Should you get your website ready for a return to “offline” sales?

The short answer is “you probably should.” A number of larger industries like lumber and car-rental agencies are said to have been caught off guard by a resumption of demand as the COVID-19 pandemic is finally beginning to wind down. The problem seems to be more that they weren’t prepared than that there isn’t enough wood to turn into lumber or cars to turn into rentals. The question we should be asking ourselves is “can we learn from their mistakes.” And “how can we prepare our own businesses ready for a return to business as (more or less) normal?”

Via statistics-nerd blogger Kevin Drum, it looks like e-commerce sales are doing that “reversion to the mean” thing as things start to normalize after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown storefronts and pretty much all non-essential shopping went online.

Chart from Kevin Drum uses Census Bureau data showing e-commerce revenue leveling off as a percentage of all U.S. sales in the U.S.

Drum says “This strikes me as evidence that, generally speaking, people want to get back to their old habits, rather than sticking to those learned during the pandemic.”

That sounds about right to me. As business people we all spent a lot of time in 2020 dealing… and sometimes reeling… from the consequences of the pandemic and people’s responses to it. Many people pivoted to online sales. Others started working from home. Still others started taking online orders. And almost everybody who did face-to-face business — from restaurants to hospitals to photographers to home-service and contractors — at least put a “our response to COVID-19” banner on their websites.

Looking at increasing rates of vaccinations and “openings” here in the U.S., and at decreasing rates of hospitalizations and fatalities, it’s looking extremely likely that business is going to start going back to normal.

The question is are you going to be prepared if (probably not when) it does?

Every web developer I know was absolutely swamped last year by requests to revise and sometimes rebuild website. We all worked as hard as we could to help people communicate with their customers.

As with the lumber and rental industries we may find ourselves swamped again as customers begin returning to businesses, and as businesses discover their websites are out of date yet again.

One last question to ask yourself: If my customers start coming back will my website be ready?

If you’re not sure please get back in touch with your friendly neighborhood web-support person before the rush.

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David Innes, RealBasics.com

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...