Ecommerce COVID-19 Advice: How to Manage Online Sales During COVID-19 [New Tips Updated Weekly]

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Table of Contents

** Minutes

What COVID-19 ecommerce info is crucial for brands to add to their website?

What should you tell your ecommerce customers about COVID-19?

Should you offer COVID-19 ecommerce discounts?

COVID-19 & ecommerce: where to go from here?

Has COVID-19 changed your ecommerce customer base?

What’s resonating with ecommerce customers during COVID-19?

What do production cycles look like for ecommerce brands affected by COVID-19?

How should ecommerce brands approach financial planning during COVID-19?

How are you approaching Amazon as an ecommerce channel during COVID-19?

What does your COVID-19 ecommerce shipping process look like?

What are some creative ecommerce COVID-19 offers?

Should my long-term ecommerce plan change with COVID-19 going on?

How to be profitable on Amazon for COVID-19 ecommerce success

Any advice for a brand starting out in ecommerce during COVID-19?

How do I find a manufacturer in a COVID-19 ecommerce world?

How do you market products during this COVID-19 ecommerce pandemic without being too pushy?

Are ecommerce hand sanitiser sales here to stay, even after COVID-19?

How long is it taking for inventory produced overseas to get here during COVID-19?

Have you abandoned any sales channels during COVID-19?

Have you moved from FBA to FBM to continue ecommerce sales during COVID-19?

How are you approaching ecommerce customer service during COVID-19?

How do you save on ecommerce COVID-19 shipping costs?

How has the role of the supply chain in ecommerce evolved during the coronavirus?

How to leverage DTC Twitter to get COVID-19 ecommerce advice

How to pivot your ecommerce products during the coronavirus

Which ecommerce products will sell during the coronavirus?

How to avoid being tone deaf during the coronavirus

How to approach Facebook ads for your ecommerce store during the coronavirus

What to do if your ecommerce launch is stalled due to the coronavirus

Where to advertise your ecommerce store during the coronavirus

What will the future of ecommerce look like after COVID-19?

Which ecommerce products are hot-sellers during the coronavirus pandemic?

What content should ecommerce brands create during the coronavirus?

How should ecommerce brands work with manufacturers during COVID-19?

How do you handle coronavirus delays in ecommerce shipping with customers?

How to reduce cart abandonment on your ecommerce store during COVID-19

How to use current events in your ecommerce marketing during COVID-19

What are examples of brands that repositioned the use cases of their products during COVID-19?

What’s helped ecommerce brands get to BFCM levels during COVID-19?

What are the main aspects to consider when choosing a fulfilment partner during COVID-19?

What’s most important when thinking about launching an ecommerce brand during COVID-19?

How do you offer free shipping on your ecommerce site during COVID-19?

Is it worth doing a charitable donation from your ecommerce sales to support COVID-19 relief efforts?

What is an ideal SKU count for your ecommerce store during COVID-19?

Should you offer bundles to encourage COVID-19 ecommerce sales?

Is self-fulfilment a smart option to save money during COVID-19?

Should you switch fulfilment partners during COVID-19?

What are customer expectations around shipping for ecommerce COVID-19 orders?

What percentage of the total order value should be put towards an ecommerce COVID-19 advertising budget?

Should I break into B2B or wholesale orders during COVID-19?

How to develop an ecommerce COVID-19 network

Should you outsource digital marketing and advertising to agencies during COVID-19?

How has distribution matched ecommerce COVID-19 demand?

Is influencer marketing a good ecommerce COVID-19 strategy?

Is it safe to order online during COVID-19?

What have been average COVID-19 ecommerce shipping delays?

Can ShipBob help with ecommerce COVID-19 fulfilment?

The fastest-growing and declining COVID-19 ecommerce categories

The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining moment of this decade.

Business models are being flipped upside down. Demand for different products and services has transformed over night.

We’re seeing large brick-and-mortar retailers frantically trying to figure out how to stay alive. And the bigger they are, the more costs they have and employees to lay off.

Some have described the COVID-19 pandemic as “the great equalizer” for ecommerce brands across every industry. This ecommerce COVID-19 moment is really the first time DTC brands have had a reset button. Even during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, ecommerce wasn’t what it is today.

Today, consumers don’t want to wait over a month to get orders on Amazon, nor do they want to go to a brick-and-mortar store, especially with lines out the door.

We are tracking COVID-19 ecommerce growth carefully and working to provide actionable solutions for brands. Some trends ShipBob is seeing are:

  • Toys and games shipments are up 66.51% month over month.
  • After being relatively stable in early 2020, beauty products have seen a big spike since mid-March, noting 64.57% month over month.
  • Unsurprisingly, fitness product sales benefited from the stay-at-home orders and orders are up 112.23% month over month.

Overall, there was an uptick that corresponded with stay-at-home orders becoming more broadly enforced in the US. Will this ecommerce growth last throughout the coronavirus pandemic?

At a time when everyone is to “expect the unexpected,” ecommerce brands that can navigate COVID-19 — through implementing the right messaging, adding value to customers, having a more intimate understanding of their economics, and analising what’s working and what’s not — have the greatest opportunity to come out of this stronger.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, ShipBob started a hosting a weekly “Moving Your Business Forward” webinar series. It’s an opportunity for brands to get COVID-19 ecommerce advice from one another on how to run a long-term business at a time filled with uncertainty.

Each week we featured different leading bands across verticals to hear how they are adjusting to the novel coronavirus and answer COVID-19 ecommerce questions from the audience.

If you missed any past COVID-19 ecommerce-themed episodes, we have the full recaps here.

Episode 1. Aired on March 25, 2020. Featuring:Episode 1 of ShipBob's COVID-19 webinar series

While our first COVID-19 ecommerce episode featured very successful brands, both speakers acknowledged we’re all human living in unprecedented times, and we’re all making it up as we go.

The keys are that these brands are moving fast, pivoting, and understanding that people are seeking transparency in these times.

“All the rules are out the window and you need to react. Quit thinking the way you were thinking 3 weeks ago.”

Patrick Coddou, Founder of Supply

What COVID-19 ecommerce info is crucial for brands to add to their website?

Both speakers agreed adding a banner on the top of your ecommerce website with your response to COVID-19 is paramount. At the bare minimum, this includes acknowledging COVID-19 and your shipping status.

You may also choose to add a promotional offer, or go above and beyond by writing a blog post that talks through your COVID-19 ecommerce response — a letter to customers on how you’re impacted and what you’re doing.

If you had copy on your ecommerce site about shipping info, both warm and cold prospects won’t know if that’s up-to-date. You need to go out of your way to message about COVID-19 — people are looking for that right now.

What should you tell your ecommerce customers about COVID-19?

In addition to a banner on your website you may wish to send messages via email, social, and more.

Dana pointed out, “Customers want to feel safe and in control. Being able to connect with them has helped keep our customers purchasing.” Their founder, Olivia, is very open and honest, connecting with her followers about her parents who have COVID-19 right now. This authenticity is appreciated.

Dana knows that over-communicating is important at this time if you have true updates. They share updates from their fulfilment partner, ShipBob, with customers to provide the precautions they’re taking in the fulfilment centres to ensure safety.

Similarly, Patrick wrote an email and blog post. His message was very non-salesy. At the very end he mentioned they’re still shipping but the core of the message was about how to help.

Should you offer COVID-19 ecommerce discounts?

Offering ecommerce COVID-19 discounts is a strategy many brands have turned to. To find what’s right for your brand, you need to look at your margins to see where you can add more of a discount for people. You can be lean, but you need to know your economics.

As we know from Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, everyone likes to save money. Dana mentioned, “If your audience has purchased from you before and likes you, they will buy from you now to get you cash — especially if they get a discount.”

Things have changed over night. People are stockpiling essentials. Provide “hoarding” opportunities (e.g., subscription discounts, bundles, or large supplies at a discount) for people who are engaging in ecommerce COVID-19 shopping to purchase.

Patrick mentioned Supply has rarely discounted products in the past, as they sell more of a luxury product. But two weeks ago sales went off a cliff. They spent 5 days scratching their heads. Then they recognised the world has changed. “I knew the day would come when our price point would be a hard sell in this environment,” Patrick said. So they tested promotions.

The first ecommerce COVID-19 promo was clever but didn’t work well. They tried offering a percentage off of an order that was equal to how much the stock market tanked that day.

The second one was speaking into the moment and ecommerce COVID-19 sales trends that could be seen — namely, hoarding or wanting to stock up.

So they implemented a deal where you could buy the razor and get an entire year worth of blades for free.

They launched it last Friday, and had their best weekend of sales since Black Friday.

“We went from a year low to a week high in a matter of 10 days. Instead of retreating and throwing the towel in, we kept trying until we found what worked.”

Patrick Coddou, Founder of Supply

Patrick recommends trying different marketing initiatives, hitting pause on what doesn’t work, and catering your COVID-19 ecommerce strategy to what people want in the moment.

COVID-19 & ecommerce: where to go from here?

Everyone on the call agreed now is the time to gather the troops around your cause and business, and use this as a motivational opportunity internally.

“Control what you can in your own ecosystem. You can’t control what’s going on in the world. Think outside the box. Reach out to people who are doing something well. People want to help now, and we’re all in the same boat.”

Dana Varrone, Director of Operations at Organic Olivia

Patrick concluded with the advice, “Don’t give up. If we gave up when sales went off a cliff, our COVID-19 ecommerce sales would be really hurting right now. There are a lot of businesses that are going to hurt. If you’ve got juice, now is the time to put it in overdrive.”

Other questions brought up during the webinar include:

  • If you’re currently manufacturing overseas, are there ways to source manufacturers in the US quickly?
  • If you’re typically a wholesale business selling to brick-and-mortar stores, and you’ve stopped receiving POs from these retailers because they had to shut down stores, should you take a DTC approach? If so, how do you do this?
  • Should you create different ecommerce COVID-19 products that are deemed “essential” so your entire business isn’t shut down?

Watch the entire recording below to get answers to these COVID-19 ecommerce questions and more.

We’ll continue to host these free weekly ecommerce COVID-19 webinars featuring different speakers. These virtual open forums allow you to ask questions and connect with brands that are experiencing the same issues as you. To participate in the live calls, register at the link below.

Episode 2. Aired on April 1, 2020. Featuring: 

  • Fernanda Gomez Ocejo: Director of Supply Chain at Open Water
  • Connor Young: Founder & CEO of Ample Foods

Episode 2 of COVID-19 ecommerce webinar

Our second COVID-19 ecommerce episode featured two ShipBob customers that sell essential products. Both brands saw a large spike in demand in mid-March, but had ecommerce COVID-19 sales drop this week to levels even lower than normal. 

We learned what has changed for their businesses since the crisis started and answered COVID-19 ecommerce questions from the audience.

Has COVID-19 changed your ecommerce customer base?

