Dropshipping and Coronavirus - Everything You Need To Know About Covid-19, Ecommerce and Dropshipping

Find out exactly how Coronavirus will impact your dropshipping business & how to run a successful ecommerce store in the age of Covid-19.

Fintan Meagher
Fintan Meagher
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The spread of Covid-19 is having a massive impact on dropshipping. Here’s what you need to know & what you can do to weather the storm. PLACEHOLDER

Important: This article is for informational purposes only. For definitive and health-related information regarding the COVID-19 crisis, please consult your local or national health service.

Coronavirus is spreading at a devastating rate across the globe and impacting the day to day lives of everyone.

People are suffering and businesses of all sizes from local corner shops to international conglomerates are facing an uncertain road ahead.

Every day we’re bombarded by more doom and gloom; supply chains grinding to a halt, mass unemployment, governments imposing strict regulations on citizens and the number of infections creeping up day by day.

For dropshippers and the entrepreneurial community, this is an unprecedented time. It’s easy to be discouraged. If you’re doubtful or worried about the future, that’s totally normal. It’s ok to be apprehensive and feel overwhelmed.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, we wanted to share what you need to know about Covid-19 from a dropshipping perspective. Our aim is to get you up to speed while also shifting the focus from focusing on things that are out of your control, to focusing on things that are within your control.

Just because this is a time of crisis, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for growth or progress. Every cloud has a silver lining and as the great Napoleon Hill once said:

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

With that in mind, let’s jump in and grab these turbulent times by the horns.

What You Need To Know

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What Does The Coronavirus Mean for Dropshippers?

The coronavirus is causing many governments to prioritise public health which has so far resulted in the temporary closure of many manufacturing facilities and disruption to normal logistics services.

This means that your shipping times will likely be greatly increased and some of your orders may have to be cancelled.

You can expect to see an increase in the number of customer support tickets as customers begin to wonder about the whereabouts of their packages. Even if you’re shipping from the US or Europe, domestic disruptions to postal services are to be expected over the coming weeks.

On the flip side, more people are turning to eCommerce to meet their shopping needs. Social media use is skyrocketing too as people are forced to stay in their homes. Some advertisers are seeing increases of up to 76% engagement on their digital campaigns.

When Are Factories Going To Be Open Again?

Factory closures took place throughout January and February in China. Some manufacturers have since returned to production again. As of April 2020, factories are beginning to re-open and regular service is on its way to being resumed.

The residual economic impact is still being felt and many logistics companies are operating at a reduced capacity or have paused their operations altogether.

Air transport has also been severely impacted. Some European countries have imposed restrictions on incoming packages until mid-April.

As a result, many carriers are cancelling their services due to an insufficient supply of passengers and cargo.

Other countries such as the US have imposed travel bans on passenger travel which may impact cargo transport too.

Can My Packages Spread The Virus to Customers?

Many dropshippers are worried that the nature of their business may risk perpetuating the spread of COVID-19.

However, according to the CDC , there’s little evidence to support the theory that coronavirus can be transmitted through imported goods or packages.

"Because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” says the CDC.

In addition, Elizabeth McGraw, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University told NPR in an interview that: "There is no evidence from any previous outbreak that anyone has ever gotten infected from a package,"

Therefore, it’s extremely unlikely that sending packages from China represents a danger to the health of postal workers, your customers or their families.

Will Customers Be Afraid of My Packages?

Some customers may be dissuaded from ordering products that they believe are coming to form the virus’ origin country.

Even though the perception that packages from China can act as disease vectors is incorrect, there’s little you can do to prevent such fears.

It may be helpful to point customers who are concerned about the origin of their packages to the above resources.

But most likely you may have to end up cancelling some of your orders if your customers don’t realise where their order is coming from before making a purchase.

What You Can Do Right Now

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In these testing times, with so much going on that’s outside of our control, it’s easy to feel powerless.

That’s why it’s crucial to focus on what you can do. Here’s an action plan to help your business right now:

Contact Your Suppliers

In times of crisis, communication is crucial. Get in touch with your suppliers to get an understanding of how things are looking from their end. They’re business owners just like you and will be best placed to give estimates about when things will be back to full service.

If you’ve been in business for some time, it may be possible to get a bulk shipment sent out by your supplier to a domestic fulfilment centre based that can serve your target market without disruption.

While you’ll have to front up some capital to make this happen, as well as sacrifice a portion of your margin to the fulfilment centre, it’s a better scenario than having to shut up shop entirely.

Get In-Touch With Your Customers

Honesty is always the best policy, especially when times get tough. If you’re dealing with shipping problems, let your customers know in good time. Most customers know that these are exceptional times and understand that delays are not surprising.

