Even a passing glance at recent headlines will show that the entire world is worried about the coronavirus. Since originating in Wuhan, China, thousands of cases have been diagnosed, with confirmed patients in the United States and many other countries around the world.

While the health impact of the disease is certainly quite dire, those who run their own business — particularly in the eCommerce space — have more reasons to worry. Quarantines and other preventative actions could significantly disrupt your business operations. Even major brands like Nintendo have already admitted to their production being impacted by the coronavirus, so there’s a high likelihood that your online store will also be affected.

Here’s what you should know for this and other events that could have a similar impact.

The Impact of the Coronavirus on eCommerce

Many eCommerce brands depend on dropshipping, in which their products are manufactured in China and often even shipped to customers through a Chinese supplier. This is already a time of year when product orders are subjected to delays because of Chinese New Year celebrations. However, regional quarantines, air travel bans, and even a temporary ban of in-office work are poised to further disrupt all parts of the supply process.

With factories shut down and transport routes closed, manufacturing and shipping of your products is poised to undergo extensive delays. Some orders may not be able to be fulfilled at all. Even though the holiday shopping period has passed, the impact of the coronavirus could result in reduced sales traffic and demand for refunds on orders that won’t arrive in a timely manner.

There is no telling how long this crisis will last, but eCommerce brands should brace themselves for trouble if they don’t already have an additional inventory stockpile readily available.

What Should Business Owners Do?

Communication is key to getting through this crisis. If you haven’t already done so, reach out to your supplier to get a better understanding of how current events will impact your current product orders. With concrete information in hand, you should then update your web content so that potential buyers are aware of what is going on before they make a purchase. It may also be helpful to provide a link to the CDC, which confirms that there are no known cases of the disease being transmitted via imported packages.

For orders that will be significantly delayed by the coronavirus, you should reach out directly to the customers. Explain what is going on, and commit to keeping them updated as more information becomes available. Despite your best efforts, you will likely have some customers who are upset and demand a refund. Honor these requests or find a workaround they can agree to, so as not to lose goodwill.

These proactive efforts won’t necessarily help you avoid short-term losses that come from refunds or inadequate inventory. But they will help you build greater trust with your customers, which will help you in the long run.

Preparing For the Future

It’s impossible to predict how world events will play out. Whether the problem your eCommerce brand faces is the spread of a virus or proposed tariff changes, business owners should be proactive when such circumstances arise. By learning more about the situation and implementing appropriate countermeasures, you can ensure that any troubles your brand faces will only be temporary.