Resilience through recession

The last two years have been a series of highs and lows, leaving businesses trying to forecast for the future as best they can. Meanwhile, risk of recession is rising globally as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies. Merchants are facing softer demand, rising input costs, labour shortages and ongoing supply chain disruption. 

We’d be silly if we said current economic challenges aren’t a cause for concern. However, there are many things your business can do to continue advancing towards your goals even as customers cut back on their spending. After all, being small is a superpower in times of strife. You can act faster, change quicker and adapt. 

You’re not alone in this! The ecommerce experts at ShipStation are here to help. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide of things your business can do today to help ensure business continuity through this financial crisis. 

Best Practices for Ecommerce Businesses 

Leading an ecommerce business through a recession can be challenging but is made infinitely easier when you have a plan. The keys to surviving an economic downturn are preparation, execution and learning lessons along the way.

Should you cut back on spending? Should you invest more into your business? Should you borrow to give yourself more financial protection should things go sideways? Making knee-jerk reactions to the recession can hurt more than help. Your best bet – before you make any changes to your business is to understand where your money is going. 

Knowing where your money is going isn’t just for times of recession. It can help your business run more efficiently and be more profitable even in the best of times. Here are a few tips to help make the most of the money your business has coming in. 

Do you have outstanding, unpaid invoices or lots of customers on credit accounts? Now is the time to chase those customers and ensure customers are sticking to payment terms. Educate yourself and make sure you’re getting paid. 

Holding excess stock? Deadstock doesn’t bring in money. We’re on the cusp of the peak shopping season. Maybe it’s time to consider clearing it all out with a promotion, sale or multi-buy event. 

Dealing with cash overflow? While it may not seem like the time to be spending, hear us out. Investing that cash back into your business can make you stronger than ever before and more prepared for whatever the future might hold. 

Investing in your business is essential, but we also recognise the importance of making your business leaner during economic strife. As leaders in the order fulfilment and delivery industry, ShipStation knows a few ways you can cut costs while maintaining exceptional service levels. 


Free returns are a customer expectation. As the price of petrol rises, inflation surges and supply chains falter, offering free returns might be harder than it once was. There are two ways to approach this: 

No more free returns (for now) 

As businesses become more aware of where their pennies are going, some are choosing to remove their ‘free returns’ policy. Major retailers like Zara have been announcing that they would no longer offer free returns. 

Free returns forever 

What do your annual returns figures look like? How do they impact your bottom line? Analysing these numbers will be critical if you want to continue offering free returns to maintain customer sentiment. According to Shopify, customers, on average, return between 5 – 15% of purchases. Paying for all those returns adds up, especially during tougher times.

What you decide to do about returns will affect your business now and post-recession. It requires careful consideration before taking any actions. 

Cutting costs doesn’t mean reducing service levels 

Whilst becoming leaner is part and parcel of a recession, it should not affect your service levels. Maintaining good customer communication and continuing to engage with customers is vital during a recession. Ending these processes could be detrimental to your business long after the recession has ended 

Improve efficiency through Automation 

Making your business’s processes more efficient is vital during challenging economic times. Improving productivity and streamlining processes makes your business leaner and saves you time and labour costs – ideal when watching where every penny goes. 

Implementing automation into your order fulfilment and delivery process can help free your teams up for other business objectives. It’s important to remember time savings is cost savings, and increased efficiency is important during and after economic turmoil. 

Streamline order processing 

Manually processing orders can be incredibly time-consuming. Remove repetitive tasks, such as importing and checking orders, printing labels, allocating couriers and inventory management with ease. Automation helps your team do more with less. 

Using automated order fulfilment and delivery software, ecommerce retailers can instantly notify customers of their order and delivery status, print picking lists, set shipping rules and make promotion decisions based on stock availability. It’s a win-win for business. 

Ensure effortless delivery 

A negative delivery experience is one of the main driving factors when customers stop buying from a business. Ensuring your business provides customers with an exceptional experience throughout their entire time with you is critical – and automation can help. 