Open Water is mostly B2B ecommerce, and they’ve started getting more inquiries from hospitals and other companies that normally wouldn’t reach out.

Ample Foods is solely DTC. They sell on Amazon but most sales come from their website. Connor mentioned they know which channels are driving customers, but it can be difficult to understand who exactly their customers are and why they’re purchasing. For example, was their sales doubling due to people stocking up, being unsure if grocery stores are open and stocked?

They know most of their market is healthy business professionals on the run. And while Ample is a healthy, convenient option for people on the go, now a lot of these people are stuck at home inside.

“We’re quickly shifting our messaging. Now we’re not focusing on how it’s a TSA-compliant, travel-friendly, quick and easy powder-in-a-bottle/just add water meal — but from purely a health standpoint, it’s a high quality meal.”

Connor Young, Founder & CEO of Ample Foods

There is however a subset of Ample’s customers who are busier than ever before and have a greater use case for Ample. An ER physician in Chicago explained how it’s become the perfect option: a sealed, shelf-stored, fast, healthy meal that you know isn’t compromised or infected.

At this time, Ample is trying to educate people about holistic health. Rather than looking for quick fixes for nutrition that will improve immunity and flocking to supplements or fad products, Ample wants customers to understand the foundational aspects of nutrition and how eating a healthy diet itself will help.

What’s resonating with ecommerce customers during COVID-19?

Connor said Ample doesn’t want to run campaigns based on fearmongering, but instead they strive to tell the value through the voice of the customer for greater authenticity (e.g., the father with diabetes who drinks the ketogenic formula).

Ample customers used in marketing for authentic storytelling

Now is the time to build customer relationships — you should be doing it anyways, but now is the time to 10x your efforts in understanding your customer and how your ecommerce COVID-19 strategy can help and support them.

Open Water has been reaching out to distributors for B2B orders. Fernanda knows there’s a shortage of water in grocery stores, so she’s been communicating that they have stock available, because not every store has been able to get water.

“Consumers stockpiling bottled water isn’t good for the environment, and we’re a greener option for people who want to have water available, using sustainable packaging for cleaner, plastic-free oceans.”

Fernanda Gomez Ocejo, Director of Supply Chain at Open Water

What do production cycles look like for ecommerce brands affected by COVID-19?

Both brands agreed it’s really tough to plan these days. Open Water is in constant talks with their supplier. They are currently running weekly production cycles. They have seven warehouses across the country, and their goal is to make sure they are all stocked and have enough product.

Fernanda said their safety stock is for 30 days of inventory to manage any large fluctuations in demand. They are also reviewing sales forecasts weekly, if not daily, to adjust production quantities.

Open Water has also had challenges in finding drivers and trucks to move inventory around the country, as they try to get into more grocery stores.

How should ecommerce brands approach financial planning during COVID-19?

Open Water is focusing on three key areas when it comes to financial planning during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Improve cash flow where you can

Open Water is focused on making sure they have enough liquidity to keep operations going. They’ve explored how they can be more efficient from an accounts receivable standpoint. This is more important for their B2B orders to receive payments quicker by offering discounts.

“Make sure you don’t have a lot of cash tied to inventory that’s not moving. If you do, run a promotion to get things moving.”

Fernanda Gomez Ocejo, Director of Supply Chain at Open Water

2. Understand where you have access to capital

Small businesses don’t always have access to lending facilities. Even if you don’t need it now, know how to apply for a loan, research paycheck protection programs, and have everything ready and be prepared in case you need it someday.

3. Project out different scenarios

Fernanda also advised brands to do financial projections, which has been key in decision making for Open Water. It allows you to change assumptions made in the business. In the worst case scenario, how much can you produce? How much can you spend on marketing? Understand how much cash you can burn in different outcomes.

How are you approaching Amazon as an ecommerce channel during COVID-19?

Connor explained Ample’s approach to balancing Amazon in the mix, though they aim to drive most business to their website. He acknowledged you can’t stop people from going to Amazon, but they’ve done a couple things to improve the economics of Amazon, which is critical for a successful COVID-19 ecommerce plan.

Cash flow and profitability are top priorities for Ample, so their Amazon margins are similar or slightly lower than their ecommerce store. That way, they don’t have to worry if people buy products on Amazon.

“We are 4x more profitable on Amazon than we used to be. We changed how we spend our ad dollars, repackaged our items, increased the price of our products, and stopped selling single units.”

Connor Young, Founder & CEO of Ample Foods

Ample pivoted to get more people on their Google and Facebook channels, improve conversions on their website, and improve the overall flow. That way, it’s not a big deal if some people go to Amazon.

What does your COVID-19 ecommerce shipping process look like?

Open Water made their COVID-19 ecommerce shipping times more clear on their Shopify site, so customers will know how fast they can get water. And they’re also promoting their bulk discounts:

Open Water's banner during COVID-19

ShipBob is fulfiling all of Open Water’s COVID-19 ecommerce orders, including Amazon orders. They tried it through FBA, but ShipBob did a better job of packing it correctly (their water comes in aluminum cans, which dent easily), had better rates, and Amazon was putting too much plastic in their orders, which doesn’t align well with their sustainable brand.

Most of all, Open Water likes having direct contacts on the ShipBob team. Of course, the Prime badge is beneficial so they lost some sales moving to Amazon FBM (Fulfiled by Merchant), but now they have better service and reduced lead times.

If your business can, put your inventory in multiple fulfilment centres to mitigate risk. That way, if one goes down even temporarily, you can still fulfil orders from another.

Read more: How EnduroSport Started Shipping With ShipBob in Just 9 Days During COVID-19

What are some creative ecommerce COVID-19 offers?

An audience member suggested looking for complementary brands and partnering with them for a COVID-19 ecommerce campaign. Connor mentioned that giveaways on social media have been big and effective for them. With 3-4 other brands, you can come up with a package of product samples and have people tag and like the brands on Instagram so they are automatically entered into a contest. This is an example of social commerce at its finest.

Ample's giveaway on Instagram

While it might not contribute to actual ecommerce COVID-19 sales right away, you now have 1,000 more followers from a single Instagram giveaway. It’s especially effective if a social media presence and connectedness is important to your brand.

Another audience member that sells hair products chimed in about success in offering a free sample with every purchase (no minimum), which has also resulted in less returns. Now that people are at home, forced to do their own hair, they’ve shifted their messaging to be about DIY hair care.

Should my long-term ecommerce plan change with COVID-19 going on?

Now is the time to think through realistic scenarios as the ecommerce COVID-19 situation remains indefinite.

“If you’re not as busy, now is a good time to rethink your longer term strategy, look at your processes for improvements, look at expenses to find more areas to improve efficiencies, have persistence, and keep your head up.”

Fernanda Gomez Ocejo, Director of Supply Chain at Open Water

Connor suggested checking out the US government’s stimulus package
. He already did his application for the loan. He said if you haven’t already done that, you should do you due diligence and become aware of what might be available. It’s highly likely you’re eligible, and while you might not get it, why not try taking advantage of it?

Episode 3. Aired on April 8, 2020. Featuring: Leo Carrillo III: CEO & Co-Founder of Hair Craft Co.

Episode 3 speaker_Leo Carrillo III_CEO of Hair Craft Co

How to be profitable on Amazon for COVID-19 ecommerce success

While some may say it’s Amazon’s sandbox and we’re all just playing in it, there are a few recommendations Leo has when it comes to spending on Amazon and driving shoppers to other channels.

Improve your Amazon ad spend

If you’re spending advertising dollars on Amazon right now, you want them to drive a nice ROI. Here are some areas Leo has found a lot of success in for Hair Craft Co. since all the changes COVID-19 has brought.

1. Bidding on competitors that are not selling on Amazon

If a competing brand isn’t on Amazon, that’s a great opportunity for your brand to go on the offensive and bid on competitor search terms to capture that demand on Amazon. These CPCs will likely be lower to bid on too, whereas brands already on Amazon will be more expensive.

2. Bidding on high volume tangential products

Amazon’s top priority right now is medical supplies and essential products. Almost all products that are not in these categories have been affected by COVID-19, including Hair Craft Co. You are allowed to bid on specific products on Amazon, regardless if they are related to your products.

At the Amazon identifier level, you can bid on toilet paper, paper towels, and similar products. The intent to buy is there, and you get to land on their product page.

The two ads below circled in red, called “Product Display Ads,” are not Sponsored products.

Amazon product page example of non-competing products bidding on Product Display Ads under high demand products during COVID-19

Note: You cannot bid on medical supply keywords like face masks, hand sanitisers, and surgical gloves.

3. Evaluating ACOS and conversions

Your Amazon advertising strategy needs to maintain a healthy advertising cost of sale — or ACOS — which means you may need to scale back ad campaigns due to decreased demand on Amazon.

For example, if your impressions stay the same but conversion rate drops from 50% to 25%, your ACOS has increased. You don’t want to spend just as much money as before but get fewer sales.

Hair Craft Co. experienced this and knew they either had to chase sales with a high ACOS (which was unprofitable) or decide Amazon needs to be a very profitable channel for them. So they pivoted. With less people searching for their products, they reduced their budget so that ads were profitable.

“If you advertise on Amazon, check your ACOS now. If it’s increasing, find which keywords are not converting and reduce budgets. Use those funds elsewhere. We’re putting that budget towards Facebook and Instagram. If you’re affected by COVID-19, your Amazon ads have to be profitable.”

Leo Carrillo II, CEO & Co-Founder of Hair Craft Co.

Drive shoppers to your website instead

While people are searching on Amazon for hair products, most brands you see have 30 days listed for their delivery speeds. These brands also have a website and are seeing record sales there since people who normally bought their product on Amazon are checking there.

“I had a customer ask if he could drive to my house in San Diego to get product. He would rather go out of his way and do that than wait more than 30 days from ordering on Amazon. That’s when we went out of our way to update messaging on our site about being open, which increased conversions.”

Leo Carrillo II, CEO & Co-Founder of Hair Craft Co.

While Amazon is still a great channel with a lot of demand, now is the time to make sure you’ve set up your own store for ecommerce COVID-19 success. For customers to make the leap off Amazon to your website, your site’s branding needs to match your branding elements on Amazon and vice versa for a good multichannel customer experience.

The impact of Amazon’s COVID-19 ecommerce fulfilment delay of non-essentials will continue to accelerate the growth of small businesses and shift buyer behaviour. Brands will have to own their platform and diversify revenue.

The impact of COVID-19 is a great forcing mechanism for brands to start to diversify and move more customers to their own store. People will become more comfortable with buying from DTC brands’ websites — especially if you can give an Amazon-like experience like ShipBob strives to provide.

While many audience members are wary of Amazon and view them as a competitor that doesn’t give you data and has burned many brands, having a mix of channels lets you better adapt. It doesn’t have to be selling on Amazon OR your website — it can be Amazon AND your website.

