2020 was the year that saw businesses of all shapes and sizes navigate the unknown. While Australian NaturalCare (ANC) was strapped in tight on a rollercoaster ride of change, the team found light at the end of the tunnel and emerged enlightened and resilient.  

Like many other non-essential bricks and mortar stores, ANC’s retail space was temporarily closed during the pandemic, which required the team to pivot and create a backup plan. The plan saw the implementation of click and collect services for customers, working fastidiously to ensure orders coming through were sent out on time, and maintaining clear and open communication between the admin team (working remotely) and the warehouse.

Here are the lessons the business learned and how the ever-changing online retail space adapted to a global pandemic. 

Lesson one: Always be open to offer advice

Customer service has always been a key pillar in our business and during COVID-19 it became more essential than ever. We found our call centre and team of naturopaths were key to keeping business running as usual.

We learnt that customers were, and still are, searching for the peace-of-mind that our naturopaths can provide through general advice and product recommendations. There were increased enquiries across immune system support, and people were curious to know what they could do to improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Lesson two: Education is key to communicating with your audience

We have learnt that education is invaluable to our customers and that by enhancing our communication strategies, we were able to increase customer loyalty. This enabled us to further establish long-term relationships with customers to increase the likelihood that their purchases would be finalised.

We worked through the pandemic to ensure lines of communication were active and open. Whether it was via email, the website’s Live Chat function, or over the phone, we were able to provide education around products, dietary advice, or lifestyle recommendations, all greatly valued by our customers.

With more and more people looking to ANC as a trusted brand, offering reputable services and advice, our online retail space grew exponentially.

Lesson three: You are more resilient than you think

Despite all of the obstacles caused by COVID-19, we learnt that we are more resilient than ever. While many businesses were forced to make staff redundant or took a step back from speaking to their customers, we were hiring new team members and producing more communication than ever.

To come out the other side of a pandemic thriving has instilled a great amount of confidence in our business. We feel ready to chase more audacious goals, put faith behind more difficult decisions and trust that our loyal customers will stick by us as we continue to grow.

Maximising an evolving online retail space

Similarly to most retail businesses, our physical store temporarily closed as a result of COVID-19 which meant our focus shifted towards e-commerce.

Communicating with customers by directing them to our online platform and providing the information they were searching for became integral to our marketing strategy. We made sure eDM’s were pushed out every week reminding customers they could turn to us for advice and to highlight the high quality products on offer.

Knowing that customers were limited to online orders, we made the option even more enticing by lowering our minimum spend for free shipping. Shipping is now free with online orders over $49, whereas it was previously only free on orders over $99.

The pandemic directed our customers’ attention to our immune focused products and as such, we adapted our product offering to fit this focus. We put together ‘Immunity Packs’ that debuted on our website during 2020, which included immune-specific products such as Multi Vitamins & Minerals, vitamin C, zinc and of course, Antibacterial Hand Sanitiser to assist with personal hygiene.

To incentivise repeat purchases, and reward frequent customers, we developed a membership program called the Original Health Club, which allowed shoppers to earn points that they could turn into vouchers to use in the future.  

To make these adaptations and to maximise their impact on our audience, we needed to grow our internal team. We were very proud to bring on three new members to our marketing team during a time that many people in Australia were finding themselves without employment.

The exciting part of these changes, that were made to maximise our evolving online retail space during a crisis, is that they have remained key parts of our ongoing business strategy. We adapted to a unique historical event, but we thrived throughout, and are now taking the lessons we have learnt and the changes we implemented into the next stage of our business.

Jerome Fu is global marketing and e-commerce manager at Australian NaturalCare (ANC).