It’s best to use all channels; email, social website etc. to make sure the SMS message is hammered home and nobody’s left feeling like they’ve been duped. Add a banner to your store and a note to each order confirmation email to let customers know what they can expect.

For individual orders, it’s important to provide impeccable customer support. Apologize for the difficulties they’re experiencing and maybe even offer compensation such as store credit for having to wait weeks for their order.

If you’ve got an unusually large number of support tickets coming in, you might even consider taking on a freelancer from somewhere like UpWork or Fiverr to help you clear your inbox and keep customers informed.

Look For Alternate Suppliers

If your current supplier is out of operation or shipping is so disrupted that your orders aren’t viable, consider looking for an alternative supplier.

It might be a supplier from a different country or a different region that’s less affected by the disruption caused by COVID-19.

In your SaleSource account, you can quickly compare all of the suppliers who are currently offering your product.

Contact them all and see if you can locate one who can provide better service. Even if your margins take a bit of hit, it’s worth it to avoid outrageously long shipping times.

Think Twice About Scaling

Many advertisers have reeled in their media spending over the last few weeks. This makes lower CPMs look like an attractive opportunity.

However, if you’re having supply issues the last thing you want to do is take on a bunch of new orders. Right at the moment, banking on getting orders shipped from China is a risk.

Trust us, if you can’t fulfil orders in a reasonable amount of time you’re only creating a massive headache for yourself in a couple of days (and a one-way ticket to charge-back city)

If you’re just starting out, it’s fine to test a couple of products to discover winners that you can scale once the Covid-19 crisis is averted. But given the risks at the time of writing, I’d advise against trying to scale to crazy to numbers. Save that success for later.

What You Can Do Over The Coming Weeks

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One upside to this crisis is that many of us have extra free time on our hands. As any entrepreneur will tell you, when used correctly, time is your most valuable asset.

So, instead of binging on Netflix or mindlessly scrolling Instagram, here’s what you can do over the coming weeks to make the most of the current situation:

Build Your Social Media Following

When you have a killer following across your social media platforms, you can bring in sales organically, build valuable social proof and dramatically improve your profitability.

Building an engaged following takes time and thankfully these days that’s in ample supply. Here are some things you can try:

  • Open a new social media account that you previously haven’t explored (e.g. Pinterest)
  • Build a network of brand ambassadors to promote your product
  • Run giveaways or competitions for store credit or other unique gifts
  • Thoughtfully respond to everyone who comments on your posts
  • Map out your next six month’s worth of social content
  • Create new and interesting content using design tools like Canva

Organically building your social media following is tough. But put in the work and when the coronavirus slowdown eventually blows over, you’ll be enjoying the profitable fruits of your labour.

Optimise Your Website

Website speed is something that many dropshippers overlook when times are good. But the data shows that it’s at their own peril.

In fact, a recent study showed that website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.4% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5). Yikes.

So, spend some time working with a developer to get your website up to speed. At the very minimum, you should make sure that all site images are compressed.

Other aspects of your site to consider optimising are:

  • Your site’s visual appeal
  • Your site’s navigation
  • The copy on your webpages
  • The quality of images on your site

Working to ensure all these elements are on-point will pay huge dividends in terms of your conversion rate once you start running regular traffic to your site again.

Work On Neglected Aspects Of Your Marketing

Lots of dropshippers focus on just one traffic source to drive sales and revenue. Now is the perfect time to expand your marketing horizons and explore other channels that might prove lucrative in the future.

Plus, if you ever plan on selling your store, having two traffic-sources greatly increases the value of your business.

For example, you could spend time building your email list or setting up post-purchase email automation that ends-up increasing your customer lifetime value by 15%.

Or maybe you could start writing a daily blog to boost your SEO as well as providing killer value to your audience and build a tribe around your brand.

There are multiple ways you can market your products. It’s up to you to create a rounded revenue-pumping marketing machine that’s ready for action once your supply lines re-open.

Level-Up Your Skills

Learning new stuff is always a great idea, especially when you’ve got extra time on your hands. The great news is that there’s a tremendous amount of resources on the internet that can help you improve both your personal life and your business life too.

Here’s a selection of 5 free resources that will help you put your extra time to good use by becoming a better digital entrepreneur:

  • HubSpot Academy Certified Marketing Courses
  • Google Skillshop
  • Facebook Blueprint Course
  • Moz SEO Learning Center
  • Shopify Academy

As well as using your time for learning, make sure to look after yourself too. Remember that you don’t have to spend every last minute being as productive as you possibly can.

Keep a routine where possible, make the effort to exercise, eat a balanced diet and get some headspace by giving yourself some well-earned chill-out time too.

