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E-commerce in Coronavirus Times

The Ecwid E-commerce Show hosts Jesse and Richie adapt the same way everyone else has had to and record via Zoom to talk about how to cope with the changing landscape. They discuss what to do if a business is down and where to double down if a business is going well.

Show Notes

  • Systems and processes
  • Site redesign
  • Advertising is cheap — YouTube, Facebook, Instagram
  • Competing with Amazon
  • Product feeds
  • Ecwid’s response to COVID-19

Transcript

Jesse: What’s going on, Richie?

Richard: What’s happening, Jess? This is different, huh?

Jesse: This is definitely different. Happy Friday, but we’re probably experiencing this more as our guests experience it because we’re not next to each other.

Richard: It’s one thing we all have in common no matter what right now. Things aren’t what they used to be. Some are better. Some are worse. But we’re all pretty much at home.

Jesse: Yeah. So we’re at home. The good thing about podcasting and making videos is that you can do this from anywhere. So here we are. This is my office where I’ve been living for the past month or so. Your office’s the way better.

Richard: (laughing) But it’s also what I do, too.

Jesse: A better microphone, your audio is going to be better.

Richard: Well, depending on how long we’ll be staying at home. Well, we’ll get you another microphone over your house, too. Yeah.

Jesse: I’m gonna need to step it up here. I’ve already ordered some pictures for the background here. We got to upgrade the office a little bit. I’ll have to shave here eventually. I have a quarantine beard going. So probably I’m like other people listening. Hopefully, for people that are dealing with something serious or have family members that are sick, hope the best for you.

I’m going from the idea that most people are probably like you, and I stuck at home, kids driving you crazy. More stir crazy situations and then trying to figure out what the heck you can do with your business. That’s the reality for most people. That might be the best-case scenario for most people to be honest with you. And so we’re here to help and see what kind of advice we can give.

Richard: Yeah, and I just want to reiterate, Jesse, that was a good point. We don’t know the exact situation you’re in, but we wanted to reach out. We didn’t want to stop the momentum of connecting with the Ecwid community and basically reaching out and doing whatever we could. We know some of you are gonna be booming with sales right now because things were going well. And whatever product service you sell right now happens to be in demand.

Others of you might have just been getting started and didn’t really have traffic sources and are now getting traffic and don’t really know what to do with it because maybe you can improve some things. And then there are other people that just might not have a product that’s in demand now at all. And we’re gonna try to touch on it a little bit of each of those because we want to add value no matter what. But I really, really want to reiterate with Jesse’s point that no matter what, we hope your families are safe. We hope our families are healthy. And your community is doing all it can help each other out. And we just want to do the same for you guys.

Jesse: Definitely want to help help you out. I think we can start first on, for people that really hadn’t got their business going or there’s been a ton of people of interest in e-commerce right now because of the financial situation. A lot of people are not working right now. So they are starting an online business. So for people that are just tuning in for the first time. Great. Welcome. We’re here to help.

There are other people that are already connected, dialed in, and their business is probably booming right now. I do know from internal stats like there are people that are doing very, very well right now. We’ll get into that next. But first, Richard, that’s gonna help people that are maybe in a bad, bad spot right now. There’re a lot of people that sold tickets to events. There, there are some tough spots right now. There are no events, or you’re selling products that just kind of needed more of a hand to hand contact. They needed something. We have help for you.

Actually, there’re people, on the lighter side, maybe you sell pants, right? Probably not doing that well, everybody is now living their life online from their stomach up. So if you sell pants, maybe you’re not doing so well.

Richard: These are legit stats. We don’t actually have the exact numbers. But we’ve seen multiple things where sales of tops basically waist up, have gone up, and waist down sales, shoes aren’t selling as good. There are all kinds of things; it’s just been an interesting phenomenon.

Jesse: People aren’t wearing pants, Rich. This is the reality here. There’s a pants-free zone. I’m wearing pants just so everybody’s aware. (laughing) But yeah, it’s a different world that we’re living in. So some people are doing well with this. A lot of people are not. Maybe they’re taking a little bit of a pause in your business. That’s totally fine.

So now, taking advantage of this pause, take a look at your business holistically. This will not be forever, I’m not getting into projections of when we return to life as normal, but it won’t be forever. And you’re gonna be glad that you took some time to rebuild your business or build your business for the first time.

