Retail Tips: Weathering the Covid-19 Economic Storm
By Mark Nelms
Before we get started, I want you to know that none of this article is written lightly. What we are discussing today could potentially impact the future of your businesses for many years to come, not just now in this time of crisis, but for the remainder of the 4th industrial revolution. I’d also like to remind our readers, I am not a physician or an economist, but I am an expert in retail. With almost 25 years of working for, consulting with, and in retail; I have a unique advantage in predicting the behavior of retail buyers.
Many of you have already spoken to me about the sharp drop in foot traffic, and unfortunately, until this virus is contained, I expect these trends to continue. BUT, there are things you can do in order to cauterize this wound, and that’s the topic of our conversation today.
- How is social distancing effecting retail?
- How can you use technology to assist your customers with Social Distancing?
- What are some long-term impacts of Social Distancing?
- Ways to be productive with your time during the storm?
How Proper Social Distancing Adherence is Affecting Retail
There are quite a few immediate ramifications of Social Distancing in the retail world. Today we are only going to discuss a few that I have been able to corroborate. As this virus continues to spread, more may become apparent, so please know it is impossible for me to foresee them all.
- Your products may no longer be available
- If you are like many of my clients, you import your goods from areas that have had some, if not all their factories shut down. This would most likely be the case with factories in China, Italy, Northern California, etc.
- Start looking at options for new suppliers now. It doesn’t hurt to already have done your research just in case.
- Limited Staff
- Your Staff is afraid to come into work. Allow non-essential personnel to work from home if possible.
- As Covid-19 cases in your areas rise, you will be more pressed to have the Covid-19 conversation. By addressing the situation in advance, you can alleviate many of their concerns.
- Make sure your staff knows to not come in if sick. Don’t just hope they know, make sure they do.
- No Traffic
- This is the most critical one in my opinion.
- By utilizing Buy Online Pickup in Store, Delivery, and Ecommerce, you can allow your customers to still shop with you, even though they cannot spend time in your store. But this requires you to notify them that you have it available.
- This may not end with the current epidemic, depending on the results of the Economic Stimulus Plan, the ramifications can potentially have a longer effect. By spending local you can reduce this by ensuring $0.67 of every dollar stays in your community.
Technologies that can help with Social Distancing.
- Web Conferencing: If you institute web conferencing software, you can virtually eliminate the need to pack all your employees into a small space. According to Trust Radius, “web conferencing software allows participants to conduct or attend meetings via the internet. This is also known as online meeting software. It enables remote meetings based on VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging, file and screen sharing.” Some of these include GoTo Meeting, WebEx, Adobe Connect, Vonage, and Zoom.
- Integrated Ecommerce: As American shoppers begin to stay home and avoid crowded places, your store needs to adapt to their new way of shopping. While many of you already have ecommerce, many of you have yet to integrate it into your POS. By not integrating your POS, you run the risk of not following through on your promise to your customers.
- BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup in Store): In New Orleans, restaurants are being required to close unless they are offering delivery or To Go orders. Just imagine BOPIS as ordering your retail goods “To Go.” This article can explain a lot more about your options for BOPIS. By implementing Buy Online Pickup Curbside, you are allowing your customers and employees to limit interactions to just one on one. If you have already integrated your POS to your Website this can be a simple “flipping a switch.” If you have not this can take between 6-12 months to properly implement.
- Delivery: If there is one article I implore you to read and take heed of TODAY, it is the one we wrote several weeks ago titled “Pet Industry: Should You Offer Home Delivery and What Technologies should you use?” Going forward delivery will be a must-add as more and more Americans will be staying in their homes and avoiding shopping. Don’t just add this for your business but add it for your customers and your employees.
- Contactless Payments: While this technology has been available for some time, many retailers are not endorsing it. When we are living in a time in which just touching an unclean surface can help spread Covid-19, it may be more important than ever to ask people to utilize Apple Pay or Google Wallet. This is typically available with the Ingenico ISC250 or similar payment terminals.
What Are Some Long-term Effects?
I was speaking to a group of millennials this past weekend and 2 out of 9 of them had just signed up for an Amazon Prime Account. That equates to 22%, and it scares the heck out of me. That potentially means that more Americans right now will sign up during this crisis, than have since it first gained popularity. If you combine that with the idea that Amazon is hiring an additional 100,000 employees during the crisis, it’s easy to see the writing on the wall. Amazon knows that this trend will not end with the Coronavirus epidemic. People will get used to shopping online and have their items delivered to them. This means that we can no longer delay adding these services to our portfolio. That is, not if we want to be relevant during the remainder of the 4th industrial revolution.
Ways to be productive with your time during the storm?
- Improve Your Supply Chain: This is a great article on three strategies for improving your supply chain.
- Conduct Physical Counts: Don’t wait until your foot traffic starts back up to get this done.
- Make Changes to your Software: Thanks to the recent Economic Stimulus Package you have quite a few low interest opportunities to make capital investments.
- Do Your Software updates and upgrades: Call or email RCS today to see if an upgrade to your current software can give you the required functionality.
- Re-merchandise the store so that it’s fresh when the crisis recedes.
- Use Marketing to Promote Your Store: If you have been collecting email addresses, then that is the easiest and most cost-effective method. If not consider social media marketing, local news reporting, zip code-based marketing, etc. Anything to let your prospects know that you have added BOPIS, Ecommerce, and Delivery.
So whether or not you are worried about the bottom line cost of the Coronavirus to your business or your desire to prepare for “Retail Armageddon” it is easy to see why it’s important for you to add these technologies sooner rather than later. You have tons of reasons to try it and limited reasons not to. For the next article, we are going to discuss; Buying Local, Marketing Mailers, Custom Apps, and a couple of other things you can do to weather the economic storm that is likely to follow this epidemic.
About the author
Mark Nelms is a Business Development Manager for Pet Rewards POS. He has conducted over 400 interviews with retailers from almost every vertical and size. In prior roles, he’s assisted clients like Cumberland Packaging Corporation (Sweet N’ Low), The New England Patriots, and NCR.