How to Maintain eCommerce During Coronavirus

My Post - 2020-03-27T115752.517.pngWhile public health has to be the number one priority during the Coronavirus pandemic, eCommerce companies should be making plans to maintain their business during the current economic volatility. With large scale disruption likely, companies will likely face problems with supply and demand that can seriously impact cash flow. To put your business in the best position it can be, here are some things you may wish to consider.

Product availability issues

As an eCommerce company, you cannot operate if you do not have products to sell. The widescale effects of Coronavirus in China, the origin of so many products and components, means that the supply of many retail goods has already dwindled.

As the pandemic spreads and other countries see reductions in manufacturing capacity, supply is only going to get worse. In all likelihood, employee illness, factory closures and travel restrictions will mean that the products eCommerce companies want to sell will be manufactured at a lower rate and be delivered significantly later.

What then can eCommerce companies do to continue their operations? One solution is to start sourcing these products in areas that haven’t been widely affected by the virus and as time goes on, to look at areas where its impact has receded. Having multiple sources also means you don’t lose your entire supply if one manufacturer or wholesaler goes out of action. Sourcing products domestically can also be helpful as they will not face the same shipping disruption as imported goods.

Product cost issues

With fewer manufacturers or wholesalers working at capacity, many of them are taking advantage of scarcity by increasing their prices. In particular, these companies are prioritising customers who are putting in large orders and paying inflated prices. Smaller eCommerce companies, unfortunately, have been put to the back of the supply queue.

To keep supply going, smaller eCommerce companies may have to look at a wider range of suppliers and accept the higher prices being charged. Whether this cost can be absorbed or passed onto the customer depends on how well-stocked your competitors were before the pandemic began and how well they can absorb the increased costs of new stock themselves.

Cashflow issues

The effects of supply disruption, higher prices and a possible drop in orders means cash flow will be a major concern for all eCommerce companies. To cope with this, businesses will need to reduce spending and find other ways to increase income. With product scarcity likely to be common, there will be less choice for customers. One possible solution that arises from this is to hold on to items that would previously have been put in the sales and to continue selling them at full price to maintain margins.

Another area of consideration is advertising. If there are items in your inventory that are not going to sell because of Coronavirus, travel-related items, for example, then there is little point spending money on advertising them. With all advertising, eCommerce companies need to ensure that ROI is providing the value they need. Focussing on SEO and content marketing to improve organic traffic and shifting towards email marketing which doesn’t have a high acquisition cost, are all ways to bring about efficiencies that can help cash flow over the short term. – Read more

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How to Maintain Customer Relationships While Working Remotely

My Post - 2020-03-26T124800.644.pngMy job is to ensure every customer gets the most value out of Salesforce, but my passion is establishing and building trust. As the Chief Adoption Officer, I spend more than half my time meeting with customers all around the world. It’s that face-to-face interaction that helps me help them.

On any given day, I’m landing in a new city with a packed schedule, shuffling from plane to car to client meeting to hotel and then back the other way. That all changed overnight.

As worries over the coronavirus escalated, out of an abundance of caution, Salesforce asked many of us to start working from home. I went from knowing where I was going to be every single day for the next four months to scrambling to set up my next meeting… over video.

So what should sales leaders do to deepen our connection with customers during a time when digital communication becomes the form of communication? What do we tell our teams when they’re cooped up at home? And how do we be there for our people without physically being there?

Below are a few practices I’ve implemented these past few weeks to maintain strong customer relationships and build new ones, even while I’m not out on the road. I hope that by sharing, you too will be able to strengthen your bonds during these trying times.

1. Listen to your team

Let’s be realistic. Your team members aren’t going to be thinking about how they can help their customers if they’re worried about what’s happening at home.

First and foremost, focus on building an inclusive, empathetic culture from the top down. Your team is watching to see how you react. Show them you care. Open up a team call or one-on-one with a personal story and invite them to share their own.  Then probe deeper: How can I help? What boundaries can I respect? What are the things we should all agree on as a team?

