By Tom Haney on June 30, 2020
You thought you had this whole retail thing figured out — until you didn’t. In case you haven’t noticed, the retail landscape has shifted slightly since mid-March. Consumer habits have likely shifted for good.
Even before COVID-19, experts were predicting unprecedented growth in e-commerce and online sales. Case in point: Retail e-commerce sales in 2018 (USD) topped out at $2.8T in 2018, crept up to $3.5T in 2019, and were projected to reach $4.1T in 2020. In fact, it’s predicted that in the U.S., e-commerce will overtake in-store sales by 2024, although based on current trends this may happen even sooner. Keep trends like this in mind when you are planning your long-term strategy, and allocate your resources accordingly.
The pandemic has driven customers out of stores and into the arms of e-commerce, but now some of them are getting ready to come back. One thing is for sure, however: the shift to e-commerce has accelerated. The future is now. With that in mind, here are a few ideas for handling in-store and online traffic.
Focus on the in-store customer experience
As shelter-in-place orders are gradually lifted, you need to make sure that customers feel comfortable in your store. Engage your customers via your site or social media prior to opening so they know what to expect.
Is the store even open? Have your business hours changed? Do you offer alternative pick-up solutions? Do they need to wear a mask?
Show them that you have done everything you can to make the whole experience safe and enjoyable. For example, you could install an automatic door opener or, weather permitting, keep the door open so people don’t have to touch the handle.
Once customers are inside, will they be sandwiched together like sardines? That may have been fine in the past, but today it won’t fly (for obvious reasons).
Here are some ways you can make the in-store customer experience more enjoyable:
- Adjust the layout of your space to avoid clutter and ensure safe social distancing. • Increase your capacity for pick-up orders or curbside delivery. You may even want to consider moving more of your products exclusively online.
- Use your website and social media channels to showcase your store and show customers how you have adapted.
- Use contactless payment options for seamless and hygienic checkout.
- Chat with your customers to get a sense of what their comfort levels are in this new retail landscape.
Double down on digital
E-commerce sales and online traffic are going nowhere but up—and so are consumers’ expectations about their digital experience. As more and more consumers and demographics move online, you need to be ready.
- Review your website and make sure that it is optimized for mobile devices. Likewise, check the speed and stability of the site (or app) to ensure that everything is running smoothly and can handle increased traffic.
- Make sure you can accept online payments over the phone or online with a virtual terminal.
- Ensure that your bestselling products are easy to find (ideally on the first page).
With some imagination and preparation, you should have no trouble finding a happy medium between online and in-store business. Only time will tell how quickly e-commerce will continue eroding bricks-and-mortar retail.
So in the meantime, focus on integrating the online and in-store customer experience. Pull out all the stops to be agile. Embrace the disruption and take on the challenge of cracking untapped markets.
Sekure can help. Have a look at our COVID-19 Merchant Resource page for ways to stay on top of your reopening game.