Retailers, Keep a Cool Head During Snowy Times

January 27, 2015

The Northeast region is braced for snowy conditions of historic proportions. If you’re a retailer with warehouses in the corridor between DC and Maine, then you’ve likely got a lot on your mind — and your to-do list.

In addition to making sure your household is ready, you also need to run through a preparedness checklist to make sure your business weathers the storm with ease. Here are five tips for e-commerce retailers to keep in mind during bad weather:

  1. Focus on Basic Survival: With any extreme weather, the infrastructure needed to fulfill your orders will be stressed at a minimum, or completely stopped at worst. You don’t want negative feedback and late shipment rate metrics to suffer and put your account standing at risk, so it’s best to inflate your regular shipping lead time (i.e., handling) by a couple of days. As a safe bet, add one to three days to your handling time to cover any weather delays.
  2. Anticipate Outages: If you’re in a region expected to have power outages, whiteouts or road closures, then expect your business to feel the effects. To best protect your store from negative reviews and underperforming seller metrics like defects on eBay or late shipments on Amazon, go ahead and set your store to a suspended status.
    • For eBay: If you’re a Store owner, turn on vacation mode with a message, which will let prospective buyers know that you’re away and the date when you plan to return. Items can still be purchased, but Fixed Price listings will be hidden from search. You can even consider pulling down your live listings from eBay and putting them back up after the storm passes. Another option: Add a message to your eBay description template that mentions how the snowy conditions could affect delivery times. This could also reduce your risk of negative feedback.
    • For Amazon: You can set your listings to an inactive status. Once you do this, they’ll be removed from search within an hour. Note that any Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) listings will still be available for purchase on Amazon. (Another perk of FBA!) As conditions start to clear and you know that your shipping carrier can pick up orders the next day, go ahead and reactivate your store.
  3. Stay Updated: Keep a pulse on the weather and make sure to make any updates to your handling times or store status before you’re stuck without the (literal) power to make changes. Make your handling time adjustments early on, and if reports about infrastructure trend badly, then consider turning your listings to inactive and using vacation statuses. Bottom line: Keep up with the news and turn an ear toward The Weather Channel.
  4. Keep Warm: Put on a personal face when communicating with your customers during this time, and consider sending a message to buyers with a heads up about your wintery conditions and your intentions to deliver the best services possible. This will put shoppers on alert that you’re dealing with Mother Nature. Your thoughtfulness will hopefully spark a little compassion, in case it’s needed.
  5. Remember Extended Family: Only a small portion of the country will be directly affected by the storm, so if you aren’t in the Northeast, you may be tempted to keep up with business as usual. However, many of those snowed-in households may turn to online shopping to pass the time. Consider a lightly padded handling-time increase of one day, to buffer any delivery delays they may experience. Also, show your compassion by creating a short insert for packages headed to areas affected by the weather, with a message such as, “Thanks so much for your order! Hope you’ve weathered the winter storm, and our sincerest apologies if your delivery was delayed as a result.”

So be ready for anything — and good luck weathering the storm!


Blog post by Rachel Miller, senior product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor