COVID-19: Will Social Distancing Boost Digital Commerce?

By Kerry Young on Mar 27, 2020

With the outbreak of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, spreading rapidly, the world faces uncertain times. In response, countries around the globe have put social distancing guidelines in place to stem the spread of the virus.

Businesses are understandably concerned about how they’re going to maintain revenue and operations in this type of environment. From diminished in-store sales to supply chain disruptions, COVID-19 has the potential to hugely impact businesses in all industries. The answer, in many cases, is an increased reliance on digital commerce.

How do organizations boost the effectiveness of digital commerce?

Social distancing is a means to stop the spread of infectious diseases by limiting the contact people have with each other. Essentially, the guideline is to stay at least six feet away from the nearest person. This is a monumental change in our society and how long this social distancing will last remains unclear. It could be anywhere from a few weeks to over a year or more.

With consumers encouraged to stay home, the digital realm has become even more critical for ordering and receiving products, scheduling services, obtaining customer support, sharing social experiences, and more.

Multi-Domain Experience Management (MxM) – spanning Product, Customer, Location, Supplier, and other data domains – is helping companies navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by an increased reliance on digital commerce.

Digital Commerce Requires Product Content

MxM and Product Information Management (PIM) help enterprises leverage online product content and cross-domain data in times of peak activity, like the holiday season. Now, we are facing the strange reality that the coronavirus is pushing historical reliance on online sales and support.

Here are a few ways companies can use effective product content to support online shoppers in a time of social distancing.

  • Optimize for SEO: Search engines will crawl your product content, so you want to have a number of relevant search terms listed. PIM is crucial here because it adds more granularity to product details to help shoppers find the items that meet their needs.
  • Aid in product exploration: With consumers’ ability to try products in stores diminished due to social distancing, the accuracy and thoroughness of online product information are even more crucial than ever. Offering high-quality images, videos, and demonstrations helps buyers feel better about purchasing products they can’t hold in person.
  • Impact on reviews and returns: Utilizing content like fit predictors, along with videos and images, helps shoppers make confident selections, lowering return rates. With the current strain on delivery cycles and fulfillment resources, this will become even more crucial to managing operations and overall customer satisfaction.
  • Recommend Relevant Products: A PIM solution enables greater product associations and bundling. That means merchants can provide recommendations, upsell, and cross-sell. During the pandemic crisis, this becomes especially helpful when faced with out-of-stocks.

It’s More Important Than Ever to Know Your Customer

In the midst of adversity, there’s also an opportunity for merchants and brands to be there for their customers in new ways. Shoppers are looking at your ability to communicate and satisfy service, fulfillment, and experience expectations.

Leveraging MXM and Master Data Management (MDM) for Customer Data, businesses can use a consolidated view of the customer to generate a more thorough understanding of their preferences and the impact of each interaction. This helps companies tailor appropriate messaging and product offers. Creating consistent and compelling experiences can help generate loyal customers – both during this crisis and long after it passes.

Supporting a Supply Chain Under Stress

With Amazon temporarily prioritizing “essential” product shipments to its warehouses, we’re already seeing the ripples of supply chain disruptions.

MDM for Supplier Data offers the ability to provide accurate data on inventory levels per supplier. Knowing supplier inventory helps determine when to place orders to keep shelves stocked – which is crucial to meeting expectations when customers order online for delivery or in-store pickup.

Track by Location

Keeping track of inventory levels by location will be crucial for retailers, manufacturers, and distributors in order to continue meeting the demand of consumers, healthcare providers, and other B2B organizations.

Businesses can leverage MDM for Location Data to add the context of “Where” to other data domains – including Customer, Product, Supplier, etc. – to improve business intelligence and analytics. This can help your business improve forecasting and keep shelves (digital or otherwise) stocked. It can also help enterprises inform customers – whether B2B or B2C – when to expect products to arrive and how to plan accordingly if items are delayed in times of crisis.

Social distancing requires preparing for the long-haul

Because the coronavirus is new, not much is known about its long-term effects on our health and economy. What is certain, however, is that the virus will have an unprecedented impact on our everyday lives – from the way we socialize to the way we shop.

With Multi-Domain MDM, companies can connect the dots and gain better control over their products, supply chain, and forecasting. Knowing your customer, keeping track of inventory levels by location, and understanding supplier inventory will help:

  • tailor appropriate messaging and product offers to customers,
  • provide access to inventory levels per location, and
  • gain visibility to supplier inventory to help determine when to place orders to keep shelves stocked.

The pandemic also shows how important it is to be future-proofed and agile when it comes to your data infrastructure and digital commerce capabilities. The enterprises that already have the necessary technology and processes in place are ahead of the game, with the ability to quickly implement changes to support how COVID-19 is affecting social and business norms.

Finally, if you need help establishing reliable data and compelling product content, we are here. We know times of global uncertainty can be challenging, but you can continue to count on EnterWorks and Winshuttle to work in close collaboration to meet your needs.

Download this e-book to learn about the economic catalyst for the evolution of MDM to MxM and how companies can put MxM into action.

About the author

Kerry Young

Kerry Young joined EnterWorks in 2006 when Ennovative, Inc., the multi-channel publishing software company he co-founded, was acquired by EnterWorks. He directs EnterWorks’ operations and leads EnterWorks’ professional services and consulting organization, ensuring effective customer implementations and ongoing success. Mr. Young brings more than 25 years of technology and business management experience to EnterWorks, having served as CTO for a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, and earlier as VP, Information Technology for Marshall Industries, a $1.7 billion industrial electronics distributor. He previously managed information systems for a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Mr. Young holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from California State University Fullerton.

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