By Erica Houskeeper on August 19, 2020
In 2019, a major retailer was exploring how to launch a curbside-delivery business over an 18-month span. When the COVID-19 lock-down hit, the delivery model went live in two days.
In March, as COVID-19 turned the world upside down, small retail businesses were forced to make instant decisions and implement new measures—from health and safety protocols to curbside and delivery options to eCommerce sales.
Still, in the era of COVID-19, the retail industry is overall managing to hold its own. Retail sales growth in July was fairly robust as sales rose 11% year over year to $185.6 billion, with non-store sales—mostly e-commerce—rising 29.1%, according to RetailDive.com, which tracks U.S. Commerce Department numbers. Some retail segments did better than others in July: sporting goods stores rose 22.4%, while general stores edged up 3.7% and furniture and home goods sales increased by 1.2%. Meanwhile, electronic stores and department stores experienced a decrease in July.
Surviving and Thriving in the COVID-19 Era
There’s no denying that COVID-19 will likely leave a lasting effect across most industries for the foreseeable future.
For retailers, there will likely be a permanent shift of consumers shopping online for most of their needs, as well as a more stringent focus on cleanliness with touch-less or self-checkout options. Retailers must understand that they must do these things to maintain and attract new customers.
Retailers are also re-imagining the kinds of items that can be purchased online. It wasn’t long ago when consumers wouldn’t think of purchasing eyeglasses or a mattress online. But companies such as Warby Parker and Purple have paved the way for many of today’s retailers to bridge the online-offline gap by taking items that would typically be bought offline and selling them online.
The Road to Success
As you look ahead and plan how to grow your business, here are four steps to consider for success.
- Refocus digital efforts to reflect changing customer expectations.
Companies need to quickly rethink the customer journey. This includes creating a seamless e-commerce experience and enabling customers to complete everything they need to do online, from initial research and purchase to service and returns.
- Create new relevant products or reposition products.
Change your marketing strategies to make your products relevant to the current needs of customers. One company, iHeartRaves, an eCommerce retailer that sold fashion items for music festival attendees, pivoted to sell lounge-wear and lingerie. In Vermont, ski hat apparel company Skida launched an effort to sell cloth face masks in the early days of the pandemic. As a retailer, think about what you could sell at your store to meet your customers’ needs. Today, items such as hand sanitizer, cloth masks, and home office products are in high demand.
- Understand your target audience better than anyone.
Data is at retailers’ fingertips more than ever before. Data and analytic solutions can help small businesses manage and analyze all sources of data to understand and serve target customers in more relevant and personalized ways.
- Give customers a compelling reason to choose you over the competition.
Based on data-driven insights and a culture that rewards out-of-the-box thinking, retailers can create differentiated experiences that customers value and share with others.
Remember that in this new era, a business-as-usual mindset is no longer enough to thrive. But re-imagining how you operate, organize, and use technology can help you find lasting success in uncertain times. Learn how Sekure can help your business. Visit our COVID-19 Merchant Resources page to help you stay open and #Staysekure.