Commerce and a Pandemic

“After all it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.”

Margaret Chan

The coronavirus, COVID-19, has brought to light the expediency in which a pandemic crisis can spread globally.  The COVID-19 virus was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019.   In a March 5, 2020 media briefing, the WHO Directory General referred to the Coronavirus as an epidemic.   On March 9, the WHO Director-General warned that the virus was a threat of becoming a pandemic, and on March 11, 2020,  the virus had become a pandemic – the first pandemic, that can be controlled at the same time.

In a matter of 71 days, the COVID-19 virus went from being first reported, to becoming a global pandemic.

The effects of this virus are felt across the globe, in all industries – including commerce.  Is it possible for your commerce site to be prepared for an event of this magnitude?  And if so, how?  What steps can you take to make sure your customers and website visitors are finding what they’re looking for to feel safe, or have necessary supplies?

I’m not sure if it’s possible to truly prepare for a pandemic or any other act of God.  How would it have been possible to anticipate the shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizer in January of 2020?  Who would have thought cruise ships, in a matter of weeks, would be held off ports because of the threat of the virus spreading?

What can be done is to make sure your commerce website has the right tools in place to help your customers and website visitors easily find what they’re looking for and spot trends either with items or content they may not have considered.  Items and content that would be beneficial to them in the situation.

Utilize recommendations or engagement widgets, suggesting similar items.  For example, if a visitor is searching for a product that is currently out of stock, recommend another similar product that is in stock.    Use engagement widgets to point visitors to another piece of content related to the page they’re on, to help them feel more informed on the topic they’re reading about. 

Install trending technology, so visitors can see which products are being purchased or discussed in Social Media the most, which may be helpful in the current crisis.  Trending scripts can also be used to show trending content on your site or in social media to follow discussions on the same, or similar, topics, so visitors feel more informed. 

The goal of having a commerce presence that is prepared for something like a pandemic doesn’t necessarily mean having a stockpile of necessity items, like toilet paper, in inventory.  It means having easy tools on your website to help your customers find what they’re looking for, or point them in the direction of relevant, trending content. 

During a pandemic, or any other national or global crisis, you want your website visitors to know they can trust your commerce site to provide them with the resources they’re looking for.

Debbie wears multiple hats at SiteVibes, including writing and researching awesome topics to share with customers, partners and just general site visitors. When she isn't doing day-to-day SiteVibes work, Debbie enjoys volunteering with nonprofit organizations, digging into a new book, and going for walks.