As more businesses pivot to e-commerce, the playing field will become tougher. Here are three survival tactics …

Businesses that have pivoted to e-commerce and adopting a digital approach amid the pandemic are navigating through challenges they have never encountered before.

These include ensuring that their platforms load quickly when presenting large catalog of products, and meeting the always-online demands of consumers who have grown accustomed to shopping at any time of the day.

Failing to meet these requirements affect not just customer spending and brand image, but also search engine rankings.

To go beyond just existing digital platforms and truly flourish in the digital age, businesses cannot risk stagnating at the first stage of digitalization. They need to look at future-proofing themselves and building a sustainable digital payments business.

These can be achieved by adopting three strategies: reacting quickly to issues through close monitoring; being proactive in identifying points of weakness; and using data science and analytics to uncover future needs, vulnerabilities, and novel solutions.

Agile monitoring and response

Digital-first businesses need to keep a close eye on their operations using various tools and observability platforms. These often highlight critical digital metrics, shedding light on the average time a page takes to load, the rate at which customers leave websites without making a purchase, and most importantly, instances of an outage of a website and applications.

To illustrate this better, imagine a newly-digitalized business as a freshly built dam. To make sure that the structure continues to operate optimally, operators will constantly be on the lookout for even the smallest hairline crack, swiftly patching those up before they expand.

Similarly, merchants should keep their ears to the ground and be fully ready to respond with corrective actions. 

Proactive vs reactive protection and improvements

While keeping a keen eye on operations is vital, a reactive approach is unsustainable at scale, especially in the highly competitive and dynamic e-commerce landscape today. Going beyond monitoring, leaders will have to weed out vulnerabilities early before they become a threat to business continuity. 

Businesses need to proactively search for points of weakness and implement improvements or reinforcements in their systems, even when there are no obvious signs of a fault. This preemptive posture is imperative to digital-first businesses as the goal is not to simply solve problems on hand, but to develop systemic solutions to issues that may plague operations in future.

One example is by adopting a multi-cloud infrastructure to introduce a form of redundancy into the operation strategy. This protects websites and applications from going offline when one provider experiences an outage, in turn ensuring continuous accessibility and high-quality customer experiences. 

A well-thought-out cloud strategy can also help digital-first businesses plan for future bandwidth demands. PayPal’s own studies have found that seasonal sales events featuring price discounts are continuing to grow even in the pandemic. By understanding this growing consumer trend, business owners can work with their cloud service providers to improve access to flexible capacity and handle traffic surges on the most crucial shopping days of the year without risking an outage.

Harnessing data for the future

Despite efforts to build a reliable and resilient digital business, there are bound to be blind spots that will evade scrutiny, popping up unexpectedly down the road. The use of advanced technologies like AI, ML and advanced analytics can help businesses prepare for and mitigate these risks.

For instance, business owners can use operational data that they have accumulated over time to generate actionable insights, supporting them in strategic planning and the design of more efficient and sustainable operations. 

E-commerce transaction data can be analyzed to detect transaction patterns and underlying trends in customer spending. With these insights, businesses can roll out better time-based promotional campaigns, manage inventory according to demand forecasts, and personalize shopping to create more engaging customer experiences.

As the world continues battling the pandemic, businesses have to continue innovating, developing, and adopting appropriate strategies to stay ahead of the curve. This is especially true for e-commerce merchants because close to nine in 10 shoppers surveyed by Paypal expect their online spending to remain the same or increase in the coming year: signifying intense competition even after businesses go digital. 

For any digitalized business to survive in a digital-first world, the three strategies above are the bare minimum.