The retrospective of how 2020 changed retail in the US will be a case study by the Business Schools for years to come. Briefly we all experienced the changes first hand either as retailers or consumers. If you were fortunate and your business was defined as essential you had to adapt on the fly. We are now in a transitional period until the delivery of the vaccines reaches critical mass and we can begin to resume business as usual. In anticipation of this retailers who haven’t already adapted need to, quickly. Many of the changes retailers made to accommodate customers during the Covid crisis are permanent. These are thing to consider are you prepare for the new normal.
1. Allow customers to buy when the want, how they want and where they want. BOPIS (Buy online, pickup in store) and curbside pickup has increased 62% year over year.
2. Many workers will continue to work from home. Adjust your product mix accordingly.
3. Digitize your business. Consumers are increasingly using social media platforms as the main source of information about products. Are you maximizing your digital footprint?
4. The new buzz word for utilizing customer data is “Clienteling” . This is simply taking the use of customer to the next level and providing a curated shopping experience. 53% of consumers are more comfortable sharing their date with retailers who offer personalized offers and promotions.
5. Online payments have rapidly grown as the preference of online consumers (PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay). Also digital gift cards.
6. Inventory visibility and accuracy. It’s critical in this new age of BOPIS that your inventory is accurate. Consumers have low tolerance for out of stocks and inventory that is shown as available and in fact is not.
7. Some of the health protocols put in place as a result of Covid should remain in place. The two that come to mind are hand sanitizing stations and the protection screen at the POS stations.
8. As we gradually transition back to a normal business climate the independent retailer has the unique opportunity to provide the traditional in store shopping experience. In spite of the tremendous growth in online sales there is a subset of consumers that want to touch and feel product and be doted on by professional sales clerks.
9. Thoroughly evaluate all your store technology systems to determine if they are capable of addressing BOPIS, digital communication, online payments and clienteling. This may an opportune time upgrade or replace antiquated systems. Money is cheap and vendors are aggressively looking for new business.
10. And lastly optimism. Let’s hope 2021 may be this centuries version of the “Roaring Twenties”. Position your business to optimize the pent up demand once we return to normal.