Is Coronavirus Changing eCommerce?

By:

Barrett Shepherd

Coronavirus. COVID-19. No matter what you call it, one thing is clear. Online retailers are worried. China is ground zero for the virus, and it’s also one of the world’s leading drop shippers, exporters and manufacturers. The repercussions could be dismal.


Alarm bells are ringing around the world as governments scramble to contain the virus and even consider border restrictions. Italy has already done so in an unprecedented move.


E-commerce giants like Alibaba and JD.com have responded with worker safety efforts of their own. The Chinese New Year has been extended to help reduce the spread of disease, and some Chinese warehouses are halting altogether. Even Amazon issued a statement allowing warehouse workers to take leave without being docked sick days if they fall ill with the virus.


How will your Chinese supplier get products to the USA with no warehouse staff? Will consumers quit buying their beloved Chinese goods forever? Surely, many e-commerce businesses will shutter.


Not so fast. 


For one thing, coronavirus has been a major boon for e-commerce. Shoppers stuck at home will rely on e-commerce rather than risk going out shopping. Cleaning supplies, health supplements, provisions, safety gear and food companies will be first to see sales spike. Online gaming will also thrive, thanks to the need for in-home entertainment. 


Some e-commerce companies are struggling to keep up with demand. If you find yourself in a similar situation, an e-commerce fulfillment company can help you keep up with picking and packing orders when sales spike.


Secondly, the effects of the virus are likely to be temporary. Respiratory viruses hate warm and humid weather. The number of reported cases will likely peak and wane soon. Spring is upon us, after all. If you can ride the wave until the tide turns (which shouldn’t be long, according to experts) your online business is unlikely to crumble. That is, as long as you are willing to be flexible.


Bracing for change


If your supply chain is based in China, delays are a reality for the time being. You may even consider buying extra additional inventory now, as it’s unclear when the supply chain will be fully restored. Communicating with your Chinese suppliers is vital to avoid any surprises.


Drop shipping from China has also been problematic due to the coronavirus outbreak. Chinese officials are imposing coronavirus restrictions on movements. Some workers may not be able to return to work, limiting factory output. 


In the event your Chinese supplier closes operations permanently, you’ll need to find a new supplier. Change is scary. But change can also be a good thing. Perhaps it’s time to revamp your inventory anyway. And who knows, you may get a better deal with another supplier.


Customer demand for Chinese goods may wane temporarily. If you need to recoup losses urgently, a fire sale can save the day. Everyone loves a deal, and there are plenty of forward-thinkers out there who are willing to buy up Chinese inventory at today’s low, low prices, sit on it until the news changes, then sell at regular prices tomorrow for a hefty profit. 


Level heads prevail in times of chaos. You’d be better off taking a cue from the forward-thinkers who realize that while everyone else is panicking, this is a good time to think ahead to the future. If you can stay afloat now, then do so.


This too, shall pass


The virus is making headlines because it is new and noteworthy. As the number of coronavirus peaks and declines, the media will move on to something else. Then it will mostly likely be ‘business as usual’ for online retailers with Chinese suppliers. For established online sellers, this is a mere hiccup.


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