Leo pointed out that while you don’t get to know your customers on Amazon, do you care about the data or do you care more about getting sales? The Hair Craft Co. team wants to make it easy for shoppers to convert and be where their customers are looking for products, especially for ecommerce COVID-19 sales.

Any advice for a brand starting out in ecommerce during COVID-19?

Leo’s first year in business was not profitable. They were figuring out how much demand there was, determining if they could sell what they wanted to sell, and learning the supply chain side to get enough profit to order excess product. It wasn’t until year two in 2019 that they started looking at the numbers and when demand popped up.

At this point, they didn’t have to spend as much on ads and they could invest in Instagram and Facebook ads at a greater scale. They were able to do projections. They could focus on demand and the learnings. In the beginning, they got a lot of negative reviews about the product packaging. They took that feedback, improved their packaging, better communicated certain information about the scent and what the product looks like, and focused on nailing the customer experience.

How do I find a manufacturer in a COVID-19 ecommerce world?

The pre-fulfilment aspects of the supply chain have seen a lot of challenges throughout the last several months. It can be hard to find quality suppliers, especially in today’s environment.

Hair Craft Co. used to manufacture in China but moved to the US. Their Chinese supplier was used for their MVP until they could afford to manufacture in the US.

When they were first thinking of their product idea, they mixed it in a jar themselves. They contacted 20 manufacturers by googling “beauty or pomade suppliers in the US.” They got quotes for several thousand units, which included the chemists to make the product, the labels and jars, and more. They quickly realised there was no way to afford this.

Next they checked Alibaba and found there were hundreds of suppliers all over the world. They looked into 40 suppliers with the right certifications and quality standards, worked with 20 on the mixture they made, and finally found their manufacturer. After the supplier delivered samples, the Hair Craft Co. decided it was good. They used them for two years and then came back to the original US suppliers they researched when they were profitable.

How do you market products during this COVID-19 ecommerce pandemic without being too pushy?

The exact marketing channels and strategies you use will depend on your audience, what’s profitable for you, and the stage of your company.

In terms of COVID-19 ecommerce messaging, be cognizant of the situation and what you’re saying. Remember, people you are emailing have lost their jobs. Acknowledge COVID-19, add value to your customers, and offer a nice deal.

For example, Lululemon used to push their “men’s commuter comfortable” line which was great for people who were on a plane at least every other week and had to go from flying to a meeting. Now that no one is taking flights, they shifted and keep testing verbiage. We’ve seen a “home workouts” section and a “work from home” section on their site.

For Hair Craft Co., their customers can’t go out and get haircuts. The non-paid Instagram content they had mapped out for the month had to be adjusted to make it more relatable about what’s going on with COVID-19. While it’s a crappy situation, the goal is not to make people sad but know that we’re all in this together.

Leo is about to test ads about getting your hair right and freshening up for your conference call. Many of us have seen our friends on a Zoom call with crazy hair and can vividly picture this.

Times are changing. Everyone has to pivot. If return on investment for ads isn’t there and ecommerce COVID-19 conversions are dropping, you need to find more scrappy methods to make up any revenue gap you’ve seen. Here are some promotion ideas:

  • Launch BOGO free campaigns
  • Offer deals to share with friends
  • Upsell or cross-sell different products
  • Work on blog content from an SEO perspective (discover what are people searching for as they have a lot more time for education)
  • Get creative with email marketing

Yesterday I got an email from Death Wish Coffee on an opportunity to win free coffee for a year. Many coffee shops are closed, and buying a bag to use at home at the chance of getting more coffee worked on me.

Leo said nothing is going to be a quick win but don’t get down if something’s not working. Review what did and didn’t work, pivot, and focus on what’s best for your business. Don’t just chase COVID-19 ecommerce revenue, but figure out what’s smart for your business.

If the COVID-19 pandemic is around until July or August, will you have the cash flow?

“My #1 piece of advice for fellow operators over the next 30 days is to make changes to any unprofitable channels. Focus on other channels that can get your brand out there, and invest that next marketing dollar there. Make sure your site and ads are optimised with the right messaging that fit the situation too.”

Leo Carrillo II, CEO & Co-Founder of Hair Craft Co.

And while you can’t build a brand on Amazon but you can connect with customers who come in through your site. Get to know your customers better, ask people to reply to the marketing emails you send, and build a community for long-term rapport.

“After each sale, I’ve called every customer, thanked them, and got to actually connect with them. Doing this will depend on volume but I started asking why they bought from us and how they found out about us. From those calls, I’ve learned a lot and adjusted our site and messaging based on what those people said.”

Leo Carrillo II, CEO & Co-Founder of Hair Craft Co.

This ecommerce COVID-19 situation will pass — whether it’s a month or a year — and hopefully we will see the step-function growth. Those that get through this will hit the ground running.

Watch the entire video from episode 3 below.

Episode 4. Aired on April 15, 2020. Featuring:

  • Sarah Ribner: CEO & Co-Founder of PiperWai
  • Marc Fontanetta: Director of Operations at BAKblade
  • Matt Decapio: Chief Operating Officer at Boie

This week’s episode featured three long-time ShipBob customers.

COVID-19 Ecommerce Episode 4

A month and a half into the US being hit hard by COVID-19, these ecommerce brands were overall optimistic. While it’s a stressful time for all, they shared all the ways they’re overcoming the effects of COVID-19.

“There are not as many distractions now, less travel, and we are stuck inside. My advice is to take a step back, use this time to focus on your business plan, and enhance what is working and fix what isn’t. Doing this has shown us a lot of faults, and we’ve already decided to pivot and focus more on ecom than we have in the past. See this as an opportunity.”

Sarah Ribner, CEO & Co-Founder of PiperWai

Read answers to audience members’ questions and some of the top takeaways from episode 4 below.

Are ecommerce hand sanitiser sales here to stay, even after COVID-19?

Many perfume companies, distilleries, and other brands have pivoted to create hand sanitiser now as there is an unprecedented need for it. With a new heightened awareness of how quickly viruses can spread, will demand for hand sanitiser continue once COVID-19 is contained or cured?

Before COVID-19 happened, PiperWai had a hand gel recipe that was already partially done with no launch date in sight. When the coronavirus started to unfold, they even had some people asking if they could use PiperWai’s toilet spray to kill germs because of the ingredients in the formula (to which PiperWai said no, it will absolutely not replace hand sanitiser).

With more interest than ever before, the PiperWai team went back to the lab and tweaked the hand gel formula they started to meet today’s CDC requirements.

“We had stock on hand we could recycle into a new formula for hand sanitiser. It was by far the fastest product launch we’ve ever done.”

Sarah Ribner, CEO & Co-Founder of PiperWai

PiperWai also wanted to give back. Sarah’s team had an organisation in mind to help in Brooklyn, where PiperWai is based. For every order, PiperWai is donating a Cleansing Hand Gel and a percentage of profits to The Campaign Against Hunger to help feed those in need.

PiperWai hand sanitiser-Cleansing Hand Gel-launched during COVID-19

At this time, a lot of PiperWai customers are purchasing hand sanitisers with PiperWai’s charcoal-based deodorant. But Sarah believes hand sanitiser will remain a commonly purchased product on their ecommerce site long after this COVID-19 pandemic ends — primarily because hand sanitiser is commonly sold with other hygiene products from the biggest companies.

Another great hand sanitiser brand is Touchland, that made statement with their brand by making hand sanitiser stylish and Instagram-worthy. The brand launched in 2018 and grew quickly after a successful Kickstarter campaign — then grew even faster after the pandemic hit.

“We were already growing quickly when COVID began, then we completely sold out the first week of the pandemic. In three weeks, more than 34,000 customers were waitlisted on We even did pre-orders to try and meet demand. Between March and May 2020, we had up to 700 orders per day and sold 10,000 dispensers to industry-leading brands in those three months.

COVID changed the mentality of hand sanitation for most businesses, and this won’t go away after the pandemic.”

Andrea Lisbona, Founder & CEO of Touchland

The fact that Touchland was growing quickly even before the pandemic indicates that hand sanitiser will continue to be a high-demand product.

How long is it taking for inventory produced overseas to get here during COVID-19?

With many audience members aware of possible trade restrictions and/or perceived problems on sourcing products from China, some brands are looking at domestic manufacturing, which comes with increased costs.

Marc’s ecommerce brand BAKblade manufactures in China, and has a really good relationship with their supplier. He said while their inventory saw major delays when COVID-19 was beginning, manufacturing times from China are getting better, as are total timelines once it gets to the port. Their inventory had sat in ports for very long periods of time over the last couple months, because not as many boats have been available. If you need to expedite shipping, air is very costly right now.

Matt, Founder of CPG company Boie that sells personal hygiene items, said he is luckier than most because their products are domestic, made in Louisiana. Their manufacturer is a supplier of medical devices, so they are considered essential. He said their stateside manufacturer is not taking on new projects at this time, as they don’t have any capacity available.

Have you abandoned any sales channels during COVID-19?

PiperWai previously relied heavily on Amazon, their Shopify store, and brick-and-mortar retailers. One of their biggest B2B partners is a large retailer that’s experiencing layoffs and closures across the country, and Sarah is worried about her smaller retail partners.

Before lockdowns were in place, PiperWai saw people panic buying deodorant on Amazon. But once people could no longer get out deodorant in two days on Amazon and would have to wait months, it shifted behaviour.

“We had disruptions in 2 of our 3 main channels. Physical stores were closed. And once shipping times on Amazon were extended 6-8 weeks, we decided to focus more on ecommerce. It’s the one channel that hasn’t been disrupted, where we’re consistently in stock. It’s been carrying us.”

Sarah Ribner, CEO & Co-Founder of PiperWai

Sarah is proud of her team for adapting so quickly and staying creative. Day-by-day, they may change their channel of focus and the advertising message. Overall, ad spend is down, as less people are advertising right now. They’ve even seen a huge spike in Pinterest activity.

A lot of brands are doing tutorials, group meditation, and Q&As — some even every day. Engagement has been skyrocketing, as customers are responding to face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) interaction.

Have you moved from FBA to FBM to continue ecommerce sales during COVID-19?

PiperWai has been going back and forth between FBM and FBA, as everything seems to change hour by hour. They have to monitor it constantly and adapt as quickly as possible. BAKblade has seen the same issue with Amazon.

“One night during quarantine when I was in the process of shipping a bunch of product to Amazon, I saw that all of our products no longer had the Prime badge. Using ShipBob, we were able to transition from FBA listings to FBM right away. This way, we didn’t see a huge drop in orders placed on Amazon. With FBM, our delivery times were much shorter than what FBA was showing on all of our products.”

Marc Fontanetta, Director of Operations at BAKblade

ShipBob integrates with the FBM platform seamlessly. Even when BAKblade got back on Prime, they decided to keep both FBA and FBM open, knowing Amazon can change again at any time. Matt had taken Boie off Amazon long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are you approaching ecommerce customer service during COVID-19?

