The COVID-19 pandemic will likely be a defining moment for retailers, changing the way they sell, deliver, and promote products.
A recent study of shopping patterns during the pandemic found that a majority of people (64%) have replaced traditional weekly shopping trips with online ordering. And retailers that have previously relied on in-store sales have had to shift to selling online and scheduling appointments for customers to browse products.
The SMB Group reported that a third of all small- and midsize-business owners say that increasing the use of online channels — digital sales channels, marketplaces, websites — has helped to replace some of the business they’re losing from in-store operations during the pandemic.
Here are some of the ways small-business owners can adapt to the new retail landscape.
Staying in touch with customers is crucial for any business who have had to limit their in-person interaction, and many are getting creative with how they build and maintain relationships on social media.
Instagram and Facebook are excellent platforms to tease products and drive sales. Popular strategies include featuring educational tips (tutorials and classes), customer content (customers enjoying products and services), special announcements, and promotions.
Due South, a home-goods boutique in Colorado, is making customers’ shopping experience easier and more enjoyable while they’re stuck at home. The store has been using Facebook to provide virtual shopping tours and live workshops for customers who want to spruce up their house or get help with their next DIY project.
Awoke Vintage, a chain in New York, has been selling merchandise through Instagram stories by posting more than 75 items a day. The company receives orders through direct message and then sends customers an invoice through Square to complete the purchase.
Proactive business move: Social media is an effective way to keep customers up to date on offerings and hours, and what a business is doing to maintain a safe shopping experience. Retailers can also leverage capabilities, like livestreaming and shoppable Instagram posts, to stay connected with customers and provide them with an easier way to shop. Adding Square Online Checkout links is a quick and easy way to take payments from your social followers.
Expanding fulfillment options
Businesses facing reduced foot traffic or still bound by stay-at-home orders should consider expanding fulfillment options like curbside or in-store pickup.
While the buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) model is hardly new, it’s grown in popularity during the pandemic. A survey conducted by software as a service (SaaS) provider Qudini found that a majority of consumers (62%) were embracing BOPIS options as a way to reduce exposure to the coronavirus.
Hi-Lo, a liquor mart in Culver City, California, has stayed open because it qualifies as an essential business. But given the risks presented by this pandemic, the store encouraged customers to use curbside pickup or delivery. Although the store already had a website, it displayed only contact and product information. To support its new fulfillment methods, Hi-Lo added an “order now” link that goes to a Square Online Store, where customers can seamlessly place an order for pickup or delivery.
Proactive business move: Providing different ways for consumers to receive products gives shoppers the flexibility to choose what makes the most sense for them. Curbside or in-store pickup gives nearby shoppers the option to get their item quickly, while local delivery and shipping allows customers to get their items without leaving home.
Offering appointment-based shopping
Some retailers, like luxury boutiques and bridal stores, have long practiced an appointment-only model to give customers a unique personal experience. Now some stores are reopening with that same type of model to accommodate social-distancing practices. This helps stores easily manage crowds and cut down the number of people waiting in line.
Plant Therapy, a plant store with two locations in San Francisco, has added several appointment services. For customers who don’t want to physically visit the store, Plant Therapy offers the option to book a virtual plant consultation to ask questions through FaceTime or make a purchase through a virtual personal shopping trip. After shopping virtually, Plant Therapy sends customers an invoice and schedules a delivery. Additionally, customers can book a storefront shopping appointment to visit the physical store and browse the plants outside.
“We want to adopt appointments ongoing and keep it when things open back up. People want convenience and not everyone has time to bring plants down to a store and we think it’s important to have that [virtual] service ongoing,” owner Chai Saechao says.
Proactive business move: Opening your store on an appointment-only basis may be a good option when planning how to reopen. An appointment scheduling tool, like Square Appointments, can help you schedule appointments, send automated reminders, and stay-in-touch with customers after their visit.
Transitioning to contactless payments
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way consumers feel about touching cash. A recent study by Mastercard found that more than half of US consumers agree that they’re now worried about providing a signature when making a purchase, and half of consumers say they’re using contactless payments more since the pandemic began.
Proactive business move: Business owners should consider offering touch-free and remote payment options to make customers and employees feel more comfortable and help limit contact. Businesses can reduce the need to touch in-store by allowing shoppers to tap to pay using their card or a mobile wallet, disable the signature screen, or skip the receipt screen on their POS Hardware. Additionally, retailers can use invoices so that consumers can pay without interacting with the point-of-sale system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many small and midsize retailers to adapt to consumer trends and get creative with how they do business, from appointment-based shopping to contactless payments. As the economy reopens, retailers should consider implementing these solutions to ensure customer and employee safety — and keep business going.
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Original source: Business Insider