ShipStation’s software gives you a complete view of the delivery rates you often use, allows you to make data-based decisions easily and protects your business reputation by providing positive delivery experiences to customers. 

Provide exceptional customer communication

During a recession, businesses are likely to cut processes they deem ‘unnecessary’. Unfortunately, marketing is usually the first to be hit by budget cuts. Whilst this can save money in the short term, it isn’t the route to take, and here’s why. 

Marketing is more than a tool that helps bring in sales leads. It is the direct connection you have with customers. Throughout tough financial times, marketing keeps your brand fresh in their minds. Engaging with them continues their positive experience and grows your brand loyalty. Meaning they’ll remember you when they do start opening their wallets again. 

It’s important to continue updating social media, communicating via emails and newsletters and responding to questions or concerns. Letting customers know you’re still there and available when they need you is crucial to rebuilding sales levels once the recession ends. 

Build Brand Loyalty 

Sales might be down, but customers haven’t gone anywhere. Focusing on your marketing while sales are down could pay you back in dividends in the future. Whilst it may seem like a non-starter, building your brand during economic turmoil is important for your business’s longevity. 

Improve customer experience on all platforms 

For recession and beyond, omni-channel marketing is the way forward. Optimising your customer’s journey across all the platforms you’re on provides them with the level of care and experience they’re looking for from their favorite brands. 

Omni-channel marketing includes consistent branding across all channels, from Facebook and Instagram to your ecommerce store and emails. Once your branding is consistent, it’s time to focus on their buying journey. 

This is where omni-channel selling comes into play. Being where your customers are when they want to purchase is critical to providing customers with the best experience possible. For example, say you have an Instagram shop, and a customer places something in their basket but then abandons it. Should they then visit your ecommerce shop and the item they placed in their Instagram basket is there, that’s omni-channel selling. 

Now is the time to invest in your marketing, build your brand reputation and maintain or build customer loyalty. Don’t take our word for it; plenty of articles explain why marketing should take precedence during a financial crisis. 

Provide clear, concise information 

There’s no easy way to say this. During a recession, times are tough. There are going to be hiccups, whether they’re from supply chain issues or transport strikes. It’s important that you

provide clear, concise information to customers about how this could impact them – and it’s important to communicate that before the impact happens. 

Managing customer expectations during a recession is vital to protecting your brand’s reputation. Communicating bad news to customers can be challenging – but it’s important to show customers that you’re trustworthy and that they can depend on you. 

Don’t let recession stop your growth in 2023 

The recession is a worrying time for everyone, especially retailers – but it isn’t all doom and gloom. Recessions don’t last forever. Eventually, we’ll return to more normal times. The best thing you can do now is focus on preparing for the months ahead, invest in your marketing efforts, and implement automation to help your cost-cutting endeavours. 

ShipStation’s software streamlines your order fulfilment and delivery process with automation, making it simpler and less time-consuming. ShipStation can apply your preferred shipping method to orders with import automation features. It allows you to print all your labels in batches up to 500, and everything is communicated with shipment notifications sent directly to the customer. 

Upcoming research: Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 

ShipStation will soon be releasing research on the concrete impact a recession would have on consumers, as well as strategies for merchants to navigate the challenge. We’ve partnered with Retail Economics to analyze data from 8,000 consumers and 700 merchants across 8 key international markets, uncovering the delivery trends you need to know in 2023. 

The report will be released at the beginning of February so keep your eyes peeled on the ShipStation website. 

About the authors 

ShipStation is the leading web-based order management and shipping software designed to make retailers exceptionally efficient at processing, fulfiling, and shipping their ecommerce orders. We combine order processing, inventory management, creation of shipping labels, and customer communication all into one easy-to-use interface that integrates directly with over 100 of the industry’s top carriers, marketplaces, and selling channels. 

With offices across North America, Europe, and Australia, we make it easy for merchants to fulfil orders and grow their business, no matter where they call home. It’s our mission to build the best shipping software that helps you create a memorable customer experience and allows you to focus your time on what matters most. 

Interested in adding automation into your order fulfilment and delivery process? Start your free trial today here. Your first 30 days are on us – no credit card required.