Richard: That’s a good point. Things are gonna change. But I do think some things will stay out of this. And no matter what, I think more people will realize that they need to work on their digital presence. So no matter what happens and again, hopefully, the life you’re living gets back to whatever form or sanity you need and are working on.
But no matter what, the digital footprint is gonna be more valuable than ever.

Before we jump into these things, it’s even if you’re not doing well; it’s not because business isn’t being done online right now. This is a lot we were discussing a little bit prior. This is a lot like Black Friday or during the holiday season right now where people are at home, and again, it’s not necessarily the holiday feeling, but it’s that same environment where more people are home, they’re with their families. They’re not at work. They’re looking online. What were the latest stats? I want to say YouTube doubled with video views or some crazy number. I don’t remember exactly, but it was definitely up there. It’s not because people aren’t online. There just might be some fundamental things that you can work on.

Jesse: So let’s get back to the fundamentals. I mean, obviously, we’re in. I don’t know what podcast number we are in, in the 60s, 70s here. Listen to all of our podcasts. I’m sure you are binge-listening right now. But it is a little bit of getting back to the basics. What does your site look like, and I know this is super basic, but look at your own site. Would you buy from this site and then look at it on a mobile phone? Would you buy it from a mobile phone? Can you check out easily from a mobile phone? So super basic stuff, but now is the time to really dive deep into what does my site look like? Spend a little time making it look nicer. Take nice pictures. You have the time. I know you do. So now, do spend the time and get under the hood with your business, particularly if you’re not blowing up on sales.

Richard: Yeah. This is also a really good time to just look at the systems and processes. So this probably would help whether your just getting started and really have the time to map some of this stuff out. Because you don’t really know, maybe you’re going to go back to work, and you want to be able to pass off these systems and processes to somebody else as your business grows. Or maybe you’re doing great, and you need to expand, and you need to be focusing on other things. Working on your systems and processes are basically standard operating procedures. I think, regardless, this would be a good time to even look into that.

Jesse: And to be more specific, if you’re wondering, what the heck is Rich talking about here? It’s like when an order comes in. What happens next? Are you copy-pasting this and putting it on to a label for a shipping company? And then you’re printing it out. It’s a different printer. Is that efficient? Could you be doing something else? What happens next is that email gets added to a list. Actually, there weren’t too many podcasts ago. We had Will on for data automation. So we had him on. It was pre-crisis time, so we weren’t talking about it related to this.

But yeah, either you have time to work on this right now, or you’re so busy that you really need to work on this right now or you’re going to go crazy. So now’s a good time to take a look at those processes. What could you improve? And even if you need to outsource people, there’s a lot of other people that are available to help right now. They were furloughed. There they are good with computers and have time on their hands, too. So it’s a good time to take a look at the whole systems processes and what you can fix up if you have the time.

Actually, the next point here, I think you’d mentioned it to when we talked earlier. A lot of people are at home. They’re craving social contact. This is my front window over here. I can see people walking around, and we wave and stuff. But I miss talking to people. Rich, we talk on the phone, but that’s not the same. So it’s a good time to reach out to people on social. Reach out to your customers on the phone. Give them a call. What do they like about your product? What did they not like? What else could you do to help them?

Richard: It’s a really good time to deepen the relationship is basically what you’re alluding to here right now. We have some extra time we want to communicate. I’m sure it could be a little bit of a balancing act in some cases because you don’t necessarily want to come across like: “Hey, I’m trying to sell you a bunch more stuff.” But you could be pleasantly surprised. You could be calling out just to check in on him, see everything’s going, and see how the delivery went. Saying hello and actually potentially deepening the relationship enough to when things go back to normal, they could be some form of a percentage point higher than they would not think about going to someone else. Just because you did reach out.

From the insights you could get to deepening the relationship, we’ve all known basically when it comes to business, you’ve got to get new customers. You’ve got to get customers to come back again. And you hope that they buy more products and services from you each time you get the cart value up. That’s pretty much the ways you make money. And so if you can deepen that relationship, you might even get referrals out of that phone call like: “Wow, I can’t — they’re talking to their aunt or uncle — I can’t believe I placed an order and the owner of the company called me up and asked how it went and was just checking in.”

