I remember years ago making brownies, well . . . attempting to, anyway. I found a recipe, put the ingredients into the mixer, mixed it up, and then baked. They were going to be great!
When the timer rang, I opened the oven to find something looking very different from the picture in the cookbook. Apparently, in my excitement for the sugary goodness, I skipped the section called Preparation. It turns out, that if you skip the prep, the results can be disastrous.
So, what does this have to do with retail? Many businesses have remained open during COVID and many have temporarily closed. Either way, as states begin easing restrictions, we need to prepare for what comes next. While the retail landscape has changed, it is likely that the flood gates are about to open. We need to be ready for the potential tidal wave of consumers who cannot wait to get out, get back into their routine, and reward themselves with shiny new impulse buys from their favorite stores.
For the retailer, it is paramount that you follow the all-important preparation steps. Readiness post-COVID is different. People will behave differently. They will shop differently. They will have different expectations. The retailers who prepare for these changes in behavior will have a leg up on the competition. What is your action plan? What steps are you taking to prepare? Here are a few to consider:
- Communicate: Use your website, email blasts, signage, and voicemail to let your customers and employees know of the changes you’ve made to ensure that their health and safety remains a priority. These changes may include limiting the number of people in the store, one-way aisles, and special sanitizing routines for door handles, checkout surfaces and credit card terminals.
- Anticipate: There are two types of shopping: needs and wants. Use your POS or ERP software for guidance on ensuring you have both types of items on your shelves. Using comparative data from this time last year can help call out items that you might have overlooked. Remember, add on sales are great for the bottom line.
- Upgrade: Take this time to upgrade key components of your business. If you’ve not already done so, this is the perfect time to implement contactless payment (Apple Pay & Google Wallet). Self-Service Checkouts (SCO) are a nice way to enable your customers to minimize contact and to maximize your resources.
- Promote: Use coupons, automatic discounts, BOGO’s, and other promotions to draw customers into your store. This is an important way to compete and win the sale. Most of us have gone out of our way to support businesses that have remained open during COVID. There has never been a better time to promote yourself as an important, local resource.
I read an article (found here) the other day and the author’s findings took me by surprise. According to their research, traditional online business is currently down 51% while retail is up 9% over the same period last year. The pet industry also showed a 6% growth! This is fantastic news for the brick and mortar retailer and not at all what I expected. Being prepared for the return to some semblance of retail normalcy could boost those numbers even higher.
No one could anticipate a pandemic as we’ve experienced but we can plan for what comes next. Put the ingredients in place for a successful re-opening. Use the next few weeks of prep time to get your store, your staff, and yourself ready for what I hope will be the next wave of retail growth for the small to a medium-sized retailer.
You’ve worked hard to build loyalty, provide expertise, and create a personal relationship with your customers. It is these relationships that will drive your customers back to your stores. Will you be ready?
The good news is that you are not in this alone. Soft Intelligence has been working with retailers for 36 years and is the nation’s premier consultant and channel partner for NCR CounterPoint. We are here to help you with new CounterPoint installations, upgrading existing software and hardware (including Self-Checkout options), adding capabilities, or even developing custom enhancements. Our highly qualified team averages over 20 years of CounterPoint experience per person and we have offices in five states. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) 797-1264 Option 1 for additional information. Let us help you succeed.
Chip Allen was a specialty retailer for over 25 years and has extensive industry knowledge and experience. He can help you improve customer service, grow your business, and increase your profitability.
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