We hope that you, your family, your business and your employees are all safe and healthy. We are all very concerned about these uncertain times. Our current public health crisis and the need for social distancing is causing an almost total stop to retail foot traffic in many vertical markets.
How do you weather this storm? What steps can you take to stay productive and even profitable until this COVID-19 crisis is over? As business advisors who have worked with hundreds of retailers running thousands of registers, we have some tips to help you.
Many of you have reduced your hours or have considered doing so. Some have suspended operations. While this endemic is unlike anything we have endured, it is important to remember that it will pass. There are things you can do to help navigate these uncharted waters while helping to future proof your business.
First and foremost, reach out to all your customers! E-mail marketing and web site announcements are the most efficient way to communicate. Amazon doesn’t have the ability to personally interact with their customers as you do. If possible, a quick phone call to simply check-in can go a long way. This is one of many ways that sets your business apart.
If you expect customers to continue to visit your store, it is paramount that you detail your procedures for ensuring their health and safety and that of your staff. These include announcing new schedules for sanitizing countertops, doorways, and displays more frequently, limiting the number of customers and employees in the store, spacing checkout lanes at least 6’ apart. Other measures may need to be implemented based on your vertical market and where your store(s) are located.
Once considered a fad, contactless payments such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet add additional layers of safety, convenience, and speed at checkout. We’ve heard of retailers going above and beyond by placing Tootsie Pops or pencils by the credit card terminals for use as a stylus. Often the simple things go a long way towards reassuring your customers that you are taking real precautions. Plus, who doesn’t love a Tootsie Pop?
Many retailers are using this crisis to innovate. Offering curbside pickup and local delivery is a great way to continue selling to your customers while supporting efforts to social distance. Most web shopping carts, Magento, Shopify, Big Commerce, Woo Commerce, etc. have the option to turn on “Buy online pick up in-store” (BOPIS). Make sure your web site offers in-store pickup and local delivery as available shipping methods. If you don’t currently sell through your website, this may be the ideal time to start. Use your website in combination with email blasts to let customers know that you accept orders via email and phone for curbside or in-store pickup.
You can also use this time to do things you haven’t had time to do. It’s difficult to conduct physical counts, re-merchandise/re-arrange the store and make technology changes when business is active. Even with limited hours and limited staff, you can still use this time productively. Minimal store traffic means you can:
- Conduct an Inventory Physical Count
- Update/replace Point of Sale computers and equipment
- Apply software upgrades, updates, and patches
- Re-arrange/re-merchandise the store
- Spend time researching new product lines and new sources of supply, most important when your merchandise is sourced internationally. You can do this even if your store is closed to foot traffic.
- Most importantly, use whatever resources are available to promote your role in supporting your local community!
Our society is experiencing cabin fever unlike we’ve ever seen. This is causing a tremendous desire to get outside, be amongst people, dine out and, most importantly, go shopping. It is our belief that once the crisis has passed, your customers will return in droves. The changes that you make to weather this storm today will continue benefiting your business and customers once this storm has passed.
Soft Intelligence, Inc