What Are The Best Products to Dropship During the Crisis?

Lots of people are thinking about starting a business now, many for very different reasons.

Many desire to live the dropship lifestyle - requiring only a laptop and an internet connection to make a living and a killing.

If you’re looking to set up a ‘business’ with short-term growth potential selling products that exploits people’s anxieties and runs ads that’ll get you banned on facebook, then this section isn’t for you.

People have enough stuff to worry about these days. The last thing all of us need is folks trying to profit off those fears.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking to start a real business with long-term growth potential that uses ethical marketing practices and delivers genuine value to your customers, then keep reading.

That’s because entrepreneurs who think long-term and about how they can improve the lives of others are what the economy needs right now. Ultimately, they’re also the ones who’ll be the most successful.

So, to that end here’s 10 ethical business ideas for dropshipping success in these uncertain times:

1. Home Exercise Equipment

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With gyms shutting down across the globe, people are going to look for other ways that they can keep in shape, especially with summer just around the corner.

Home exercise equipment, such as resistance bands, is going to help people reach their fitness goals and feel good about themselves even if they can’t go outside.

2. Cosywear

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With people spending so much time indoors, there’s no need to get dressed up anymore. And on the couch, comfort is king. Selling cosy clothes, such as a hooded blanket or comfy slippers, will help people chill out and de-stress around the house.

3. Home Office Equipment

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Lots of people are now finding themselves working from home. For many, especially first-time remote workers, staying productive it can be difficult. Working from your bed with a cat isn’t ideal.

Home office equipment such as wireless keyboards or cable organises helps people to create a work environment that lets them get more done.

4. Kitchen Tools

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With so much free time on their hands, and restaurants closed, people are going to be doing a whole lot more cooking. Kitchen tools, such as baking moulds are a fun, family activity that help to create a welcome feeling of normalcy.

5. Men’s Grooming Equipment

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With all the barbers closed, there’s going to be a lot of men who’ll want to take their grooming into their own hands. Hair trimmers will help give customers a feeling of control over their situation as well as the confidence that comes with looking sharp.

To really add value, why not get in touch with your local barber and have them film a self-hair clipping tutorial that your customers can download when they purchase a product?

6. Pet Toys

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7. At-Home Hobbies

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With all the extra time on people’s hands, many are going to be looking for a new hobby to keep themselves occupied. Think about things like knitting, painting, drawing, crochet and writing.

Products that help people get off social media and use their hands in the real world will help calm stress levels and might even spawn etsy side hustles of their own.

If you already do an at-home hobby, you’ll be able to provide tips, tricks and guides on how beginners can improve their craft!

8. Running Accessories

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Running is one of the best ways the people can clear their head at the moment and its popularity is only set to increase. But running isn’t always the easiest.

That’s why running accessories like this hands free dog leash are an excellent way to help customers get more from their daily exercise.

9. Meditation Cushions

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Meditation is the perfect antidote to the worries of these turbulent times and more people are discovering it’s amazing benefits. Meditation cushions are a great way to enhance your customer’s practice by allowing them to practice with more intention and better posture.

To add real value, why not pair up with your local buddhist centre or mindfulness school to develop a virtual six-week coronavirus meditation course that customers receive when they make a purchase?

10. Cocktail Kits

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Bringing together our theme of normalcy, with the ideas of at-home hobbies and kitchen accessories we have cocktail making kits.

With all bars closed, many people are turning to video chat for social interaction. Cocktail kits don’t just let people have great drinks, but they make virtual hanging out more of a special occasion - something which is otherwise missing these days.

Why not develop a downloadable PDF or video course that trains people to become their own at-home bartenders? You could even create a private facebook community where your customers can share tips, recipes and pictures of their latest tipple.

So there’s 10 ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

If you’re running a general store you might consider adding some of these products to your store or if one product shopify store is more your thing then you can set up an entirely new store and build a brand around that.

If you’re brand new, you can learn how to set up a store from scratch here.

Seek Financial Assistance

Governments around the world are announcing relief packages to help businesses who’ve been impacted by the spread of Covid-19.

What’s more, many private companies such as Google and Amazon are developing programmes designed to help businesses get through this tough time.

So, check with your government or local authority to see if you're eligible for financial assistance should you need it. For more information, see here.

In Summary

Despite the restrictions that many of us are feeling due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s still plenty of things you can do to improve (or start) your dropshipping businesses.

Using your time wisely to focus on the things within your control such as improving your website, learning new marketing skills and building your social presence will see you emerge from the other side of this crisis stronger than ever.

Stay safe, stay productive and stay hungry.

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Fintan Meagher
Fintan Meagher
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