For some people, you’re not going to have the time to do that. But it’s definitely a great time to do that, because although we’re… It’s partially why I don’t even like that phrase social distancing. I can understand physical distancing like I get why they’re saying it, but it’s really time for social tightening. It’s more social connections, but definitely, we are apart. But that doesn’t mean we want to be.

Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. So and again, you probably have the time. And beyond that, too, everybody’s in a weird mental state. I think people are craving a real connection with companies rather than just the random big box stores. They’re buying from small entrepreneurs. They want to hear a story, hear a voice. So be that real person, be that real voice, particularly if you have the time. Now it’s time to take advantage of it.

Also, if you have the time right now, this is the perfect time to really focus in on the big project that you wanted to do. I have a lot of projects in my mind that, man, I really need 40 hours to do this. Well, if you have that 40 hours right now if you were in travel or you worked in hospitality or even in many, many different industries right now, please take advantage of this time to work on a big project.

So if you don’t have that project, now’s the time for training. Already mentioned, we probably have 80 hours of podcast content out there that you could listen to. So the early ones, probably a little rough, give us a pass on those. But there’s some really good content out there. The Ecwid YouTube channel has all sorts of other good content. Some of it’s a little more how-to some of it is funny videos that we’ve made that are hopefully informative as well.

Then beyond that, dive into YouTube and get some marketing training. Even beyond what we are doing at Ecwid. This is a time to educate yourself. Hey, maybe you’ve already seen Tiger King. I know there’s an extra episode. Yes, you can stream all the other content you want, but try to stream educational content that brings your business forward. You have the time. You sit behind a computer, probably a good portion of the day. Take advantage of that.

Richard: Yeah. Your sons are a little younger than my daughter. But I’ve even tried to incorporate her a little bit, which kind of makes me think like you could have family members, you could have your significant other, your wife or husband or whatever, boyfriend, girlfriend, like someone in your home that you’re stuck with. But you know what I mean? I’ll be talking about that. But you’re staying home with them, and they’ve always wanted to learn a little bit more. Now might be the time.

In other cases, now might be the exact opposite time. But it’s worth thinking about if they’ve wanted to learn more. Maybe you can outsource a task to them. Or maybe you have some teenagers that are really good with social media, and you’ve never been good with your Instagram game. Now it’s time to get them involved and help with the family. And they’re only going to be more excited because they’re going to get to play on Instagram or do whatever, but just thinking out of the box.

Again, this has been one of the more unique podcasts because we always want to help, but we don’t know exactly where you’re at at this moment. So we’re trying to cover. You could be doing great. You could be new. But when we’re doing great, we could still be doing better. You can not be doing so well. But no matter what. When you get back to the fundamentals, and you get back to “what are some things I want to get done,” like Jesse alluded to is bigger projects. Why not try to incorporate, if possible, the people in your home that might be able to help you go through those projects a little bit better, possibly get some help?

Jesse: Yes. I’ve seen enough Ryan’s Toy Review that I think I need to put my kids to work like crazy right now. (laughing) We’ve seen enough YouTube videos. Kids, what can you do for our family here? We need to train you into making videos. I don’t know. I’m not going to make good Ecwid world videos. But, yes, I think to your point, Rich, your family’s there, you guys are all together. Is there a way that they can help you out, get people into your family business? So make it a family business. So all good stuff.

I’m going to shift a little bit. This is for people that are actually doing quite well. And there are a lot of people doing very well right now. I know from the stats that we have, there’s 2x, 3x, 10x, like people are going crazy. There’s a lot of reasons for it. I mean, if you sell food, people are buying food right now. Obviously, if you sell hand sanitizer and facemasks, you’re doing great, too. And I hope you’re not taking advantage of people. But like beyond the most super obvious things, there are a lot of areas that are doing well. I have a horrible background over here. People are fixing up their home offices. We bought a couple of desks for my wife’s office because she needed a place to work.

