As coronavirus keeps spreading and making more people sick, retail businesses are feeling the brunt of it all, what with excess inventory, unexpected layoffs, and huge losses. In these trying times, many retail businesses are struggling to stay afloat, especially when Covid-19 is a dynamic and rapidly changing enigma.
What to do? If you’re a retail store owner, district leader or HQ, how do you steer your retail business at a time when things seem bleak? How do you keep your business operational, and even achieve success, when all odds appear stuck against you?
If you’re in the retail industry and looking for ways to survive these tough times, we wrote the following article just for you. We cover all the critical areas you need to address to rise above the challenges that coronavirus brings.
Check areas you need to address, but above all, let us work together to defeat the pandemic that has claimed many of our loved ones already. Without further ado, here is how you can stay afloat during, and after, the coronavirus plague.
7 Top Tips to Stay Afloat as a Retail Business
While your case might be slightly different from other retailers depending on the specific nature of your business, most retail businesses can benefit from the tips we address in the following section.
The following tips are just a starting point; there are obviously many other things you can do to survive coronavirus. Just get creative, and most importantly, stay safe.
Keep Yourself, Your Staff and Customers Safe
The first thing to consider before reorienting your business is safety. How will you survive if you or your staff members are sick? Besides, it’s your responsibility to educate and ensure your customers stay safe as well.
Anybody can contract the virus, but government agencies and other stakeholders have come together to ensure the public stay safe. It’s your duty to follow government safety and preventative measures to the letter.
For starters, ensure you adhere to social distancing regulations. If you must have some employees working in your premises, there should be no more than one person per four square meters of floor space. To reduce in-person contact, ensure social distancing of 1.5m.
Secondly, you should maintain high standards of hygiene at all given times. As required by law, provide appropriate materials such as gloves, hand sanitizers and face masks to minimize the spread of coronavirus in your store. On top, disinfect surfaces, equipment and areas used regularly.
Thirdly, encourage the administration and non-essential workers to work from home. If an employee can work remotely, it makes no sense to have them report to work, more so via public transportation. Consider providing everything they need to work from home.
Finally, go cashless. To curb the spread of coronavirus, it’s important to encourage and implement cashless transactions. If you don’t have the tech, now is the time to switch over to systems that allow customers to pay digitally. Use “Tap & Pay”, credit/debit cards, mobile phones and other digital wallets.
Identify the Challenges Facing Your Business
Our common enemy is coronavirus for sure, but each retail business is different hence experiencing a unique set of challenges. As such, the first step to stay afloat is to identify the problems crippling your business.
Breakdown in communication and supply chains is a common problem affecting many, if not all, retailers. Additionally, retailers who largely depend on in-store purchases are having it rough as customers continue staying at home.
Many retailers report negative cash flow and as a result, have closed most of their stores. Others have had to halt online and offline orders and deliveries, which has negatively impacted revenue and strained business relations.
To counter, first begin by identifying the challenges you’re facing as a retailer. Only then can you address the problems with new solutions. Keep in mind that a stitch in time can save nine, so implement solutions with different scenarios in mind. As you’re working with lesser resources, always focus on what’s working.
Demonstrate You Care About Employees and Customers
When things finally calm down, customers will most definitely remember the companies that demonstrated they care about their employees and customers. As these uncertain times trudge on, everybody needs a helping hand. That helping hand could be your company.
For example, a company known as Evil Genius has demonstrated they care about their employees by running a GoFundMe campaign with a Virtual Tip Jar for its employees. The campaign raised enough money that they were able to give each employee $500. On top of that, they applied for funding via the Paycheck Protection Program. Besides, they actively encourage customers to stay at home.
Evil Genius is a great example of how you can demonstrate you care about your employees, but you can do better with a little creativity. Don’t stop engaging in corporate social responsibility and environmentally friendly practices. Join in the fight, and let your staff and customers know you care about their safety. It’s the perfect time to give back to the community.
Rethink Your Strategy in an Evolving Business Environment
Even with the current threat, the future of retail is still bright. The only problem is what used to work in the past might not work in our new reality. Even when we finally get coronavirus under control, things might never go back to how they were; we’ll be dealing with a new normal.
For this very reason, you must rethink your business model to cope with the changes as well as challenges. You must start by setting up new buying options for your customers. Consider implementing home delivery with curbside pickup or click & collect.
The objective here is to establish a no-touch protocol when receiving, preparing and delivery orders. If you don’t have a web presence, it’s time to create a website, and start generating leads online. You need more customers to survive during and after Covid-19.
So, brainstorm creative ideas to deliver your products and services to customers amidst the pandemic. To offload your excess inventory, for instance, consider incentives such as deep discounting through off-price retailers.
Additionally, flash sales and ecommerce promotions can also help greatly as you struggle to manage inventory. You could even turn your closed stores into makeshift fulfillment centers to lighten the load on your distribution centers. There’s no shortage of ideas on how to restructure your model to survive the epidemic.
Make Creative Use of Social Media
People are bored especially when you have to stay at home by law. Curfews, lockdowns and quarantines are not the norm in many cities around the world, and people are itching for something fun to do, and more importantly, go outside.
With that in mind, there has never been a better time to ramp up on your social media activity. Create fun social media content to keep your target audience engaged and entertained. Whether it’s a meme, a status update or an encouraging video, make it fun and relevant as the world grapples with the reality of Covid-19.
It can be a great time to reach your customers on social media, where many people spend most time nowadays. During the pandemic, social media is a splendid way to stay in touch with customers, and reassure them you’re still open for business. It’s also a great way to keep your customers updated on all matters coronavirus and how your business is dealing with the threat.
Implement Tech Upgrades to Keep Communication Going
With fewer employees in the stores and more people working from home, keeping your communications channels open and disseminating crucial information can be a huge challenge for all retailers. It gets even tougher if you run a fleet of stores and need to keep the flow of info alive across your network.
What to do? It’s time to invest in communication technology because timely and accurate communication is key to the success of your business. There are many options available for example Retail Zipline, as far as task-based retail communication goes.
Other options include, but not limited to, Google Docs for documents that everyone can edit, Asana or Slack for team collaboration, Skype, Zoom and FaceTime for video calls/conferencing, and Dropbox for file sharing, among others.
Ensure your employees can find relevant information in a timely manner without issues by investing in the right tech and automating tasks. During and after one of the worst pandemics, you must keep the communication going without any hiccups.
Keep up to date with Coronavirus News
You don’t want to leave in a cocoon during these uncertain times. The coronavirus situation is evolving rapidly, and the only way to stay ahead is to stay informed. Governments all over the world are releasing updates and new directives daily, most of which affect retail businesses of all sizes.
As such, it’s wise to stay up to date with coronavirus news, so you can make calculated moves at the right time without facing severe economical and legal repercussions. More importantly, having the right information about the disease can further help you to protect yourself, family, employees and customers.
Popular sources of up to date Covid-19 news include renowned entities such as CNN, BBC, CDC, and WHO, among others. Avoid fake information like the plague (no pun intended) as that often causes more harm than good. You don’t want to go into panic mode when you’re barely surviving the nasty pandemic that’s coronavirus.
Staying afloat during coronavirus is challenging but not impossible. Start with a plan that identifies the challenges your retail business is facing and come up with creative ideas on how to surmount the same. Invest in technology to keep the communication going and follow government guidelines.
Show your employees and customers you care since everybody needs help at these tough times. On top of that, stay in the know, and most importantly, stay safe. Together, we shall defeat coronavirus, and hopefully go back to our old ways. Well, probably with a few changes in how we do business.
What are you doing to survive and stay afloat during the coronavirus epidemic? Please share your insights.