Customer service at this time is critical. Boie has been proactive in communicating changes, with email, Instagram, and on their website:

Boie's website page on how they are handling COVID-19 and their supply chain

All brands are incorporating messaging they receive from ShipBob’s fulfilment communications, sharing key information with online shoppers during COVID-19.

PiperWai updated their auto-confirmation email to a short message about COVID-19. Sarah said there has been a lot of engagement from customers, asking if there are shipping delays when they place an order.

Marc said he had ordered something from a well-known ecommerce company and it’s been over two weeks without any communication from the brand. This is a poor customer experience (and an incredibly long delay). Be upfront with customers and they will be much more understanding.

Now is the time to be extra understanding of customers if they need to cancel an order or return something. Don’t give them a hard time. It’s going to be better for you long-term if they continue to be a customer.

How do you save on ecommerce COVID-19 shipping costs?

If you can lower your average shipping zone, you will save money on shipping costs, especially when shipping heavy items. Marc said he even hates seeing zones 4 and 5 and continuously tries to optimise their shipping costs.

“We reduce shipping costs by being closer to the end consumer and splitting inventory. We had inventory in 4 ShipBob warehouses, and we just added 3 more. We continuously evaluate how we can get our packaging lighter and look at different couriers’ shipping services.”

Marc Fontanetta, Director of Operations at BAKblade

Marc believes that those who handle retail fulfilment themselves need to value their time differently and instead spend time on what’s going to make their business grow. BAKblade started with crowdfunding campaigns, and they launched their brand with ShipBob. Four years later, they’re still with ShipBob. Marc said, “It’s a relationship and a partnership that’s grown together.”

Watch the video below to hear more from these brands on how they are trying to ride this pandemic out and prepare to hit the ground running on all prior initiatives that were in place.

Episode 5. Aired on April 22, 2020. Featuring:

How has the role of the supply chain in ecommerce evolved during the coronavirus?

Emily heads up supply chain at Hubble Contacts, where she says they have ramped up communication both internally and with their 3PL and couriers to make sure everything is running smoothly. Their company has been proactive in hiring, and the main impact has been from manufacturing. Starting about two months ago, they buffered in an additional two weeks for transit from their manufacturer. That’s been “the new normal.”

“Supply chain has come front and centre. Now everyone’s making sure it’s healthy and trying to learn more about it. Normally it takes a back seat.”

Emily Sewell, VP of Supply Chain at Hubble Contacts

How to leverage DTC Twitter to get COVID-19 ecommerce advice

Andrew is a big proponent of the Twitter community of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. While he doesn’t like marketing guruism, where people only share wins and not losses, he’s seen transparency where people are basically willing to share their P&Ls in your DMs.

“I can’t believe DTC Twitter is free. It’s become so helpful with really smart operators engaging. Subscribe to 2PM’s DTC list (Web Smith also created a list of people to follow), get into the conversation, and share yourself.”

Andrew Faris, CEO of 4×400

Andrew mentioned that while you may see “direct competitors” there, he doesn’t think these people are really always competing with each other. For example, silicone wedding ring brands shouldn’t look at each other as the enemy. The competing category is traditional metal wedding rings. The community of DTC Twitter reflects that.

How to pivot your ecommerce products during the coronavirus

Think Crucial vacuum bags turned mask filters

Chad’s products are made in mainland China. He saw materials costs rising and realised it’s because N95 masks use the same materials. When he found this out, he took the inventory he was sitting on and turned it into masks — by repurposing a vacuum bag media that could be cut and inserted into a mask.

He engaged with the Masked Warriors Facebook Groups making masks, wanting to be supportive and do his part. Then they teamed up with Hedley & Bennett, who sells masks.

Hedley & Bennett COVID-19 mask with Think Crucial filter insert

Hedley and Bennet’s Wake Up and Fight Mask is designed to be used with a filter inserted within the fabric (they even made a template to follow here). Ordering directly from Think Crucial gets you 30% off your order here.

Both companies decided for every mask sold, they would donate a respective mask and filter to essential workers.

In this environment, Chad is keeping his friends close and his “enemies” even closer. When he ran out of stock, he called up competitors and secured a tremendous amount from those companies.

The importance of relationships has never been as great as now. Similar brands can coexist in the space and even have a good relationship.

Which ecommerce products will sell during the coronavirus?

With COVID-19, there is no rule of thumb for which strategies and products will sell right now. No matter how essential or not your business is, brands and categories across the board are seeing sales go up.

Many brands are having consecutive Black Friday/Cyber Monday-level sales day over day. If you view Shopify as a proxy for the greater ecosystem, they recently shared consistent traffic numbers, similar to their BFCM levels last year.

Coronavirus sales-Shopify global traffic during COVID-19

4×400 is a holding company with brands that sell skincare products, wallets made out of baseball gloves, and wash products for offroad vehicles. Andrew says everything is selling online right now.

While they originally saw a gigantic dip that was a reflection of consumer confidence, where everyone held onto their cash, they have since seen increases week over week.

“Tons of people have lost their jobs but not everyone has (and some expect their jobs back soon). Think through this example — even if spending is down among 25% of the population, 70% of places you can spend your money are now closed. People who have cash have less places to spend their cash.”

Andrew Faris, CEO of 4×400

Emily said Hubble has experienced an increase in sales, as though people are only going to ecommerce for purchasing essentials. Their subscription model lets people “set it and forget it.” When the coronavirus was first spreading, people thought contact lenses aren’t the safest option, since you have to touch your eyes. But since the CDC put out language around how it’s safe as long as you’re hygienic, consumers have come to see that it’s okay.

Hubble Contacts message about hygiene during COVID-19

Chad said one product of theirs hadn’t sold in months but they finally got it moving: kitchen shears. They thought, how do we bundle this together with other products? They created an upsell on their Shopify checkout, and now they order bump “Filter Media Cutting Scissors” so shoppers can cut their own filter material out with ease.

How to avoid being tone deaf during the coronavirus

While you want to be aggressive to see what works and generates revenue for your business, it’s a weird time to be a winner in all of this. You obviously don’t want to capitalise on the suffering or minimise anything that’s happening, but at the same time many people are still buying online.

Message the moment. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: If you were served an ad and someone in your family had died from COVID-19, would you be bummed to see this? Be careful and be sensitive.

Ecommerce brands have been experimenting with discounts and promotions during the coronavirus, and there is a fine line to walk. You need to be sensitive to the situation and promote your offering without offending anyone. There have been plenty of examples of brands that have been called out for crass tactics.

For example, Fashion Nova faced social media backlash after texting shoppers they can spend their COVID-19 stimulus checks at one of its online sales.

Fashion Nova's text about spending your COVID-19 stimulus check on apparel

Reese Withespoon’s company Draper James also faced backlash on a coronavirus ecommerce campaign to “give teachers a free dress.” This giveaway had 250 dresses to give away and received 1 million requests. The company had to contact those who applied to let them know the program was actually a raffle rather than a giveaway. Then, they offered 30% off to those who didn’t win.

Tweet about Draper James free dresses for teachers during the coronavirus

While this effort had good intentions, many felt this giveaway was a marketing gimmick rather than a sincere effort to give back.

Learn from these examples, and if you’re unsure if a campaign is a smart idea at this time, it’s best to play it safe.

How to approach Facebook ads for your ecommerce store during the coronavirus

With Facebook ads, there is no rule of thumb for what works best for messaging or creative. Andrew is an expert in this area and has seen every proven method go wrong. When approaching creative, try it all and use smart, consistent testing. Sometimes, UGC works, and other times a minute and a half long explainer video works.

You don’t want to do a million things but you also don’t want to slave over a new piece of creative for weeks. Iterate regularly. To get different results, you need to try different things. Think through how each ad will lead people through the offering.

Andrew explained that a lot of people iterate a bunch of new ads without thoughtfulness (e.g., changing the background colour or CTA location), but instead Andrew recommends starting at the product and offer levels:

  • What products do I have that I can sell?
  • What is my margin?
  • What is my LTV?

From there, work toward the offer and angle — how you position it, bundle it — and work backwards from there to the creative, the optimised landing page and how you bring someone in to the moment. Grab attention at the beginning.

With machine learning developing so quickly, the best move is to lean on the algorithm. They are so much better at predicting the future than we are.

“There is way more scale in Facebook right now than there has been in a long time. It’s crazy how much cheaper CPMs are. Take advantage of this now but within cash constraints — then capitalise on these audiences more in the future. We are doubling down on Facebook now because of this. It will not last.”

Andrew Faris, CEO of 4×400

Facebook is a giant auction. When it comes to spend, larger players are pulling significant amounts of their marketing dollars back. Thus, on the auction, your cost of advertising is going down — by as much as 40%.

Andrew is trying to go as big as he can, as fast as he can. They haven’t tried new channels because of that. He knows that every customer you acquire now — every email address you get — may buy from you for years to come.

What to do if your ecommerce launch is stalled due to the coronavirus

An audience member whose product is stuck in production because the coronavirus asked what early-stage brands should do while waiting out COVID-19 before they make their ecommerce launch.

Concentrate on adding a landing page to your site so you can collect email addresses. You could also start with pre-orders. It’s a perfect time to make sure you’re building the right network and relationships with vendors like warehouses and couriers.

Another audience member who is new to ecommerce was in the middle of developing a travel-related product when COVID-19 hit. They pretty much paused everything but are thinking of resuming advertising for pre-orders.

Where to advertise your ecommerce store during the coronavirus

On Amazon, the cost of acquisition is low on specific categories, as a lot of brands have stopped advertising. Chad wants to be diversified on as many channels as possible and always does both FBM as well as FBA.

Of course, with Amazon there’s no phone number or way to talk to a human. One audience member said they just went through this with Amazon, getting a message that they won’t accept a shipment, so they are scrambling to diversify fulfilment channels.

Many brands have been able to accelerate growth on their Shopify stores. This week, Google made listing products on their ad platform free in the US. As many people begin their search on Google, brands should capitalise on the eyeballs going there.

One audience member asked about using Snapchat Ads for customer acquisition. Compared to Facebook or Google, Andrew recommended paying super careful attention to attribution models. Particularly on Snap, he’s seen dashboards showing 10-13x ROAS, but when you dig deeper, it’s 95%+ view through conversions. He’s seen some folks winning there, but you just have to be crystal clear on what your dashboard is telling you.

Another audience member who sells CBD products asked where to advertise since Facebook and Google are no-go’s for those products. Our featured brands recommended that he leverage “OPA” or other people’s audiences and see if there is a demographic that you share with a non-competitive brand that you can collabourate with.

They also mentioned going the SEO route — it’s the toughest to scale but most cost-effective channel. There are also some CBD marketplaces and ad platforms that work to solve this problem.

What will the future of ecommerce look like after COVID-19?

Emily thinks we will come out of this to a much different world — and ecommerce may even advance 15 years in this time.