So a ton of different areas are doing really well. And I mean, we won’t go through them all. But, whatever things keep their kids occupied. I mean, lots of people are doing well. There’s also a little bit of a spillover effect from Amazon. So Amazon is doing great. Everybody already had an Amazon prime account. But merchants can’t put their products into Amazon right now. FBA is kind of shut down. You can’t ship nonessential products in. So that’s a bit of an issue. People that already have their products there. If you go look at a lot of products, you can’t get it shipped to you for like 30 days, especially if it’s nonessential.

So there’s a lot of merchants that have done their business on Amazon, and now they’re like: “Hey, I should be doing great. What happened?” Well, look at your product listings. They’re not shipping it for 30 days. So there’s a huge spillover from them onto you. I would say more traditional e-commerce. So there are a lot of people that used to do a lot of business on Amazon, and now they’re doing that business on their own retail store, or they’re setting up retail stores and mainly because they can now ship today, tomorrow, whatever their normal shipping times.

Richard: Yeah, that’s a great point. Yes. I think this is what you’re getting to. But I’ll just add a little to it is people have known and trust with Amazon as far as they know, they’re going to get their product. They know they’re going to get taken care of. But when you look up a product, and it says you’re not going to get it for another month. Unlike in the past, that’s going to lead them to go back to a Google search, to go back to looking for that product somewhere else. And basically, what you’re getting to, it’s going to have some overflow, and your traditional e-commerce store is going to get more business just because they’re going to see if it’s available somewhere else quicker.

Jesse: Absolutely. I see it happening there. By the way, Amazon is doing just great. They’re gonna be fine. They’re gonna figure it out. It’s that spillover effect where maybe it’s a product that is not essential. You don’t really need it tomorrow, but you’ve become accustomed to getting it right away. So you look at that store, and you don’t see it. And by the way, I can see that work anymore because there is a device that keeps; a weak word for a device over there. So you immediately start to google it. You Google it. You see what else is out there, and now you’re buying from other e-commerce stores.
We’re seeing a lot of people have a shift from the percentage of sales from Amazon to the percentage of sales from the traditional retail store. It’s a big shift there. There’s a little bit of a boom time in e-commerce because people are at home. They still need stuff, or they still want stuff. Some of it is just consumption. It’s not all hand sanitizer and facemasks here. A lot of it’s just “I need a basketball hoop for my kids because they’re driving me crazy.” You know what that’s going on. So if you’re already in these businesses, you already know it. Sales are coming in faster. Maybe you’re having trouble stocking your products if you’re not quite there yet. Maybe you just started. So this is particularly for people that have just started or never really haven’t quite made it yet. And I want to give it good pop.

It’s crazy what is going on with the ad networks. I do advertising for Ecwid, so I can see it firsthand. But there’s now an explosion of Internet traffic. So you mentioned YouTube is about double. Facebook is also quite double, but there are way more and way more people online. And that’s specifically Facebook and Google to a point. But just online, that’s where the display ads go. And specifically YouTube. All the networks are up. So they now have double the inventory. All those little ads that pay for these things, there’re more ads available, and there are now fewer advertisers. So all the companies that are shut down, bars, restaurants, hotels, travel, any retail stores, they’re not advertising right now. So now there’s a huge gap, or there is a huge bargain for ad prices. We want to look at it. The supply is way, way up, and the demand is way, way down. So for retailers, for e-commerce, this is a great opportunity because ad prices are so much lower.

Richard: That’s a really good point. I just want to point out a nuance in there, too, that you can place ads that might be a good time to gather awareness or brand awareness. You can do good things and still create an ad about things you’re doing to help the community, or it doesn’t necessarily have to land on a sales page. I’m not telling you to not lend it on a sales page, but you can place ads.

There are different types of ads. So brand awareness, top of the funnel, and the traditional “This is something that you might need.” This very second, you search and land on the sales page. We’re all in business. I’m not telling you to be afraid of sales, but it’s a touchy time, too. I just wanted to throw in that one little nuance that if it’s obvious that it’s just like a product, that someone might need this very second. And no one’s gonna think it’s strange that you land on a sales page, land them on a sales pitch. But if you think this product might take a little bit longer to sell because people do a little research, it might be a good time to just talk about how you’re helping the community. Talk about your brand a little bit more and show something you’re doing to help out. So there are different ways it doesn’t always have to be “I land them on a sales page.”

