When it comes to COVID-19 and retail, there is a lot of uncertainty for both retailers and customers alike.
Matters are changing daily, different locations and states are enforcing different rules as businesses of all sizes, from global institutions to small family-run companies, are feeling the impact of the virus both financially and emotionally. However, no more so is this felt than in relation to brick-and-mortar retailers.
With lockdown laws in effect across the country, social distancing protocols being encouraged, and people being asked to limit their exposure to others, many physical locations have had to close their doors to the public. While this may have encouraged online shopping behavior amidst COVID-19, brick-and-mortar retailers need to find ways to stay relevant and improve their revenue figures in order to survive.
For many retailers, this will be the most difficult time they have ever gone through and understanding how to continue to operate as a brick-and-mortar store can feel like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are still some things you can do to help during these unprecedented times as in this post we will take a look at some specific tips for brick-and-mortar retail during COVID-19.
How Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Can Improve Revenue and Sales
When it comes to tips for brick-and-mortar retail during COVID-19, it can be difficult to know which to follow, especially if you are unaccustomed to things such as social media, mobile CX strategy or online shopping in general. However, regarding your eCommerce setup, there are some incredibly simple and straightforward things you can do to position your company in a better place and actually improve your sales, despite the sweeping effects of the coronavirus. These include:
Connect With Important Customers
It is a well-known statistic that 20% of your customers contribute 80% of your revenue. As these customers are so important to your business, they have to be prioritized right now and ensuring their long lasting loyalty is key.
Stay in touch with your customers through any means you can, whether it’s blog posts, text messages, emails or newsletters, they have to be your main focus given the current situation. This is something that Passenger clothing have done exceptionally well, both regarding their email campaigns as well as their social media posts, all which offer warm support, helpful shopping information and personalized discounts without ever stepping away from their brand identity or tone of voice. Illustrate that you are there for your high-priority and high-value customers now, and it will be repaid loyally at a later date.
It might seem like an obvious or simple suggestion, but gift cards work. They have the capacity to provide retailers with an immediate injection of cash as well as encouraging repeat customers. If you are currently a business with thin margins, gift cards can help you stay afloat for the time being and allow you to come back stronger at a later date. Discount gift cards are a great way to remain front of mind with your audience, acquire new customers and, with lockdowns still in effect, digital gift card programs can help you do this without people having to leave their home.
Make Sure Messaging Is Appropriate
Now, more than ever before, your messaging matters. Companies need to be sensitive to consumers’ needs and rethink their overall approach to marketing and advertising.
Certain campaigns for certain products may need to be paused, imagery of people touching or being close to one another may need to be removed and your copy will likely need to now reflect the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. This doesn’t mean completely altering your core brand messaging and changing your principles but you do need to make sure it is appropriate for the global climate.
Stay authentic, avoid being opportunistic at all costs and communicate directly with your customers about what you are doing and what is going on. Mistakes regarding your messaging are likely to mean that customers will avoid interacting with your company, long after the pandemic is over.
Reduce Shipping Costs Where You Can
A likely place to start when looking for areas to cut back is in relation to your shipping costs. Where possible, you should look to manually fulfill your orders and setting up local shipping features should be considered a must.
If customers are geographically close to your business, you could offer them a local delivery option for which local shipping rates will be automatically applied at checkout to those in your selected zone. With this in mind, your messaging in relation to this needs to be clear and obvious as customers need to be aware of any likely delays relating to shipping or changes in product availability.
How the Crisis Is Compelling Brick-and-Mortar Stores to Move Online
When it comes to eCommerce and COVID-19, most businesses are now having to focus on their online shopping approach. Due to the effects of social distancing and only essential travel being allowed, this has drastically limited the number of shopping opportunities to people which has therefore led to one central retail facet: eCommerce.
Customers and retailers alike who previously have been adverse to the concept of online shopping have now been forced into utilizing it. This is even the case for some multinational businesses as Aldi, who had no form of online shopping service and had no plans of incorporating it, have had to move online to continue to keep customers from going to competitors. They moved quickly and enacted changes that let users purchase food and other items online, in the form of specialized food parcels and get it delivered to their home. Since doing so, orders have jumped massively as they are able to engage, interact and convert users in entirely new ways.
There has never been a more important time for you to embrace eCommerce and online shopping. By doing so it has the ability to completely revolutionize the way your brick-and-mortar store operates, opening up your services and products to a whole new set of customers at a time when they need you most.
The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retail
While some people might be claiming this is the end for brick-and-mortar retail, this is not the case. Physical stores can offer something worthwhile to your business but it has to be a part of your overall approach to retail, rather than the entire focus.
It will likely become more reliant on offering an exceptional customer experience to help with sales, as opposed to just being the main way of generating conversions. Offering things that they can’t get online, that can only be experienced within the physical walls of your store will help improve customer perception, and therefore sales as a whole. Brick-and-mortar will likely look to customer experience as a way to generate loyalty in customers, similar to how brands like Sephora are already doing.
The future of retail will involve the incorporation of offline and online sales to provide one unified experience across the board. This will allow companies to offer personalized, informative experiences irrelevant of if they are interacting with them at home, on their phones or within the actual confines of a store. Focus on creating an engaging, unique, and pleasant experience for shoppers across all your channels to drive your business forward.
All things considered, it’s extremely difficult to predict the long-term effects of COVID-19 on shopping habits. However, when it comes to COVID-19 and retail, focusing on eCommerce for the moment is the best approach to take to help with keeping revenue coming in. It might seem like a difficult thing to focus on at the minute, but this is not the death of retail. Instead, it is bringing about the next phase of physical shopping and in-store experiences which will be much more unified in relation to a brand’s digital presence.
So, focus on the positives, look to be innovative where you can, incorporate eCommerce into your approach to retail and remember, this will all be over sooner than we think.