The retail landscape has drastically changed over the last few years, with digital transactions growing and the ecommerce industry skyrocketing. According to Beeketing, new studies projected that the worldwide retail eCommerce sales will reach a new high by 2021. The study goes on to say that there is an impressive 265% growth predicted in this area alone. This increasing trend towards a preference for digital purchase in retail is a welcome opportunity during times of crisis.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the globe, there are several steps that retailers could take, to ensure that their business performs as expected and that they are able to continue to serve their customers. As with all successful businesses, the ability to adapt to external circumstances and customer behaviour is vital.
High street stores
There is no denying that the country has been experiencing some challenging times over the last few months. Director at Barclaycard, Esme Harwood explains how storms, floods and fears about the spread of coronavirus have kept many Brits away from the high street. In fact, it is estimated that more than 1 in 4 people have avoided the high street due to these adverse conditions.
However, there are actions that retailers can take, in order to ensure their stores still remain profitable and available for customers.
- Communicate clearly the precautionary steps you have introduced to ensure the safety of staff and customers alike. Such as installing hand sanitiser units throughout your stores, regularly screening staff for symptoms and ensuring small queues for all customers, to avoid unnecessary close proximity to others
- Promote and encourage a Click and Collect service. This is a fast growing area for many retailers, with Halfords attributing 86% of all sales to this channel. It is also the perfect compromise for many customers, between actually walking around the store and waiting for an online delivery. The interaction with others is low and often the collection point can be outside, making it a more attractive prospect for many customers
As people begin to move away from the high street in a bid to avoid highly populated areas, it is anticipated that we’ll see a surge in online sales. In order to continue to serve all of your customers in an efficient way, it may be necessary to divert some of your allocated budget and resource to support this growth in online demand.
- Make more delivery slots available or ensure a quicker delivery time. Could you move some of your store employees to the warehouse or have more delivery drivers available?
- Invest in digital acquisition tactics such as PPC or display advertising. These channels could help customers to better navigate the web and quickly find the products they’re looking for
- Offer a loyalty program. This could be in the form of free delivery voucher if you re-order within the next 2 weeks or a percentage discount off of certain products that are likely to suffer during this time
- Leverage all of the mobile channels at your disposal: email is great for providing lots of detail, SMS is great for prompting immediate action, both should be timed to land at the point at which your customers are most likely to take advantage of the promotion – lunchtime or early evening. This multichannel approach is proven to be 37% more effective than sending through a single channel.
Changing shopping trends and behaviours
Purchasing behaviour is likely to change over the next few months with fewer people looking to take holidays and more people staying close to home. Consequently, it’s important to monitor and predict shopping trends ahead of time. Perhaps a heavier promotion of your homewares range, instead of your summer clothing line, might be a better use of your marketing budget and ensure that ROI stays consistent.
The importance of communication
The constant theme throughout all of this is the importance of communication, both internally with your own team and externally with your customers.
Effective retail communication is all about timing and reach, two elements that play to the strengths of SMS. With an open rate of 95%, it is one of the most effective ways of communicating. Whether it’s updating them on their Click and Collect order, advising them of parcel delivery times, surveying them around new shopping behaviours, sharing your business continuity plan or communicating time-critical information to your employees.
However, reliance on a single channel is risky; the best approach is to leverage all of the channels at your reach, be that email, push notifications, letters, a phone call or indeed a text message. Choosing different combinations depending on customer demographics will also pay dividends. It is more important than ever to understand your customer purchasing behaviour and preferred communication channel.