Jesse: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And for keeping it real there. Yes. There’s a huge opportunity to sell stuff. It doesn’t mean that you need to say: “Buy now.” Right. If it’s YouTube and Facebook specifically, have a quick little video about what you’re doing. About your business, it doesn’t need to be that you’re donating all your profits to charity. It could just be the little steps you have taken in this time. There’s a balance there. But I think people do want to hear how you’re adapting to these times and what, if anything, you can do to help. Those are good messages.

On the opportunity side, the prices to get that message out are extremely cheap right now. I would say for people that are listening, they’re like, yeah, I’ve tried advertising before. I did. This has been 50 bucks on whatever network. Well, first of all, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t try long enough. But now that $50, that five hundred dollars is going to probably go twice as far. And people are going to be more likely to buy when they do see the message. Ads are cheaper, and conversion rates are up across the board. So. If you’re wondering, what should I do? I don’t know. Advertise. Get that message out 100 percent.

If you’re saying, what should I advertise? Well, we talked about it before the video. Yes, you should do that. If you’ve never done that before, that scares you a little bit. Then you should do dynamic product ads. So in the Google world, that’s Google Shopping. It’s now Google Smart Shopping. And actually, Google does the heavy lifting there for you. It takes your product catalog, the prices, and it shows it on the top of Google when people search for it. But now Smart Shopping takes that way beyond that. It shows it in regular display ads, on YouTube, G-mail, kind of across the whole Internet. There’s a whole podcast on Google Smart Shopping. Please go look for it if you care, but that’s working.

On the Facebook side, it’s dynamic product ads, and there’s a way to do it automatically through Ecwid. It just again, the same thing connects your product catalog into Facebook and Instagram. And when I say Facebook, I mean Facebook and Instagram. So when you do get people to your site, it will show those ads to them for the next probably 30 days. So they’re both easy options.

But I just wanted to mention that as I’ve mentioned this before, I don’t want to sound like a broken record here. But more specifically, if you’ve tried certain types of advertising before and they have not worked, now is probably the time, we mentioned the Black Friday, Cyber Monday. It’s kind of a Black Friday, Cyber Monday thing where like now is the time to take risks in selling online because it’s way more likely to pay off right now than it would in an offseason. This is not an offseason.

Richard: Yeah. There’s a lot of time just to double down on what you’re talking about there, Jesse. There’s a lot of time in the history of the world. We’re geeks for this stuff. Do a lot of reading. There have been times in the past. There was a company called Post and a company called Kelloggs and a market downturn. Post, they like the leader in the cereal brand. They decided: “We’re gonna cut back on spending.” Kellogg’s basically triples down on spending. There’d be an older demographic anyway, but no one knows of Post. Kellogg’s is almost every single cereal on the shelf. To Jessie’s point, and literally doubling down on ad spend could actually be something that could take you to the next level too, because it starts with awareness.

Jesse: Yeah, for sure. So definitely getting the word out there. It’s a cheaper time to get that message out there. We mentioned dynamic product ads because they are the ones that work the best, in my opinion, the easiest to set up. But any type of messaging that you can do, a type of video for Facebook. If you’ve tried Google search before and it didn’t work, now it might just work. Take a look at what you’ve done in the past. And if it was borderline like it’s sort of not doing the same thing right now is more likely to work. Or if you’re hedging on whether you should try something. I would just encourage you to try something.

Again, it doesn’t need to be advertising. I mentioned advertising because it’s fastest, and it scales, but it could be an email campaign. It could be paying an influencer. It could be the strategies that we’ve talked about on any podcast right now. Traffic is cheap. Conversion rates are up. Please get out there, get your market, your business. You might need this money; you might need to pay your mortgage. Or you need money for all sorts of things. So it’s not bad to say this. Life will continue, please get out there and get your business done.

Richard: Yeah. One last point. I know we’re starting to wind down here, but this also might be a great time to reach out and do collaborations with other businesses. Your products might be able to co-exist together. They might already have your market. You might already have their market. And there might be you. You can email their list. They can email your list. Now, it’s going to be different with different kinds of products. But the people who reach out and try to connect more than ever are going to have an opportunity, especially if it’s very obvious you’re trying to do good, and you’re not just me, me, me.

