The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed companies to rethink their business models. While e-commerce was in a much better position than any other industry to face this challenge, they also had to undertake certain steps to effectively operate in the new reality.
Not only did they have to meet the growing demand for online shopping, but they also had to come up with completely new products like lockdown beauty kits and COVID-19 testing booths to satisfy current purchasing patterns.
In the following article, we’re going to share with you how 10 e-commerce companies including Room, Zay, and Buymie pivoted their business to better meet the needs of their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Keep Your City Smiling
A Seattle-based startup previously known as The Snap Bar sells city-specific gift boxes supporting small businesses struck by COVID-19.
Prior to the pandemic, they provided virtual photo booths, event boxes, and branded selfie strands for in-person and virtual events. The Snap Bar lost all their customers within a week, which pushed the founders into launching a whole new business – a gift box service Keep the City Smiling.
The gift boxes include goods collected from local businesses such as snacks, artwork, coffee mugs, etc. and are sold directly to both B2B and B2C consumers. The assortment differs from city to city, depending on the local specialities.
The majority of their clients are based in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland. Keep the City Smiling also prepared a special gift box for healthcare workers in recognition of their work during the pandemic.
The team used Google and Etsy to locally source products for their boxes. They also asked businesses they already cooperated with to spread the word among other similar businesses so that their products can also be included in the offer.
Within a month from launching the service, the brand got $100,000 in sales and dropped the gift box’s price from $75 to $65. Overall, the pivot was a spectacular success.
Room provides office phone booths used for solo phone calls, virtual meetings, or to get some quiet work time. They’re made of recyclable materials, they’re soundproof, ventilated, and modular.
As a way of contributing to the COVID-19 fight and protecting healthcare workers, Room reimagined their product and started producing Test Booths. They modified their regular phone booths and turned them into rapid testing units.
Since they’re made of three walls of unused plexiglass recycled from office phone booths, they are easy to clean and disinfect. You can move them around and assemble them within 30 minutes.
The booth also includes built-in medical gloves and a shelf for placing essential equipment.
Not only does it help with rapid COVID-19 testing but also effectively protects medical staff from contracting the virus.
Selling office phone booths during the pandemic became extremely difficult due to an increasing number of companies adopting remote work. By expanding on their target audience to include healthcare, Room managed to offset the negative consequences that COVID-19 has brought on their business.
Zay is a Kuwaiti luxury e-commerce fashion platform, founded in 2019 by Sara N. AlAteeqi, focusing on sustainability and rentals. The main idea behind launching the company was to empower women to have a say in minimizing environmental waste by the simple everyday activity of growing their closet.
Prior to COVID-19 the store operated like any other online store. However, the pandemic has forced ZAY to pivot its business into a commissioned marketplace platform.
“I decided to turn my current problem into a ‘we’ solution by offering our platform (both our app and website) to small businesses to sell for 0% commission for two months... This way, we created a network effect for all those small businesses joining and helped ourselves along with our extended community grow instead of shutter during this crisis.”
Based in Dublin, Buymie is a mobile app for ordering groceries with same day delivery. All you have to do is choose your preferred store and select all the products that you need. The Buymie team will pick the best ones and will deliver them to you at your most convenient time.
As the demand for online grocery shopping has grown due to COVID-19, Buymie, with its new strategy for expansion, has managed to close another round of funding.
This helped them expand their operations to account for spiking demand. They partnered up with Lidl in Ireland and the Co-op in the UK – they also deliver products from Tesco. Buymie serves over 490,000 households across Dublin and in parts of Kildare and Wicklow.
They’re also planning an expansion into another 15 UK cities. Devan Hughes, the startup’s founder, has said that Buymie experienced a 300% increase in app downloads and a lot of its delivery slots have been booked six to seven days in advance during the pandemic.
M.A.C is a Canadian cosmetics manufacturer with an annual turnover of $1 billion and over 500 independent stores worldwide. The company, like many others, had to close most of its stores and move its operations online.
M.A.C realized that as consumers moved from shopping in-store to shopping online they’d have to find a way to enable them to try on the make-up. They pivoted a technology they already owned – a virtual try-on. The company upgraded the tool with new subcategories and has seen a three-fold increase in engagement post-COVID.
Additionally to moving their sales online, M.A.C Cosmetics has revived its “Viva Glam” campaign, which started during the AIDS crisis.
They planned to relaunch it in April, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve decided to pivot it into a coronavirus-specific campaign and to launch it earlier. The brand introduced special lipstick shades, with profits from VIVA GLAM lipstick purchases (without VAT) going to organizations that help vulnerable communities including those affected by the pandemic. They donated $10 million to 250 of those organizations around the globe.
Rosie on Fire is a UK-based online apparel store that offers high-end ladies’ fashion. Launched in 2013, the brand has branches in the UK, Canada, and Malaysia. When the Coronavirus pandemic began, the brand was well on its way towards launching its first offline store and beauty bar in Kuala Lumpur.