Andrew believes we live in a world of needing to incessantly predict the future. He thinks there’s no use in even trying to predict what’s going to happen, because we’re all actually terrible at this. And the farther out you predict, the less likely you are to be accurate.

“Shorten your time horizon on forecasting and predict smaller things. I don’t know what’s going to happen in 3 months, or even 3 weeks. I feel pretty good about 3 days from now.”

Andrew Faris, CEO of 4×400

The truth is we have no idea what will happen when stores reopen or if there will be another wave of the coronavirus.

Chad’s been enjoying quarantine life, as he’s found new waves of creativity in changing up his routine. From taking a shower in the middle of the day, to thinking back to his company’s mission, he’s been able to take a step back and reset.

“My wife owns a yoga studio, which has been really impacted. Her studio was one of the first to go virtual, and now everyone is virtual. To keep differentiating, now if people buy a virtual membership, they are donating to a healthcare worker in need. People are tagging their friends and spreading the word.”

Chad Rubin, President & Founder of Think Crucial

Watch the video recording of Episode 5 below to hear more.

Episode 6. Aired on April 29, 2020. Featuring:

  • Stefan Weitz: CEO & Founder of Jetson
  • Jon Corwin: Director of Growth Marketing at One Click Venture (Readers)
  • Sam Lewkowict: Co-Founder & CEO of Black Wolf

COVID-19 Ecommerce Episode 6

Which ecommerce products are hot-sellers during the coronavirus pandemic?

Stefan explained how Jetson is unique in that they sell the world’s only seasonal probiotics. They change the formula each quarter to correspond to what the body needs as well as what science is finding.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began, Jetson was ready to focus on allergies. Gearing up to launch their spring product, stay-at-home orders were being put in place across states, and no one was leaving their house or going outside.

Stefan began seeing ripple effects from Wuhan and thought they might need more immunity products they were selling for the winter months, So they pivoted quickly and sold a lot of one-time immunity products.

Jetson is still selling their spring probiotic, and they’ve adapted their messaging to fit the situation:

Jetson's ecommerce product copy in response to COVID-19

Jetson also implemented a buy one, get one free model, allowing first-time buyers to receive a code good for a free bottle of Immunity to send to a front-line worker who is keeping America moving.

Jetson donating probiotics to healthcare workers during coronavirus pandmic

Jetson is a ShipBob customer and has even donated products to ShipBob fulfilment associates who are on the front lines getting essential products fulfiled in a timely manner.

“Our free products for frontline workers was just the right thing to do. While you could view it as lost money, I believe karma will pay off in the end.”

Stefan Weitz, CEO & Founder of Jetson

Jon discussed how demand has changed for reading glasses during the coronavirus pandemic, noting that more people are reading in general and spending more time on their devices.

Buying reading glasses online isn’t as common as picking up a pair from a drug store, but the 45+ year old demographic has started to get accustomed to starting their search online. Readers offers a deeper catalogueue than the selection you can find in a brick-and-mortar environment.

Typically, at this time of year sun readers will become a hot seller, but their sales have completely fallen off a cliff. Currently, computer readers sales have been accelerated while people are working remotely, staying at home, and spending more time on devices. Adoption around blue light glasses has picked up (by 250% to be specific), and they’re featuring them more prominently on their ecommerce site.

Readers discount for hot seller computer glasses

Sam’s skincare brand was able to pivot into hand sanitisers. When the coronavirus first started getting coverage back in January, the WHO said no human-to-human transmission was happening in China, but his brother didn’t believe that and they ordered 3x the amount of bottles and containers they normally would so they could manage the growth they expected.

Their manufacturer in Florida approached them to see if they wanted to make any hand sanitiser because they are a fast-moving, nimble customer. They made 3,000 units, sold it in two-packs, and charged the customer nearly the cost to create the goods. With very little markup, it sold out within an hour.

Black Wolf hand sanitiser ecommerce product during coronavirus

Next, they did a pre-launch for another round of hand sanitiser, which sold out within two hours. Sam thinks this is because you can’t find hand sanitiser these days, and if you can, it’s incredibly marked up.

While this only made up 1% of their sales, they wanted to sell this product fairly. The biggest challenge has been procuring fresh bottles — true for both Black Wolf and Jetson — amid the coronavirus as you have to get these overseas (glass bottles in US require million units at minimum).

What content should ecommerce brands create during the coronavirus?

Engaging with customers at this time can feel awkward. You want to generate revenue and drive brand loyalty without it being perceived that you are trying to benefit off the crisis.

On one end of the spectrum is Sam, who is not mixing COVID-19 and ecommerce comms.

“We thought our customers don’t want to hear more about coronavirus. We want to be a distraction. If customers reach out and say, “I got laid off, can I cancel my order?,” we’ll be lenient but continue operations as normal.”

Sam Lewkowict, Co-Founder & CEO of Black Wolf

Sam does believe you should react to the environment you’re in, and to talk to your customers in a way that shows you respect them and can address their needs. You also must sell a product people want. If your product is not needed now, pivot. People are still at home and still need to make purchases.

Stefan preached authenticity and explained how Jetson has been candid with his audience base because we’re all part of society and will get past it together.

He sends weekly emails to his customer base, and they’re still getting 40% open rates, because people trust them. Authenticity and transparency has helped portray them like everyone else and not just as a merchant.

Jon said they are continuously taking feedback from customers and adjusting what they’re putting out there on paid social and all high touches with customers throughout the funnel — from chat to email — to drive better expectations upfront. Readers has also been focused on how they can add positivity and drive engagement with customers.

“Our customer support team is where our customers know the brand best — through high touches like email, chat, and phone. We’re encouraging conversations here. It’s higher overhead but it’s justified. The loyalty of customers comes first.”

Jon Corwin, Director of Growth Marketing at One Click Venture/Readers

They’ve also been incorporating how people are spending time at home into their messaging to try and help people maintain their sanity within the constraints. They’ve even posted brain teasers on social media with no commercial intent.

Readers spreading happiness through content during COVID-19

Readers has published blog posts on their ecommerce site covering topics related to how the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders impact the need for their product, the care for it, and safety of their customers. A few recent topics include:

  • How to Keep Your Eyes and Glasses Germ-Free
  • How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy at Home
  • 5 Ways to Look and Feel Your Best While Working from Home
  • How to Safely Sanitize Your Glasses
  • DIY: How to Make an Eyeglass Chain
  • Coronavirus: How Our Eyes May Impact Its Spread

They’ve aimed to find ways to humanize their brand and share helpful, interesting advice. In separate communication streams, they’ve relayed their fulfilment SLAs and shipping status. Their COVID-19 messaging is never promotional. They intentionally haven’t woven these two streams together. And customers seem to keep spending.

An audience member suggested Readers can explore how they can help teachers at this time, as many are teaching from home for the first time and may have sensitive eyes and benefit from their blue light glasses.

You’ll see brands playing with entertainment in content during the coronavirus. Everything doesn’t always need to be down at this time. We can laugh and have fun. Sephora has created custom Zoom backgrounds.

Sephora created Zoom backgrounds during COVID-19

You also may see brands virtually bringing people into their homes, which have become more public during the COVID-19 pandemic (homes are now our classrooms, offices, and happy hour spots). For some brands, home is now where photoshoots take place — sometimes even shot on phones or using FaceTime.

Some brands are turning employees into their models, using more user-generated content featuring their customers, or having models take photos in more natural environments. This brings a sense of relatability that reminds consumers “they’re just like us.”

How should ecommerce brands work with manufacturers during COVID-19?

Inventory forecasting at this time can be difficult, when sales are unpredictable and your manufacturer lead times are likely longer. An audience member asked about negotiating lower minimum order quantity (MOQs) with manufacturers.

Sam walked through how he and his brother started small with good terms, kept growing, and so their manufacturer was happy to help them as they grew. As Sam’s team was closing an ecommerce venture capital round, their manufacturer was understanding and happy to help while they were strapped for cash. His message was to sell the vision and just ask. If they say no, at least you tried.

“Manufacturers want you to succeed. The last thing they want is for you to go out of business. If you’re not going through inventory or selling it, they have no motivation to help you. Sell the vision of your company, let them see the potential, your creative marketing, and how you’re differentiated. If they believe in your brand, they are not just your supplier, but a partner.”

Sam Lewkowict, Co-Founder & CEO of Black Wolf

An audience member asked how to get better terms. Our panelists suggested they don’t focus on a contract, as the money you spend to litigate won’t go anywhere. View it as a partnership and not a transactional relationship. If they aren’t willing to work with you, it might be the wrong partner.

Treat people well no matter what. Partnerships are most important right now.

Another audience member asked if people are shifting to US manufacturers as supply chains are delayed upstream in China. It’s a risk/reward play, where you trade off long delays for cheaper manufacturing.

Sam always wanted to manufacture as much as possible in the US. That way, there are less global events that can get in the way like tariff implications, and their brand is ‘made in the USA.’

Stefan walked through the involved process he faced finding a US manufacturer for health products meant to be consumed every day, spending months finding the right partner.

Similarly, many sellers are moving off dropshipping to working with a domestic fulfilment centre to cut back on expensive air shipping or extensive boat transit times, where you have a six-week lead time and it can and still take three days to three weeks to get cleared at customs.

How do you handle coronavirus delays in ecommerce shipping with customers?

I did some online shopping over the weekend and grabbed screenshots of two examples from Native that I found to be informative:

1. From the order confirmation page, I got this heads up:

Confirmation for ecommerce COVID-19 delay after checkout

2. From the confirmation email I received, they added this blurb before their usual follow up message:

Email confirmation for ecommerce COVID-19 delay after checkout

Sam has done customer service himself from day one. In one instance, he had a delayed shipment from China, so he sent an email from his personal email to all customers who were impacted. Of the 5,000 people he emailed, many responded and only two asked for their money back.

“I’ve found almost everyone is nice and cool with delays as long as you communicate. If you’re upfront, they’ll love you. If you’re quiet and ghost them, they’ll be pissed off.”

Sam Lewkowict, Co-Founder & CEO of Black Wolf

Sam launched his first product as a pre-order, only once he was confident in the timeline. He told customers it was going to take six weeks to ship. He was pretty sure it was actually five weeks, but he padded the estimate just in case there was an extra delay. He didn’t underestimate it, and cautioned the audience to never let there be any surprises for customers. If something comes up, tell them right away.

How to reduce cart abandonment on your ecommerce store during COVID-19

Jon has quadrupled spend on paid social as competition in his space has seen a dramatic decrease. With less brick-and-mortar activity, he’s seeing more impressions, an increase in ROAS, and discounted CPMs. They ramped up and occupied the void created, because they were able to support it on the inventory supply side.

Stefan’s experienced the opposite, where ads are getting more expensive in his competitive space of essentials.

