These are challenging times for e-commerce, to say the least. It can be a struggle to maintain sales, to source inventory, and then to ship it.

The good news? People are still shopping online. And there are ways to keep your business afloat while being respectful of the new challenges your customers face in their daily lives.

1. Communicate with Your Customers

It can be tempting to power down and lie low until life returns to normal, but, in fact, now is the ideal time to be in close touch with your customers. Crank up the email, social media, and content marketing. Be a source of information and inspiration to people who need a lot of both right now, and keep your brand relevant in the process.

Also, consider branching out into more personal communication platforms such as live chat. Customers who get to chat with a real person online are 2.8x more likely to then make a purchase than those who don’t. Even a few hours a week can make a big difference.

2. Establish Trust

At the heart of every sale is a very simple idea: The customer trusts you, above all others, to provide them with a top-quality product or service. With dozens (if not hundreds) of options available to your average shopper, gaining this trust is more important than ever.

Obviously, the first impression is key, but it doesn’t stop there. Your company then builds on that with transparent customer service, user testimonials, and useful, authentic content. Here’s how to implement these principles on your site.

  • Homepage: Make it welcoming and authentic to your brand, like the folks at Hat Club.
  • Company story: This puts a human face on your business, like the story behind Tease Tea.
  • Product pages: These should be detailed but easy to navigate, like those at EM Cosmetics.
  • Checkout: Be up-front about fees and shipping costs like they are at L.L.Bean.
  • Social proof: Make it easy for shoppers to see what others are saying about you like they do at Madewell.

3. Make the Shopping Easy

Your customers have enough worries right now. Shopping at your online store shouldn’t be one of them. Here are a few things to keep in mind to keep your site as user-friendly as possible:

  • Keep fonts at 12 pixels or bigger, and avoid narrow fonts. This also helps keep text friendly to search engines.
  • Make sure the navigation is simple for both desktop and mobile users.
  • Let customers and team members take the site out for a spin before you launch, and test regularly afterward.

Your POS experience is an essential part of a site’s usability. Poynt’s connected payment ecosystem allows the final step of the shopping experience to be as smooth as possible.

4. Get to Know Your Customers

Customers already expect emails or texts from your company to be tailored to them because it shows that you care enough to send recommendations that are actually meaningful. This reassurance saves time and mental energy, and they may not have a lot of either right now.

And considering that only 15 percent of businesses do this well, you are in a position to jump out in front.

5. Reward Loyalty

Repeat customers are your most valuable asset in the best of times, and now they become even more important. Even though they are only 11 percent of your customer base, they spend 15 percent more than new customers and account for 22 percent of your total revenue.

6. Enable Curbside Pickup

It seems that every business now offers curbside pickup, and for good reason. It lets customers patronize your business safely. It is also typically faster than traditional in-person transactions and cuts down on your shipping costs. Best Buy, DICK’s Sporting Goods, and Kohl’s are among the many retailers that have adopted the practice.

7. Embrace Gift Cards

One way to increase your immediate cash flow is to promote your gift card program. It also encourages the customer to think positively about spending it in the future. Gift cards brought approximately $160 billion to businesses in 2018. This may go without saying, but be sure to integrate them into your POS platform.

8. Tell the World About the Good Work You Do

One of the bright spots in this global pandemic is that it seems to have brought out our generosity. Do whatever you can to help, and then let your audience know about it.

Whether it’s a press release, social media post, or email newsletter, show your customers how you’re making a difference and why they should continue to support you. Lay off the sales pitch—let your story do the talking. If you’re genuine and transparent, people will click.

Keep Doing Good Work

Your customers are probably feeling just as uneasy and isolated as you and your team. Let them know that you care and that you're here for whatever they need.