must be able to meet the complex compliance requirements of various industries. Data centers provide an ideal environment for these relationships because they make it easier for all parties involved to meet their security and connectivity needs, allowing them to keep the focus on how they can better serve their customers.

Capitalize on eCommerce Trends with vXchnge

With multiple data centers located in key growth markets across the US, vXchnge provides colocation services that allow eCommerce retailers to meet the challenges of the post-coronavirus market. Our facilities deliver unmatched reliability with 100% uptime SLAs and industry-leading visibility thanks to our in\site intelligent monitoring platform. We provide all the tools you need to build an eCommerce infrastructure that will carry your business into the future. Talk to one of our colocation experts today to learn how we can support your journey to create an unmatched digital customer experience.

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