How to embrace swift, proactive change to help your retail business bounce back from the pandemic slump.
Before COVID-19, store-based retailers were already facing fierce competition from major online rivals like Amazon. The pandemic lockdown has seen that trend expedited, with online shopping and home delivery becoming the new normal and customers reluctant to return to malls as they reopen.
Writing for Harvard Business Review, brand expert Denise Lee Yohn says it’s vital not only to adhere to essential social distancing practices, but also to radically improve customer experience in both face-to-face and e-commerce situations.
THREE STEPS TO RETAIL SUCCESS
1) Meet basic expectations. Even if you have a unique or highly specialised offering not available anywhere else, you will lose sales and customer loyalty if you fail to get the essentials right.
- In-store. Make sure you meet the COVID-19 health and safety requirements and adaptations that customers expect – appropriate social distancing, limited numbers inside at one time, safe queuing, mask wearing, contactless payments, quick service and self service options.
- Online. Negotiating your e-commerce site has to be easy and effective, whether people are browsing, ordering, paying for or returning goods. Make sure it’s also mobile-friendly, reliable across different devices and offers options like “buy online pick up in store” (BOPIS).
2) Make in-store shopping irresistible. To lure people out of their homes again, you need to provide experiences they can’t get online.
- Draw customers in with special events and exclusive services that make it worth taking the health risk and expending the energy to visit your stores. Once customers are in store and engaged, they are likely to buy more products and pay more for them.Threatened by online movie companies like Netflix, cinema chain Cinepolis has upped its game by providing luxury environments and enticing refreshments that promise a better experience than staying at home on the sofa.
- Scale up your customer service beyond the generic. Make personal shoppers, technical experts, and certified installers your norm. Electronics group Best Buy fought off tough competition from Amazon by offering free home consultations to inspire trust and loyalty.
3) Create an immersive online offering. Look at your customers’ online experience as a unique opportunity, rather than a poor version of physical shopping. Digital has so much potential, “including real-time inventory management, predictive analytics, AI-powered search, and personalisation and co-creation functions”.
- Utilise the power and immediacy of social media thoroughly, not only to connect to sales channels, but to invite comments, reviews, recommendations, live chat, video interactions and gamification.
- Be inventive, like the Crossroads Church, Cincinnati, whose pastors hosted weekly Zoom video services from different significant locations to add interest during lockdown.
If you’re a retailer, don’t sit idly wishing things would go back to ‘normal’. Take action now to make your in-store and online offerings irresistible.