When the lockdown commenced, Rosie on Fire decided to go beyond simply optimizing the delivery experience.
They introduced a new, lockdown-related line, SuperCleen, which features items like hand sanitizers and gloves. They also partnered up with a London startup called Jed.ai and created a brand called SupplyDrop, which helps isolated people emulate real-life social events like birthdays or engagement parties. Some of their pandemic-related kits include ‘The Big Hug’, ‘The Graduation’, and ‘The Date Night’.
At Home is a popular home decor company with over 200 superstores across the US. The company offers a wide variety of interior design and furniture at all budgets. After the pandemic outbreak, the company suspended all new store openings and temporarily put the majority of its brick-and-mortar stores on furlough.
However, clients were encouraged to shop through the At Home e-commerce platform and were given the option to pick up their items from their local store. Customers can decide on in-store pickup (which, as of April 2020, was available at over half of all At Home locations) or can arrange curbside, contactless pickup (i.e., a store employee delivers the items directly into the client’s car’s trunk).
The company has also expanded its cooperation with logistics company PICKUPto enable next-day, contactless delivery from over 125 stores country-wide.
At Home CEO Lee Bird announced that the company will further invest in their online store and quick delivery options, should the pandemic’s end be nowhere in sight.
8. Naples Soap
Naples Soap is a US natural cosmetics company that launched in 2009 as an online store. As of 2020, the brand had over 10 retail locations in Florida and a network of global wholesalers. Prior to COVID-19, both of these distribution channels were the company’s main source of income.
When the pandemic struck, Naples Soap – like many other companies – worked effortlessly towards redirecting their offline customers to their online store. They have also decided to cater to the soaring market demand for hand sanitizer, all the while targeting their high-end customer. As a result, they have launched a premium line of anti-viral hand gel, spray, and food rinse. Source: Naples Soap
Introducing the new products and prioritizing the online store have paid off – according to eMarketer, Naples Soap sales have tripled just between March and April 2020 alone.
Joyride is a New York-based specialty coffee provider founded in 2011 by three coffee enthusiasts. The business initially operated from the back of a food truck, and has, over the years, grown into a popular quality coffee provider for B2B customers.
When the pandemic started, Joyride found themselves stranded, incapable of making revenue due to mass office closure. However, the company did not wait long to act and they decided to redesign their online messaging so that it’s tailored to individual clients.
As of July 2020, the company focuses its efforts on B2C customers with door-to-door delivery. They have also introduced a new product with a long shelf life – Joyride Boxed Cold Brew.
In an interview for Vending Marketwatch, Joyride co-Founder Adam Belanich stated that:
"COVID-19 may have taken the team out of the office, but it hasn't taken Joyride's core values out of the team. I'm seeing our core values of ‘Innovate Big and Small,' and ‘EnJoy the Ride' exemplified each and every day."
DUER is a Vancouver-based apparel company which started off as an online fashion store in 2013. Over time, the brand has grown its offline presence and has reached over 1000 wholesalers and retail outlets worldwide.
When COVID-19 struck, DUER were launching their spring campaign – their items had already been shipped to outlets and partner businesses all over the globe. However, their sales plummeted by 70% in March, when most stores were forced to close. DUER decided to focus, once again, on its online outlet as the only stable sales channel. The lockdown has also triggered the company to finalize a business pivot they have already been considering before the pandemic.
Namely, they decided to reduce garment production and the number of unsold items, all the while increasing store variety. They have introduced more styles and colors on their website, however, these would only become available for purchase if enough people showed interest. Once a design is accepted for production upon popular demand, it can be shipped to customers within 4 to 6 weeks.
Apart from saving on garment production, the introduction of product prototypes to the website also allowed DUER to reduce the brand’s carbon footprint and decrease water waste.
As a result of these actions, DUER was able to keep its clientele engaged during the lockdown – its e-commerce sales have exceeded pre-coronavirus estimates by 25 percent.
E-commerce after the coronavirus outbreak
When the COVID-19 pandemic started worldwide in early Q2 2020, many e-commerce companies noticed they needed to quickly capitalize on the growing online traffic.
Customers who could previously choose between offline and online shopping experiences were now confined to the latter solution. However, such a turn of events didn’t guarantee soaring online sales to all businesses and e-commerces still needed to put in the work to convince customers to buy through their online channels.
Many companies have prioritized pickup and delivery options by offering quick in-store or contactless curbside delivery. Others have also decided to introduce new products – COVID-19-related items like hand sanitizer and gloves, as well as fashion styles, colors, and washes available exclusively online.
If the pandemic lasts beyond 2020, we can expect e-commerce companies to further optimize their delivery chains, production costs, and to prioritize their online shopping experiences.