Both brands have seen lots of shoppers adding to their cart but not checking out. Jetson used to have 75% of people converting, where now they have a 75% cart abandonment rate.

Shoppers wonder ‘Will my order ship?’ and you might not be answering that question at checkout. Right above the checkout button, clearly state: ‘Yes, we have inventory now, and your order will ship. You can expect your order to ship in X days.’

If top of funnel is increasing at a much more rapid pace than checkouts, you also may want to audit your remarketing, add more restrictive rules, and adjust the window of time your ads follow a shopper or change the cart value requirements to follow only the most qualified.

Jon expanded on his top three levers for optimising ecommerce ads during the coronavirus:


CAC (or customer acquisition cost) is the total amount of money you spend to get customers divided by the number of new customers driven

You must be able to answer how much you’re willing to spend based on the customer lifetime value (LTV). Your CAC to LTV ratio is something you must pay attention to. Be sure to monitor your repurchase rate and what those repeat purchases mean in your ecosystem


What is your break-even ROAS (or return on ad spend), and what is your target ROAS? Are you willing to sacrifice a little bit of profitability for more top of funnel?

3) Efficiencies

How can you make your dollars punch the hardest? Consider optimisations, testing channels, targeting, the offer, and then the creative. People get really dialed into creative without a well-defined framework testing for targeting. If targeting is not hitting the right people, you’re wasting dollars.

Of course, it’s not always the channel’s fault; It can be in the execution and lack of refinement. It’s also not always the right time for every channel. All of these things have to work together. This is always important, but your COVID-19 ecommerce ad strategy must be closely monitored.

Watch the entire episode below to hear more.

Episode 7. Aired on May 6, 2020. Featuring:

Episode 7 of ShipBob's COVID-19 ecommerce series

We are seven weeks into our series. A lot has changed since March. The initial shock has worn off, and now we’re in a new phase and new normal.

How to use current events in your ecommerce marketing during COVID-19

While it’s never advised to make light of this COVID-19 crisis, there may be opportunities for ecommerce brands to “newsjack” other stories happening in the world.

Tom Brady’s decision to move from the Patriots to the Bucs happened while people were going into lockdown. Sports fans were yearning for sports news, and Tom’s brand, TB12, got a lot of earned media out of it. With a product line that resonates with those seeking at-home fitness, proper nutrition, and supplements, TB12 was lucky to reap the benefits of the announcement.

Tom Brady's team change announcement during COVID-19

Judy sells emergency kits that come with six components (tools, first aid, food, safety, warmth, and water supplies). They are designed to help you for up to 72 hours if you’re trapped by an earthquake, for example.

Normally, they’d be planning for the next wave of natural disasters (wildfires, hurricane season, etc.), but the coronavirus has shaken up demand forecasting. Having launched on January 28, 2020, it was a great and scary time for Judy given unanticipated demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With ‘anti-fear’ being part of their brand, Judy has shared a ‘good news’ series with their audience and even used humour in their marketing rather than being afraid to crack a joke. Nik thinks people are getting sick of COVID-19 and want brands to go back to being brands.

With different variations of the kits, Judy launched the Tiger King edition of their safe, where they put tiger stripes on the case and got Joe Exotic’s ex-husband to do the voice-over for the campaign.

Judy's Tiger King-inspired kit

Nik cautioned people to be hyper-hyper aware of what you say and how you say it, and to remember you’re running a brand — you’re not responsible or obligated to console somebody or make them feel cozy all the time.

What are examples of brands that repositioned the use cases of their products during COVID-19?

While TB12 has always sold fitness equipment, they pivoted their bundle offering to be an “At-home” resistance band kit. Their innovative anchor system does not require you to drill holes into walls, so their resistance band kits let you set up a gym in your home, pack it all up in a drawstring band, and store it under your bed.

TB12 at-home workout kit

This product is now geared towards those who want a decent workout at home, rather than those seeking high-end athletic performance. TB12 also provides workouts for customers to do using their equipment.

TB12's at-home workouts

Keysmart, a key organiser, pivoted their positioning to be all about how their product can help keep you safe during COVID-19. Customers are using it to poke elevator buttons and other areas they would normally make contact with, so they don’t have to touch anything. They quickly took photos of these use cases, and sales exploded.

KeySmart's Cleankey pivot during the coronavirus pandemic

What was a mediocre product became a new piece of practical PPE that helps you avoid unnecessary germ exposure.

What’s helped ecommerce brands get to BFCM levels during COVID-19?

Ecommerce is a lifeline, and many brands are doing really well during the coronavirus crisis. Kurt knows an apparel lifestyle brand that did a 72-hour flash sale and had higher sales than on Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. While they ran this flash sale to get cash for their inventory, it ended up surpassing their expectations.

Kurt attributes a few factors to the success some brands have seen:

  • There’s never been a better time to spend money on PPC ads. On average, PPC ads are around 15-22% lower than January and February 2020 levels. Your budget goes farther.
  • Engagement on social is higher. You have more eyeballs on social media. Using Facebook retargeting, ROAS recently was 50% better than he has seen. Increased engagement can increase reach and lower ad spend. To find winning ads, Once you have your five winning ads that work, make that into a video, and use that in your retargeting.
  • People are doing retail therapy. Shopping is helping people cope and meeting some psychological needs.

Maslows’ hierarchy of needs and what it means for ecommerce brands during a pandemic

Image source:

“Following Maslows’ hierarchy of needs, if your product makes a person feel safe, soothes their ego, improves their environment, or offers something else that tick off levels of the pyramid, you can be doing well in this environment.”

Kurt Elster, Ecommerce Advisor and Host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast

What are the main aspects to consider when choosing a fulfilment partner during COVID-19?

Micheal from TB12 evaluated many 3PLs a couple years ago and ended up switching from a local company to ShipBob, saving 25% on shipping costs. He advised to think through the goals of your ecommerce fulfilment operations. They might be:

  • I want to maintain my brand’s super premium feel with a lot of customisation (lots of literature or inserts).
  • I want to get orders into my customers’ hands as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

“Your goals might conflict with some 3PLs, or you can find a partner that can do all of it. We looked at it with both lenses: a high quality unboxing experience and the ability to compete with Amazon speeds within our target cost. We found both with ShipBob.”

Michael Peters, Vice President of TB12

What’s most important when thinking about launching an ecommerce brand during COVID-19?

While some people would advise you to postpone launching an ecommerce brand until COVID-19 passes, Kurt pointed out that If you don’t launch, you guarantee zero sales. If you launch and no one saw you launch the first time, you can always do it again later.

It will depend on the product you sell. For example, launching a bidet when there is a toilet paper shortage may be a smart move, but launching a luggage set likely won’t take off now.

Nik recommends working backwards from distribution. Your price point and customer lifetime value will dictate acquisition and distribution strategy. Think through the following questions:

  • What is the weight of the product? If the product weighs a lot but is inexpensive, shipping heavy items will kill your margin.
  • Is there a repeat purchase, subscription component, or reorder intention? If you sell a $20 product that people won’t buy again, you may be underwater in customer acquisition costs.
  • What kind of function does it actually serve? Is it the fourth version of something that has no value prop, or something unique?

Nik works with a brand whose main product sells for $10, but they require you to buy three items to checkout and they have a high repeat purchase rate. If the customer acquisition cost is $50, as long as the customer comes back twice (spending a minimum of $60), they are in the green. You need a good retention strategy — using upsells, memberships, bundles, and more.

How do you offer free shipping on your ecommerce site during COVID-19?

While this is dependent on your margin, you should build the cost of shipping into your product price. Look at it as a way to increase your AOV. Offer a free shipping threshold, where you tack 10-20% onto your AOV, and then over-communicate it on your site.

Free shipping is the expectation and standard. Anything less is a disservice to your customers.

TB12 uses a progress bar, which calculates the amount of money you need to spend to qualify for free shipping. This shifts the onus onto the customer. Since they launched the progress bar, their AOV has increased by 15%. And their margins can withstand it since they’re shipping through ShipBob’s network inexpensively.

TB12 ecommerce site's free shipping progress bar calculator

“Add dynamic messaging about your free shipping by your cart’s subtotal — for example, ‘You’re $15 away from free shipping!’ or ‘You now qualify for free shipping!’ Over-communicate both before and after they meet the threshold.”

Michael Peters, Vice President of TB12

If you want to add a text-based free shipping calculator to your cart page, here’s the code.

Nik said that Hint looked at actual COGS and how the product is packaged, and worked backwards. They could ship one, two, or three cases, and all would go for the same shipping cost of $10. Under two cases, they’d charge the customer $5, but over three cases, they’d cover the shipping and make it free, because the margin was able to take it.

Hint's free shipping strategy

This raised Hint’s AOV by $15, up to $48 without touching acquisition costs. They ran promotions and even offered 9 for $99 — making the price $11 per case instead of $20.

“Bundles are such a no-brainer. I don’t understand why more brands don’t utilise them. You’re not only optimising shipping costs but getting more product into their household. With Hint, you can mix and match beverages between still, sparkling, and caffeinated across 27 flavours.”

Nik Sharma: Founder or Sharma Brands

Is it worth doing a charitable donation from your ecommerce sales to support COVID-19 relief efforts?

Donating to a charitable cause (e.g., giving a percentage of each sale to a COVID-19 relief fund, having your CEO donate their salary, or making a flat donation to an organisation) can be beneficial for ecommerce businesses.

TB12 did a promo with Givz using a classic ‘Spend, Get’ campaign with the ability to donate right on the Shopify order confirmation page. They gave each customer the option to donate either to a charity of their choice or one of the three preselected charities as suggestions that TB12 felt were needed right now.

This ended up being a really good promotion for TB12 that lasted from the end of March to early April. It was an easy plugin, they were able to set a threshold, and they manage the distribution of funds. A similar plugin is ShoppingGives.

“These donations were important to us as we saw the events unfold. As an extremely busy ecommerce business, we understand the world needs some positivity and love. It was even good for internal morale.”

Michael Peters, Vice President, TB12

Similarly, TB12’s services business of body coaches used to consist of in-person performance and recovery sessions. It had to shift to virtual meetings. They made these free to frontline healthcare workers, grocery workers, police officers, and others since it’s a super stressful time and they wanted to make sure they get immunity benefits of an active lifestyle as well as advice on nutrition and supplementation.

TB12 Body Coaches for virtual meetings

Nik mentioned at launch, Judy, had a solid amount of inventory for things like masks and gloves that they decided to reroute and donate until things stabilized a bit.

Mike believes all businesses are people businesses at their core. How well you treat employees is how well you are going to do. Everybody focuses on the customer, but if you focus on the business first, success with the customer will spill out too.

Watch Episode 7 in its entirety below.

Episode 8. Aired on May 13, 2020. Featuring:

Episode 8 of ShipBob's COVID-19 ecommerce series

What is an ideal SKU count for your ecommerce store during COVID-19?