I think this is a fantastic time for collaborations with other businesses because, I’m not going to get political, but there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on. So anybody who’s going to try to bring people closer together, whichever side of the fence you’re on, not even going down that road. But if you can bring people together and you can reach out and talk to another business about how you might be able to help them and reciprocate, then that can be a great one to address.

Jesse: Yeah, for sure. It’s a crazy time. The world has changed a little bit. And I think people are going to remember. What did you do during this time? What did your business do during this time? We didn’t mention this, but you probably should have some sort of sale to help people out. Everybody has email, right. You see the emails coming in. There’s a lot of sales going on. So people are forgoing profits. It doesn’t mean you should be losing money, but sales will get attention. And there is a reason to do it. You’re helping people out. People will remember what you did during this time. Don’t go buy the hand sanitizer from Wal-Mart and try to gouge people, right? Do try to do right, and people will remember you down the road.

So on that note, I didn’t mean to do this as a segway, but if you haven’t been to the Ecwid website, go to Ecwid.com. You’re going to see the popup or the slider. It’s going to Ecwid.com/covid-19. You can see what Ecwid is doing for our community. I don’t want to steal Tim’s thunder. He made an awesome YouTube video that talked about it. So please check out our COVID-19 video we have on YouTube.

You can also check out that page. I’ll just go through it really quickly. We realized this is a crazy time. We wanted to make sure that we took some features and included them in our free plan. We went ahead in the past —specifically the curbside pickup. We had a form of curbside pickup. But when this started to hit, we immediately fine-tuned what we were doing. We allowed pickup times, moved that into the free plan so that even people on the free plan could take advantage of this for retail stores that just have to be able to allow curbside pickup, restaurants particularly, that’s available for free.

Gift cards used to be a paid feature. You had to upgrade to a paid plan to offer gift cards and sell gift cards. That’s now on the free plan. So this is also really important for the retail businesses that were online/offline. And you’re seeing probably this in your email as well. A lot of people are selling gift cards. That helps keep some of the small businesses afloat. Maybe they’re this close from paying their rent. Buy gift cards from people locally. Please do that. And then if you have a retail business yourself, that’s a good time to offer this, more coming on that.

The point-of-sale integration, this was actually used to be on a $99 plan. It was only on our Unlimited plan where we had the full synchronization between Square and Clover and Vend and Alice POS and somebody, I’m forgetting. But all the other point-of-sale terminals used to be on the $99 plan. That’s now moved to the free plan. If you’re on one of those terminals that’s now available, you can take your inventory from a point-of-sale and immediately open up an online store, and that’s available on the free plan.

Dropshipping apps. Rich, we’ve had Printful on before. So Printful is where they make print-on-demand T-shirts and hats and all sorts of stuff. We moved that app as available on the free plan as well. You can now open up your t-shirt store for free. Wholesale2b is a more of a general service dropshipper, all available on the free plan. I believe we’re doing that till the end of 2020. It’s not just a 30-day trial; this is all on the free plan to the end or 2020.

We realize people are struggling, and we do this. We’re doing this worldwide. We saw an explosion of interest in Italy and Spain. We want to do our part for our community. Those are also on the paid plans as well. But just to let you know, we’re trying to do our part and help the community through this time. So, Rich, T-shirt’s store, let’s do this, right?

Richard: Yeah, it’s funny, my daughter as you know, she’s a big artist. And I’ll go tell her now. Maybe we’ll get the family back involved by having her little side hustle. Who knows when she’s going back to school? (laughing)

Jesse: It could be a while. Maybe she’s going to. You can retire on her now.

Richard: Could you imagine? Hey, you got three of them. (laughing) Child labor.

Jesse: You know, maybe. Rich, any last questions here? Anything we can leave people with?

Richard: I can’t say enough that we’re here. We really want to help. Hope you hear it. And our voices. We always want to help. It’s the reason we created this show. And we hope your families stay healthy, happy, your businesses stay healthy, strong, and really just enjoy the time with your family, try to compartmentalize as much as possible and try to possibly bring them in as well, whatever the balance in your own family, everyone’s different. But we appreciate you listening. And we look forward to finding more ways to help you guys out. Bless your heart. I hope everything works out great. Get back to work.

Jesse: Well said, Rich, appreciate it. All right, guys, get out there, make it happen.

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