Coronavirus, Ecommerce, And Facing Uncertainty In Business

Rick Wilson is the Chief Executive Officer of Miva, Inc. and the author of Dragonproof Ecommerce.

Weathering the unknown and meeting unpredictable challenges is the story of every business. Through good times and hard times, finding solutions to the unforeseen is a daily climb.

Now, with a possible pandemic looming overhead, retailers are trying to balance surges in demand vs broken supply chains, while companies around the world are cancelling events and trying to institute proactive protections for their workers.

The whole idea behind “Dragonproof” is to help ecommerce professionals weather the unpredictable storms of business and life—and today we find ourselves in just such a storm.

LISTEN NOW: Rick Wilson discusses coronavirus and ecommerce in Episode 4 of the Dragonproof Ecommerce Podcast.

COVID-19 coronavirus: What we know

As of the time of this post, there are 113,000 cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, with more than 600 in the U.S. The global economy—and our global psyche—have reacted accordingly.

– Global stock market loses 6 trillion dollars in 6 days. (New York Times)

– 1/4 of containers not arriving at Port of L.A. (Wall Street Journal)

– Facebook cancels F8 and restricts all non-essential employees from offices

The headlines are omnipresent and they are not slowing down.

It is now a time for prudent, bold choices in the face of uncertainty.

It is too early to predict the full impact of this crisis upon our daily lives and the operations of our businesses. While pundits battle over preparation vs paranoia, the glut of conflicting signals set the stage for a catch-22:

You have to make impactful decisions with virtually no information.

We’ve watched China essentially shut down a country of 1.4 billion people. Now we are seeing the same thing happen in Italy. At the local level of your own business, the prudent move is to enact bold protections now, ahead of the crisis.

Common sense planning adds calm, safety, and efficiency.

Of course, the nature of your particular business will dictate your strategy. For example, running a hotel or an airline, you’d have different decision matrixes than ecommerce professionals and businesses.

This is the whole reason that companies like ours practice “disaster planning”—though we may not know the nature of any threat in advance, the exercise itself makes a business more resilient, and more able to help and protect the people it works with and serves.

For workers: The physical/emotional health of your team is priority one. Use tech, tools, and common sense to minimize physical contact, while being communicative and available to address any concerns. Enable as many workers as possible to participate remotely, with Slack/Zoom etc. for meetings.

Luckily in our community, many people can work remotely. Department by department, you have to adjust goals flexibly. Hopefully, your company will become more flexible in the wake of this crisis, as a result of working towards new solutions from where we are now.

For your products: Knowledge is power. Make sure you understand your supply chain. Know where your product is coming from. Don’t just expect it to “show up.”

Expect that your manufacturing partners, warehouses, outsourced staff, external service providers, and everyone who interacts with your products along the way will all be experiencing cascading delays and setbacks.

For your customers: Being honest and clear about why you may be experiencing an inventory shortfall, for example, will establish trust at a time when we all need it the most.

Trim the sail to the winds you have.

I firmly believe that our world will be back to normal in the long term. Short term, you need to be cautious, and may have to adapt your processes.

Let’s collectively take this as an opportunity to become more. To become better. Kinder to one another and ourselves.

Care about your co-workers. Help your customers find calm and confidence.  Be a lighthouse of positivity and hope when others cannot.

This is the real work of the moment we find ourselves in: to meet the unknown with courage.

Coronavirus & Ecommerce: Listen to Episode 4 of the Dragonproof Ecommerce Podcast on your favorite podcast app:

About the Author: Rick Wilson

With over 20 years of executive-level experience, Rick Wilson has a unique vantage point on the global economic shift to ecommerce, and the digitization of American businesses. Rick is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Miva, Inc., creator of the Miva Merchant ecommerce platform. Rick’s broad grasp of the complex inner workings of ecommerce, and his keen analysis of the interplay of online marketing, emerging web based technology platforms, and high-level back-end business operations, have qualified him as one of only a handful of such ecommerce experts worldwide. 

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