The argument for a larger SKU count is to get repeat purchases by offering those customers who already bought from you a greater variety. But Ryan believes in keeping his SKU count really simple, which helps with inventory forecasting. The difference between 20 and 40 SKUs can be hard enough, so he doesn’t know how people go from 40 to 400 SKUs. It’s easy to overestimate the use of new colours and slight variations.

It’s the paradox of choice — if you see 900 cereal brands in the grocery store aisle, you’re more likely to leave with zero. A lot of the time for ecommerce, having more than three options is too much to think about. Keep it simple. Feature three options, and know that a lot of the time consumer will choose the middle option.

“Don’t go crazy with your SKU count. Focus on keeping a catalogueue small while still being able to increase lifetime value and new sales. For a lot of brands, 3 SKUs make up 50% of sales. You probably don’t need hundreds of products that aren’t driving revenue.”

Ryan Treft, Founder & Partner of Coalatree and Peejamas

All SKUs from Peejamas

Coalatree was insolvent when Ryan picked it up several years ago. This was because they pumped out too many SKUs too fast that didn’t make sense for their relative size. Ryan advises to go on pace with cash flow, margin, lead time, MOQ, and to be sensible to what a customer really needs. Too much choice is overwhelming. Sometimes it’s better to pair it down to a simple message.

Should you offer bundles to encourage COVID-19 ecommerce sales?

Gerard likes to throw things together as a package deal. For example, they’ll offer a tumbler, stainless steel straw, and bracelet together as a bundle. They create a bundle in Shopify and link the products in ShipBob, where they can see exactly what is being picked off the shelf based on which products were in the assigned bundle. If people make a bundle purchase on Shopify, ShipBob automatically puts all those items in the same package.

Ocean & Co. bundle of 3 bracelets

Gerard doesn’t use third-party Shopify apps to manage bundles and ecommerce inventory counts, just ShipBob’s all-in-one software and fulfilment service. They’ve tried apps in the past for order bumps or up-sells but they found the best, most clean solution is to use ShipBob to say what to fulfil and link a master product, which also saves money on apps.

From a fulfilment perspective, it costs as much time and labour to fulfil a sub-$10 product as it does a $100 product. However, the revenue you get is completely different. Besides bundling, if you can group products together so it’s one pick to fulfil the order, you may be able to save additional dollars.

A bundle can make all the difference. It can boost your AOV and reduce average fulfilment costs. Companies should be pushing bundling first and foremost — both marking wise and site real-estate wise.

Peejamas bundles

The Wall Street Journal reported how CPG giants are repositioning their offerings to be more about how shoppers can get the best value during COVID-19 (e.g., Kellogg breaking down how many meals are in a box of cereal). Bundles, when done correctly, aim to have the same effect.

Here are a few more tips for offering bundles:

  • Discount the bundle so customers see the value.
  • Show a bundle side-by-side with individual products, so a shopper sees how much it costs to buy the product by itself.
  • Understand where bundles sit within the customer journey.
  • Highlight bundles in emails during the holidays.
  • Look at tangential industries — how do they price things, what’s included, and what are the main options?
  • Test other websites to see how they try and upsell you.

Coalatree create your own bundle offer to increase AOV

Is self-fulfilment a smart option to save money during COVID-19?

Your time is the most precious resource. 3PLs negotiate better shipping rates, and you shouldn’t be worried about people calling off sick or even scheduling people to take fulfilment shifts.

“We moved to ShipBob, and it saved us money. I’ve gone to the drawing board to hire people to fulfil our own orders in a small warehouse, and there’s no way we could do it cheaper. Plus it’s time you’re taking away from what you’re good at. I recommend everyone use a 3PL.”

Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.

A lot of people have one bad experience with a 3PL and think they all suck. But if you have a partner that is 99% accurate, they’re nice to work with, and you get cost savings, why even try to do it yourself?

All businesses have fixed and variable costs. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when there are lots of variables, you’ll still have fixed costs if you operate your own warehouse — even if your order volume tanks. There’s a lot of risk in self-fulfilment.

“Don’t do it all yourself. As entrepreneurs, we suck at predicting our opportunity costs. With fulfilment, I realised I was doing a task I didn’t like that I could pay someone else to do, while I could spend time on activities that will bring a return. I wasn’t above fulfilment, but it was a waste of my time as a founder.”

Ryan Treft, Founder & Partner of Coalatree and Peejamas

Should you switch fulfilment partners during COVID-19?

Gerard just went through this process by moving from an all-in-one fulfilment network to ShipBob. His move was driven by a need for clear pricing, the ability to forecast expenses better, better control of inventory with the right software to control it, and ease in creating bundles or monthly subscription boxes.

“With our other 3PL, each process relied heavily on someone else needing to help us rather than feeling like we have control of our store — the exact opposite of our experience with ShipBob.”

Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.

Ryan believes that a 3PL’s aggregate volume can highlight economies of scale and you don’t have to lay fulfilment staff off yourself if a recession hits, as 3PLs have balance and are not just subject to one brand.

What are customer expectations around shipping for ecommerce COVID-19 orders?

There’s no doubt shipping times have gotten slower during COVID-19. Amazon went from 2-day shipping to having you wait more than a month. Shipping couriers have also experienced delays with increased demand and fewer people showing up for shifts.

“Amazon has definitely lowered consumer expectations right now. They are the gold standard for what people expect and set the stage for what consumers are expecting. In light of their slower shipping times, the sooner you can deliver, the better.”

Ryan Treft, Founder & Partner of Coalatree and Peejamas

Ryan believes once things go back to ‘normal’ with Amazon — which is supposedly soon — consumers will expect 2-day shipping again. This pandemic has seen Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales levels, but unlike peak season where logistics are planned for months in advance, this came out of nowhere and everyone has had to adjust as best they can.

What percentage of the total order value should be put towards an ecommerce COVID-19 advertising budget?

When trying to understand what a reasonable cost per sale value is, it will depend on your margins, products, and customer lifetime value.

Some brands can take a slight loss on a first purchase because they know they’ll get the second purchase. For example, if half of your new customers get in your subscription funnel, and that second purchase will at least cover your acquisition cost, then everything after that is icing on the cake.

If you don’t have a subscription option, find ways to re-engage first-time purchasers with seasonal offers. Ryan explains it further:

You can use Facebook and Instagram ads to attract shoppers, then Google Ads for retargeting, and a proper email system to make sure you’re capturing your audience. You can’t just send Facebook leads to a landing page; You need to have all pieces of the puzzle lined up. An efficient website captures their first purchase, then uses their phone number for SMS marketing, increases their LTV, and so on.

“Focus on profitability first, then slow and steady, you can chip away at other goals. You don’t need to 10x your sales each year. I think we will continue to see a huge shift in how people value ecommerce.”

Ryan Treft, Founder & Partner of Coalatree and Peejamas

Should I break into B2B or wholesale orders during COVID-19?

Our speakers recommended that you first grow your DTC brand, then once your reputation is solid, you’ve scaled, and are profitable, you can look at B2B.

“Hone in on DTC as long as you can. B2B is always going to be there. In today’s landscape, you don’t know if brick and mortar retailers are going to fold. I’d rather have a profitable $10 million ecommerce brand than a rocky $100 million business selling B2B.”

Ryan Treft, Founder & Partner of Coalatree and Peejamas

B2B could seem like the greatest thing, but it might end up being the worst. You don’t want to ship truckloads of goods to have $60k worth of preventable chargebacks because of the wrong labels, or have to wait 6 months to find out you didn’t even break even.

“Frito Lay, Pepsi Co, and other huge brands are pivoting and going online. That should be your sign to go direct to consumer, not B2B at this time.”

Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.

How to develop an ecommerce COVID-19 network

One of the single greatest things you can do as an ecommerce owner is develop a network you can bounce ideas off of people. Networking within the ecommerce realm is a huge value. Ask questions about apps, agencies, etc. You can end up saving thousands of dollars that way.

Gerard said there are benefits to having like-minded ecommerce founders in your circle. You can find them by being active on LinkedIn, in Shopify Plus site communities or Facebook Groups, on Twitter, and doing webinars like this. Ecommerce owners are passionate, and you have to put yourself out there.

Shopify community in Facebook Groups

It’s hard to grow and everything changes all the time. Even when things are going well, Ryan worries even more. But he’s always trying to learn and is open to having conversations with people even when he can’t always predict how it will benefit him.

Watch all of episode 8 below to hear more.

Aired on May 20, 2020. Featuring:

Episode 9 of ShipBob's COVID-19 ecommerce series

Should you outsource digital marketing and advertising to agencies during COVID-19?

There are pros and cons of outsourcing digital marketing compared to keeping it in-house. Lanie oversees digital at Kopari and manages a couple digital marketing firms for different channels, including one for paid social (Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok) and another one that handles paid search and display ads. This way, they don’t have all of their eggs in one basket and they work with the expert in each specialized channel.

“I always try to tap into what marketing firms are doing with their other clients. When you narrow your focus in on one brand, you don’t think outside the box as much. I ask what they are seeing with their other brands that’s working or not working. Ultimately, I don’t think we’re ever going to do it better or faster than they are.”

Lanie Depasquale, Director of Digital at Kopari Beauty

Content creation is always an issue, as channels constantly need content pumped out. Kopari has tried it in-house and came nowhere near the volume they needed to get out the door. So they partnered with MuteSix, who has their own in-house creative team and can turn around little nuggets of animated content quickly. Lanie decided she will always outsource that if the agency has multiple people working on content and can keep up with demand.

When finding agencies, they look for in-house creative as part of the portfolio and rely on referrals and word-of-mouth. Lanie is in a bunch of Slack and Facebook groups, where she can ask similar brands for advice. They were with an agency for a few years and lost the new-ness factor, so she knew it was time for them to move on and try something different.

The value of getting a fresh pair of eyes or minds cannot be overstated.

Lanie has found there’s more brand consistency in-house but there are also a lot of opinions and players. But what’s perfectly branded doesn’t always work. They’ve found they have to be a little flexible on messaging and brand. At the end of the day, they want a channel to be successful and efficient. If an ad works well but isn’t perfectly ‘on brand,’ that’s okay if it’s going to drive a sale.

When it comes to spending across channels, Kopari pulled back spend on anything that wasn’t efficient during the COVID-19 pandemic. For them, ads come down to sales or brand awareness and they want to invest in ads that drive a direct response in sales. They shifted to looking at customer payback and ROAS. Facebook is about 80% of all of their spend across channels because it’s that good at finding lookalike audiences.

Lanie warned against getting distracted by each new, cool channel, though an agency can help test it out and optimise it. Lanie also encourages a testing mentality, where if something doesn’t work, move onto the next one.

“Testing has been our lifeline. Try different things and A/B test everything. Your customers will tell you what they want and need. Get advice from a bunch of brands, but know that not everyone knows what they’re doing and not every idea will work.”

