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.
It is undeniable that there will be a large and most likely permanent shift in consumer behavior and demands online, in-store, and everywhere in between. In-store, consumers are paying attention to cleanliness and payment choice- particularly low-contact payment choice availability. Touchless payment terminals and self-checkout kiosks are becoming higher demand and will not go away when the pandemic ceases to be a near and present threat. Health and safety concerns are at the forefront of the collective consumer conscious. 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. Not long ago, it would have been unfathomable to purchase a mattress online. Innovative retailers like Purple have changed that, and now consumers don't hesitate to go online for their new mattresses. This trend is present in other industries, as well, and continues to grow.
The Road to Success
As you look ahead and plan how to grow your business, here are four steps to consider for success.
- Ensure your digital efforts reflect your target audience's needs.
The customer journey is very different than it was before Covid changed the retail landscape. Customers have experienced seamless online browsing, shopping, and returns. They will expect the same level of service from the places they frequent.
- Offer more relevant products or reposition products for relevance.
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.
- You know your customer better than anyone. It's time to put that to work.
Retailers have access to massive data sets that can tell them more about their target audience than they thought they would ever be able to know. Your payment processing platforms can give you insights into how, when, and where your customers are shopping, for example. Using these insights, small businesses are more easily able 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.