E-commerce: What to do when you can’t make deliveries


Covid-19 is impacting businesses across the world and a lot of industries are taking a hit. E-commerce sites are seeing a particular problem where warehouses and delivery centres are closing and deliveries can no longer be made. 

If that’s a problem facing you and your business at the moment, read on for guidance on how to handle your e-commerce site when you can no longer make deliveries. 

How to communicate Covid-19 updates

Clear communication with customers is always essential. Customers will now be expecting to find Covid-19 announcements or words of reassurance on e-commerce sites. We recommend that communication is specific, in this case, to Covid-19. Here are some options:

Top of page banners 

This banner should provide clear details about any delivery delays or cancellations. We recommend having this banner on every page. If that’s not possible, include it on the homepage and the basket/checkout pages. Link out to the relevant policy or FAQ page.

Here’s an example from Target:

Pop ups

Similar to banners, pop ups should have clear information detailing the change in deliveries. Pop ups can be more intrusive than a top of page banner, so we’d recommend including one on the homepage and the basket/checkout pages. Keep messaging detailed and optimistic.

Here’s an example from M&S:

Update meta descriptions

Use your site’s meta description to let existing and potential customers know how Covid-19 is impacting deliveries. This will appear within the SERP, so include information on free deliveries, delivery cancellations or if it’s “business as usual”.

See this example from ASOS:

Implement Covid-19 specific structured data

Google is now supporting Covid-19 specific structured data, which displays clear updates within the SERP.  Some examples include:

  • Quarantine guidelines
  • Travel restrictions
  • Announcement of an event transitioning from offline to online, or cancellation
  • Announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions

See Google’s guide on Covid-19 special announcement structured data.

Update your FAQ page

Your FAQ page should be updated to reflect any changes to your service. To get an idea of the kind of Covid-19 specific questions people are asking, look at:

  • Ahrefs for keyword research

    • Search for Covid-19 related queries (e.g. “covid and international deliveries” or “is coronavirus impacting delivery times”)
    • Use Ahref’s site search functionality to research competitors and identify if they rank for questions you don’t rank for
  • Site search data (Google Analytics)

    • If you have site search tracking enabled, look at the queries being typed into your internal search functionality.
  • Competitors

    • Are your competitors including Covid-19 specific FAQs? If so, is this something you can also use?
  • Industry knowledge

    • You’re an expert in your industry. What questions would you expect customers to be asking?

How to keep your site functionable 

A website helps users fulfil their needs. Although you may be facing delivery difficulties, you can support your customers in other ways – e.g. allowing them to browse, creating shopping baskets or wishlists.  Keeping your site live is essential and now is the opportunity to prepare for a post Covid-19 recovery. Here is what to focus:

Ensure search engines know that your site is still live and deserves to rank

 Maintaining rankings will be crucial in weathering this storm. Health checks you can make include:

  • Are there lots of redirects or 404 pages?
  • Are rank worthy pages (e.g. homepage, category pages) being indexed? 
  • Are non rank worthy pages (e.g. privacy policy page, duplicate pages) being indexed?
  • Is the XML sitemap up-to-date?

Find an extensive guide to tech audits here and information on common tech issues of e-commerce sites here.

Keep category and product pages live and updated

Category pages are often essential to rankability, people are often looking for a category rather than a specific product. 

  • Ensure category and product pages are optimised and include relevant keywords in the meta title and H1

    • Titles should be no longer than 60 characters 
    • Ensure there is only one H1 on a page
  • Ensure categories pages are well linked to from the homepage

Here’s a guide on creating and optimising new category pages and how to write an incredible title tag.

Introduce shopping baskets and wish lists

Allow customers to create wish lists or build up their shopping basket without expiry. Remember, we’re thinking about how to make future sales easy for customers that may be browsing now. 

Example from ASOS:

How to collect and use customer data

Now is a great time to understand your customers and the journey they take across your site. As mentioned earlier, customers will still be looking for products. Here are some ways to gather and optimise that data:

Ensure your analytics tracking is correctly set up and accurate

If sales are down, this is also a good time to explore the customer journey and map out any areas where the journey can be optimised. For example, are you finding customers are landing on product pages instead of category pages and fail to make a purchase?

Read more on how to conduct a Google Analytics audit.

Encourage customers to subscribe to be notified when delivery is available

As well as data collection, this offers the customer an extra service which they might not have previously had, helping customer relationships and therefore, retention. Any data collected through subscription can be used for retargeting during this period and post Covid-19.

How to write engaging content

So your sales have dropped and you can no longer make deliveries, how else can you engage the customer?  Write some great content! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Write top of funnel content 

Top of funnel content can capture potential customers and lead them down the path to purchasing. This type of content is worth investing in now, as it’ll pay off in the future. Some examples include:

  • Evergreen seasonal content – this content will be relevant every year and can be easily recycled in the future.
  • Timely content around Covid-19. We are seeing sites writing content around working from home, wellbeing and things to do whilst isolating. This content is highly relevant and relatable during this period.
  • What are your competitors writing about? Use Ahrefs to discover related queries and content ideas to your industry. Protip: find which keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t using Ahref’s Content GAP functionality.

Check out this guide to writing content for organic traffic.

Example: Lush.com (UK)

Lush can no longer make deliveries. They have communicated clearly to customers that deliveries can’t be made, kept category and product pages live and are instead showcasing related content. The screenshots below are taken from their homepage. 

To communicate the lack of deliveries to customers, Lush have provided a banner and large announcement above the fold on the homepage. This communication is clear and links out to a more detailed article.

Instead of displaying products on the homepage, Lush are now showcasing relevant content such as, a guide to looking after your hands and recommendations on “ways to cope” during Covid-19.

The top nav allows customers to easily contact Lush, browse for products and access their basket. Although orders can’t be made, Lush does encourage customers to signup to create wishlists instead.

Final thoughts

Although the world is experiencing a period of uncertainty and disruption, take the time now to prepare your site and business for a post-Covid world. Investing time into ensuring your site is healthy, that  content is being written and that customers feel supported will pay off. Now is the time to pay more attention to customer support, retention and brand reputation in preparation for the future.

Share any of your e-commerce tips and tricks with us!





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