Lanie Depasquale, Director of Digital at Kopari Beauty

How has distribution matched ecommerce COVID-19 demand?

Kula Cloth has grown organically since the beginning. Anastasia shared that March sales were more than all of November and December sales combined from last peak season. Part of this ecommerce COVID-19 success comes from a unique use case of her product: a piece of hiking gear that is an antimicrobial pee cloth.

What was there a shortage of during the COVID-19 pandemic? Toilet paper. You can do the math.

Kula Cloth ecommerce business booming during COVID-19 amid toilet paper shortages

Demand for Kula Cloth surges amid toilet paper shortages

To keep up with demand, Anastasia credits her 3PL, ShipBob. She started off with in-house fulfilment but outsourced fulfilment when she hit rock bottom and found herself spending a vacation with a car full of inventory and constantly using her label printer.

“My business was growing too quickly for me to sustain a personal life. If a founder is spending the day packing envelopes, there are bigger picture things not getting done. Using a 3PL is something I can’t put a price on. The time savings are priceless.”

Anastasia Allison: Founder & CEO of Kula Cloth

Kula Cloth sells mostly through their website, but they do some custom Kulas. Everything is manufactured in the US including fabric with two production studios in Colourado and Pennsylvania.

Lanie explained that distribution for orders placed on Kopari’s website is handled separately from their B2B orders (Ulta, Free People, Nordstrom, etc.) and also their Amazon Prime orders. They have a lot of competition on Amazon, and said people who buy on Amazon are different buyers than their website.

“We let our website have the lead on products for three months before we add them to our Amazon catalogueue.”

Lanie Depasquale, Director of Digital at Kopari Beauty

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has gone through ups and downs in terms of delivery times for orders. Kopari uses FBA to get the Prime badge, but orders were taking months to get delivered so they switched to FBM as Amazon stopped giving preferential treatment to FBA in the Buy Box (because FBM could be fulfiled faster than FBA).

Kopari pulled spend back on Amazon for non-brand terms and only focused on branded searches during the coronavirus pandemic. This way, they are focusing most on what’s working and what’s efficient. Ultimately, Kopari works at increasing LTV and getting customers into their loyalty program, the Kopari Clique.

Lanie said Kppari has seen ebbs and flows, where people were adopting the ‘stock up and save’ mindset at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, then people began to settle into this new lifestyle. Demand for their DIY hair masks and coconut face masks have risen. In fact, their Coconut Melt product dipped off a while ago but blew up during the pandemic. They went through eight months of stock in a single month.

Kopari Beauty messages self-care in ecommerce products during COVID-19

Historical best-sellers and products that were collecting dust can be reversed at this time. Hand and hair hydrating products are doing well since people are washing their hands so much more and unable to go to salons.

Kopari is temporarily not shipping to other countries because it’s taking so long. They made this decision to save on customer inquiries and prevent international customers from having a bad experience (if customers expect to get it in a quicker time frame).

Anastasia has seen delays from couriers in other countries but said the process of shipping internationally to optimise costs has been easy. There’s no difference on her website for shipping all over the world, except adding tariff codes on products. Otherwise, ShipBob handles everything for her. Best of all, the price that ShipBob charges to ship internationally is less than it costs for her to print a USPS label herself.

Is influencer marketing a good ecommerce COVID-19 strategy?

There’s a company that Kopari looks to a lot for inspiration, who does a lot with micro influencers and the big influencers. While Lanie doesn’t know if they’ve had true success, they clearly invest a lot of money into influencer marketing. One thing that Lanie knows is that Kopari hasn’t been able to find success with influencers.

“Influencer marketing is such a mixed bag. We do direct response marketing, so we’re looking for a sale, not just brand awareness. We’ve tried different things with codes and links, but for the most part, influencer marketing hasn’t worked. Maybe 1 in 20 influencer campaigns have been ROI-positive.”

Lanie Depasquale, Director of Digital at Kopari Beauty

Lanie said a bunch of influencers would reach out and charge an arbitrary number (e.g., $2,000 – $5,000 per post), but Kopari wants to know and track the ROI. Lanie found that even influencers with agents didn’t have good solutions or understand that side of it. So she’s exploring affiliate marketing more than influencer marketing.

Some brands will simply pay and never look at how an influencer marketing campaign actually impacted their sales.

Rather than influencers, Anastasia works with those in her community and has become a leading voice in the space as well. She launched Kula Academy, which includes different events for her audience to join (mostly virtual these days). In it, they’re doing all sorts of fun and crazy things, simply encouraging people to have fun and enjoy where they are in their journey.

Kula Cloth's Academy and Events listing

Watch episode 9 below to hear more, including a violin solo from Anastasia and her advice for envisioning the next level of growth, how to bring more appreciation into your life, to keep giving and being of service to others, and to be kind.

Below are a few more frequently asked questions we’ve received.

Is it safe to order online during COVID-19?

Many consumers have moved to online shopping, which presents less risk than going in-store in terms of the spread of COVID-19. The coronavirus has been found to live on surfaces up to three days (depending on the type of packaging used). By the time you unbox an order, you are likely safe from the virus.

However, there are precautions you can take including waiting extra days to open boxes, wiping all surfaces with ammonia or alcohol-based products, sanitizing any areas of your home that came in contact with the package, and of course washing your hands after touching all materials.

What have been average COVID-19 ecommerce shipping delays?

Shipping couriers are more or less hitting their SLAs, with the average time in transit having only minor delays (with the exception of the temporarily restricted areas no one can ship to at this time). Check out this article from our partner Route to learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting ecommerce deliveries.

If you see 30-day delivery speeds when trying to order something on Amazon, this is due to them not accepting new inventory and holding off picking, packing, and getting orders out in a timely manner for non-essential products. Fulfilment has been the bottleneck with Amazon, and that’s a gap ShipBob is trying to solve.

ShipBob is fully operational at all fulfilment centres, provides proprietary software to our merchants, staffs our warehouses with our own employees, and powers our fulfilment network with our own proprietary warehouse management system.

While we prioritise the fulfilment of essentials and expedited services, you won’t experience any long delays with our ecommerce fulfilment services like you’re seeing on Amazon with non-essential products right now.

Can ShipBob help with ecommerce COVID-19 fulfilment?

Throughout this series, we’ve received a lot of questions about our fulfilment centres. With the COVID-19 pandemic, ShipBob’s fulfilment network remains fully operational. We’re taking all precautions to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus and keep our employees safe. If you need help fulfiling orders, request a fulfilment quote here. Learn more at our COVID-19 updates page.

Read our case study on how EnduroSport launched with ShipBob during the COVID-19 pandemic and started shipping in just nine days.

The fastest-growing and declining COVID-19 ecommerce categories

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ShipBob has shared sales data at the vertical level with the broader ecommerce industry. We are tracking week-over-week and month-over-month trends. The following first-party shipping data is aggregated from over 3,000 ecommerce merchants who collectively ship out millions of items every month through our fulfilment centres.

See below for what online shopping during COVID-19 has looked like.

Which verticals have seen their best ecommerce sales day since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Baby products have had the single best day for online shopping during COVID-19 back in mid-March.

Baby products ecommerce COVID-19 sales

Which verticals have been able to exceed their pre-COVID-19 ecommerce revenue?

Baby products, sports and fitness equipment, beauty products, and food and beverage items have all seen an increase in ecommerce sales since COVID-19 began. See category growth below.

How are baby products selling online throughout COVID-19?

Deemed ‘essential’ items, baby products saw a huge spike in online shopping during COVID-19, dating back to early March when many parts of the US began to shut down.

Baby products ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: +693.85% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: -27.10% WoW

How are online nutrition sales looking during COVID-19?

With people stuck inside and eating whatever is in the house, many consumers still want nutrition products to supplement their meals and also provide an immunity boost. Nutrition products have had very consistent ecommerce sales throughout COVID-19, similar to or just slightly lower than levels seen before the crisis began.

Nutrition product ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: -0.2% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +8.82% WoW

What do food and beverage ecommerce sales look like amid COVID-19?

While grocery stores have seen a huge surge in sales since the pandemic began, there are still many people who are buying food and beverages online as restaurants remain closed. Online shopping during COVID-19 has definitely included food and drinks.

  • Month-over-month sales: +12.4% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: -6.0% WoW

What are beauty and personal care ecommerce sales like with COVID-19?

Since salons, barbers, and other spa-like businesses have closed around the country, many consumers are forced to do their hair, nails, and skincare routines themselves. As such, we’ve seen a surge in beauty and personal care online shopping during COVID-19.

Beauty and personal care product ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: +64.57% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +62.69% WoW

What have apparel and accessory ecommerce sales been like with COVID-19 going on?

While brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to sell their clothing and accessories as physical stores are shut down, ecommerce sales for apparel has been a little more stable since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

  • Month-over-month sales: +20.41% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +62.46% WoW

How are ecommerce sales for electronics doing in the COVID-19 pandemic?

While lots of people are jumping into virtual meetings and using more software and apps to stay connected in a time where quarantining is practiced by the majority, the market for electronics and hardware originally saw a dip in ecommerce sales but has rebounded a bit in recent weeks.

Electronics ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: +9.43% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +71.72% WoW

What does the toys and games market look like during the ecommerce COVID-19 pandemic?

With families stuck at home with ever-extending shelter-in-place orders, ecommerce sales of toys and games has been on the rise despite an initial slump. While these products are more seasonal in nature, with Q4 being their time to shine, in recent weeks consumers have been online shopping for them to stay occupied during COVID-19.

Toys and games ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: +66.51% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +21.88% WoW

How are sport and fitness ecommerce sales holding up during COVID-19?

While gyms have closed across the country and even professional athletes can’t participate in their sports, there are still many people who are trying to do at-home workouts to get some activity in. As a result, sport and fitness product online shopping during COVID-19 has overall been on the rise. Being stuck inside and not moving a lot has had a similar effect on people as the beginning of a new year when people want to set a New Year’s resolution.

  • Month-over-month sales: +112.23% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: -7.61% WoW

How are jewelleryecommerce sales doing with COVID-19 going on?

In a transformed world full of Zoom meetings filled with people in their sweats and rarely leaving the house, few consumers are wearing jewellerythese days — and the ecommerce sales data show it. Jewelry sales have fallen dramatically with less people doing online shopping during COVID-19.

Jewelry ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: -39.57% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +0.85% WoW

How are ecommerce sales for household goods looking during COVID-19?

Being stuck in your home all day means you need items such as kitchen products, linens, and furniture. The market for household goods has seen consistent sales and online shopping during COVID-19.

Household goods ecommerce COVID-19 sales

  • Month-over-month sales: -2.36% MoM
  • Week-over-week sales: +2.81% WoW

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Written By:

Kristina is the Sr. Director of Marketing Communications at ShipBob, where she writes various articles, case studies, and other resources to help ecommerce brands grow their business.

Read all posts written by Kristina Lopienski