One of the first things I did at home was organize a call twice a week with my team just to talk. This led us to create a Quip doc, where we could collect our thoughts and share what we’ve learned. You can also try inviting people to virtual happy hour. You’d be surprised to find how nice it feels – even when it’s just 15 minutes in front of a webcam.

At Salesforce, we’re helping our employees redefine their work through a variety of tools and channels – but no matter what technology you have at your disposal, every leader can be empathetic and listen. That creates team members who are ready to do the same.

2. Listen to your customers

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This is a time for deep listening. It’s important now more than ever. Remind your teams to really hear what their customers are concerned about and to show that they’re really there for them.

How do you do this? Set up a virtual coffee. Talk about what they’re facing. Brainstorm how to work together. Propose ideas that could solve their problems now.

One customer recently told us they needed an emergency preparedness portal to communicate with their customers. Our team turned around a prototype in two days. That customer may or may not ultimately sign a deal with us, but they’ll remember we helped them when they needed it most.

While many things feel uncertain right now, people still need to do business. Contracts are still being written. And pain points still need to be solved. Listen to your customers with empathy, and you’ll end up creating true value for them. – Read more

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4 Ways to Prepare Your Application for Remote Workers

My Post - 2020-03-26T115832.340.pngCompanies all across the world are adjusting to new working from home policies and are taking precaution to limit the impact diseases are having on the lives of employees and customers. The virus has created a ripple effect impacting everything from a visit to the local grocery store to countless conference cancellations. And the world became aware of this crisis only a little over a month ago. Tech companies have responded by asking, and even requiring, employees to work remotely. The CEO of Zoom Communications stated publicly that usage is at an all-time high, most likely due to restrictions on travel.

For companies that deliver applications that enable remote work and collaboration, this has obvious implications. To enable a sudden and potentially sustained burst of utilization, there needs to be a business continuity plan. Executives at these companies must be asking:

  1. How do we keep our employees safe and productive?
  2. How do we continue to meet SLAs as usage increases?
  3. What is our capacity planning strategy?
  4. For incidents that do occur, are we adequately prepared to address them?
  5. As the utilization of services increases, what is the impact on margins?

Indeed, these questions should be top of mind for those companies in the remote workspace, but even companies who now may have larger employee counts working remotely on in-house applications face similar challenges.

These are questions we’re thinking about here at Splunk, where we treat data as the fuel that helps us make better decisions.

From a technical operations perspective, we’ve identified 4 areas where companies can find these answers:

  1. Measure what matters
  2. Drive standardization of tools
  3. Employ an effective escalation policy
  4. Make learning a part of the process

Measure What Matters

Access to accurate, discoverable, and timely data is what drives collaborative planning and response. Even in the era of the cloud, resources are not limitless. It is critical to develop a deep understanding of infrastructure utilization and how application changes over time have affected performance and reliability, particularly when capacity planning. However, baseline analysis doesn’t adequately safeguard against future incidents. An effective metrics system will be capable of firing an alert within seconds, ensuring fast mean-time-to-acknowledge (MTTA) and detection (MTTD). Distributed tracing has become the go-to debugging approach for more complex application architectures, where multiple services are called to fulfill individual requests. Its effectiveness in identifying causality during incidents can also help technical teams better understand the overall impact on application performance by aggregating metadata contained within the traces to produce tag-specific SLIs.

Drive Standardization of Tools

Unfamiliarity with tools and data sets used across teams creates a huge obstacle in driving responsiveness and cross-team collaboration. It is not uncommon for two teams to produce different metrics from the same datasets. The more tools, the more likely one will encounter data that is or may appear inconsistent. Time will be spent debating dashboard and data validity, rather than focusing on capacity planning and updating runbooks. When something does go wrong, the last thing the incident manager wants to run into are conflicting tools and dashboards. As open-source data collection grows in popularity, and IT Operations companies grow the breadth of offerings, there are more options than ever to collapse the observability stack. – Read more

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