How to efficiently scale up your e-commerce business during COVID-19

6 minute read

The Canadian e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, as shoppers rely more heavily on e-merchants to supply their goods. Retailers are focused on prioritizing the safety of their people while responding to the unique challenges that can change day-to-day – or even hour-to-hour. Operations are key during this time, and how you optimize your efforts will be critical to your ability to sustain your business, both now and in the months to come.

In the first part of our blog series, we explored the importance of your e-commerce website. In this second part, we’ll share best practices to help you build and optimize your backend operations. Below you’ll find a list of key operations considerations. Being mindful of them will help you ensure that your operations are efficient and effective, while meeting customer expectations. The following strategies will help you adapt to the current e-commerce landscape and position your business for longevity.

Optimize orders to keep customers satisfied

Whether you’re selling directly from your own website or on an online marketplace, optimizing order processing is the first step in satisfying your customers. Order management can be time consuming without the proper tools and processes in place. This becomes increasingly relevant in a time when new health and safety procedures and precautions are in effect, which can easily add a new level of complexity to your day-to-day operations.

As you grow, you can use technology to keep your customers informed about product availability. Try working towards providing them with more details – like a notice that stock for an item is low or that the item is on backorder. Consider adopting a dedicated inventory management solution which can sync information from your sales channels and incoming supply. Some can even issue purchase orders when inventory dips. Once you have a unified view of inventory between online and retail, you can accurately display what is available and route it to your customers in the speediest and most cost-effective way possible.

You’ll also want to review your sorting processes to better manage, prioritize and prepare incoming orders – especially if you’re seeing an influx due to COVID-19.

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Lean on your technology partners

Consider leveraging your technology partners to integrate your inventory and encourage consistency and efficiency. For example, if you’re selling on multiple channels – like your own branded website via Shopify or on a marketplace like eBay or Amazon – you can leverage a third-party shipping system like ShipStation. Their software integrates Canada Post’s Web Service with Shopify. This enables you to seamlessly retrieve, fulfill and ship orders that you’ve received on your Shopify platform and other selling channels. Managing orders from every selling channel from one dashboard can save you a lot of time and keep everything organized.

A user selects their selling channels in ShipStation’s backend.

ShipStation allows you to import orders from over 100 marketplaces, carts, and stores.

Streamline your pick-and-pack fulfillment process for increased efficiency

Fulfilling orders and getting them out the door can be a challenge when your order volume increases. If you’ve had to adapt or move your regular operational setup, consider tweaking your process to better meet new demands.

A proper fulfillment process saves time, reduces errors and increases customer satisfaction. For increased efficiency, here are some key processes to consider adopting into your operations:

  • A pick-and-pack process. If you adopt this process, ensure it involves minimal steps that can be learned easily.
  • A quality-control process. This will ensure packed items match the order and are undamaged.
  • A ship-from-store strategy. Due to recent retail closures, you might be leveraging your storefront(s) as your fulfillment space. This allows you to utilize in-store inventory, localize and personalize your fulfillment, and get orders out the door faster. There are benefits to implementing a ship-from-store approach as part of your overall continuity strategy. It will allow you to maximize and leverage your inventory, cite your physical store and staff as an expense, increase speed of delivery, and reduce your costs.
  • A special distribution strategy. If your orders are coming primarily from certain geographical areas, distributing them directly from those areas could be beneficial. You could adopt this strategy in addition to fulfilling orders from a main distribution center (DC). In this case, your local store(s) would act as the inventory source.

Moving into a heavier e-commerce strategy will require a shift in your fulfillment practices. Filling online orders occurs in response to the individual items ordered by the customer. It requires efficient practices for staff who will pick and pack individual orders as they come in. You will need different workflows, technology tools, and automation tactics to support order management. If your business is transitioning into e-commerce, lean on your suppliers and partners for support as you scale up into e-commerce fulfillment.

If diving headfirst into e-commerce order fulfillment is too much for you and your team to manage, you can outsource fulfillment. You should consider outsourcing if:

  • Your sales continue to climb rapidly and you’re having trouble turning them around.
  • Your order patterns are erratic due to shortcomings in fulfilling orders.
  • You’re having difficulty finding and tracking inventory.

It’s important to think about what your fulfillment should look like moving into a recovery period. Having a strong understanding of your business model, and a clear view of where you want to be down the road, will help you determine the best fulfillment options for your business.

Optimize your packaging and shipping to improve your bottom line

Keeping costs down is key and choosing the right packaging can help you do that. When it comes to choosing efficient and affordable packaging, here are some key tips:

  • Choose the smallest mailer or box possible that will allow you to safely and securely ship the order. Both the size and weight of a package affect shipping costs.
  • Pack items from a single order together when possible. You will save on shipping and your inventory of packaging materials will last longer.
  • Invest in a dedicated thermal printer if you’re shipping more than a handful of packages a day. A basic thermal printer can cost as little as $200 and will save you time.

Trying to get orders out the door while adapting to new processes can be challenging and time consuming. There are tools that can help with this. Our free Shipping Manager tool enables you to efficiently print multiple shipping labels at once from any device, and you can leverage our Pickup service to get items into our network faster. This saves you time, allowing you to focus on managing new orders.

A user uses Shipping Manager to create a shipping label for a package.

Use Shipping Manager to create, pay for, and print shipping labels for your medium-sized business.

Improve the receiving experience to encourage repeat customers

Consumers’ appetites for online shopping, and the convenience that it provides, will only continue to grow. Now, more than ever, the final leg of the journey matters. So, it’s important to choose your delivery partner wisely and to think about the different receiving challenges your customers face.

Shoppers value the convenience of receiving packages at their home or somewhere nearby. As their shipping preferences change, they’ll want to be able to pick and choose from a variety of options. You can implement the following helpful tactics now to enhance your delivery experience over the long haul:

  • Provide real-time tracking to your customers. Direct them to with a tracking number via email, enabling them to easily track their packages.
  • Provide delivery and pickup options for your shoppers at checkout.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Honesty is the best policy, so be realistic about timelines and communicate if there are any shipping delays either to you or your delivery partner.
A shipping confirmation email which includes an order number, Canada Post tracking number and delivery date estimate.

A shipping confirmation email with a Canada Post tracking number is provided to a customer to allow them to track their items.

Leverage customer returns to ensure a positive customer experience

Returns are a pivotal pre-purchase consideration. Your returns policy can help you build customer trust, confidence, and loyalty. With a strong returns strategy in place, make it a priority to:

  • Display your returns policy upfront. Place the link to your returns policy page in an easy-to-find spot on your site.
  • Make your returns policy as affordable and convenient as possible. This will help you build trust and confidence.
  • Extend your policy to allow for more time. This will provide shoppers with peace of mind and may convert more browsers into buyers.

We are here to support you and your business as we continue to adjust and adapt together

As businesses across Canada adapt to the new normal, Canada Post is here to help. We will continue to share helpful resources and insights with you to enable you to scale up your operations and your business during these challenging times.

  • Explore our library of Canadian-based resources, designed to help you efficiently operate your e-commerce business. Browse resources.
  • Learn about the steps Canada Post is taking to keep deliveries and our employees safe. Go to updates.
  • Get the latest information on delivery interruptions that may affect your neighbourhood and international shipments. View service alerts.

We’re here to help.

If you’re ready to talk to an e-commerce expert about your business, our team is here for you.

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