The world we live in today is markedly different from the pre-pandemic world we lived in before. A number of changes have taken place, brought about by government restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and the fear of contracting COVID-19. In just a month’s time, sales of common household staples have quadrupled, there has been a rise in event cancellations, retailers selling non-essential items have shut down eCommerce operations, and television and streaming services have seen a surge in consumption.
Businesses, both online and offline, have been playing catch-up and trying their best to put out the fire that COVID-19 has started. Economists are predicting another recession in the US in 2021, and although there has been a shift from offline to online shopping, customers aren’t really making that many purchases—save for food, household, and other essential items.
The State of the Retail Industry
The retail industry is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19, which continues to evolve. Businesses are experiencing and forecasting issues with contractual obligations, inventory, deferred tax assets, and cash flow hedge accounting.
Retailers should take note of their inventory, especially their stock of essential and household items, which are currently in demand. The stock should increase where necessary and constant communication with suppliers is vital. It would be wise to take note of what’s flying off the shelves and make orders early to avoid long delays. Many shipping and logistics companies are understaffed due to social distancing rules and other government restrictions so delays are to be expected.
Health is one of the main factors when consumers go shopping nowadays, and grocery stores selling essential “survival items” are experiencing this shift in behavior. It has led to problems in logistics and keeping items in stock since deliveries and shipping have been limited due to the global pandemic. Currently, there are stores that limit purchases of certain items, including hand sanitizers, toilet paper, and masks, to a certain quantity per customer to help curtail challenges with inventory and supply chain.
There’s also the rising concern about consumer confidence. The University of Michigan shows that customer sentiment went down from 101.0 to 89.1 index points in March 2020. Consumer confidence is expected to follow suit, and it’s predicted that it will hit lows only seen during the Great Recession. It’s ironic because consumer confidence came close to being the highest it’s been in a decade.
How to Rebuild Your Business in the Months to Come
In uncertain times like this, it’s vital that you maintain your connection with your customers. Millions of people now express their opinions and sentiments about a certain brand or product online, and the information you can gather will be very useful in determining how you can maintain or enhance customer perception of your brand. Here are a few tips to help you keep your business afloat until all this blows over.
Adapt Your Marketing Strategy
Since most people are at home or working from home, now is a great time to shift your focus on the eCommerce side of your business. Most brick-and-mortar stores are also closed now, so it’s not surprising to see a surge in online shoppers. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed customer behavior and shopping patterns so it would be helpful to discover who your online shoppers are so you can discover new cohorts.
The customers are already coming to you, so all you need to do is meet them where they already are. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for and buy it from your online store. Focus on digital models to optimize the overall shopping experience so customers come back and bring friends with them. You should also look into online strategies like Facebook advertising, SEO, and user-generated content. Provide a consistent and seamless customer experience across all channels and watch your online brand reputation improve in no time.
Avoid Unnecessary Spending
In the past month, a number of businesses were forced to cease operations indefinitely, negatively affecting profits. To alleviate this dilemma, businesses should take a proactive approach and put a hold on spending where possible. The pandemic may have changed the way companies do business, but now is the worst time to stop or hold off on marketing your brand or product. Look for more practical—and affordable—ways to get things done. You can save extra money by postponing all travel plans, limiting entertainment and leisure spend, and using cash only for essential business.
Many companies are also offering deferred payment schemes that can be paid through monthly installments. Talk to your vendors and suppliers if they can offer you something similar. Also, discuss extended payment terms for loans or consider increasing your line of credit so you have a safety net just in case worse comes to worst.
Communicate Openly and Constantly
Consumers are very concerned right now about the future and how things will look like in the next few months. Health, safety, and well being are top-of-mind nowadays, and your business should show customers what you’re doing to combat the global pandemic. First and foremost, they want to know that you’re taking care of your employees, so ensure that your business stays compliant with the latest policies in your region and that your customers are aware of it. Ensure that workplace policies are clear-cut, and if there aren’t any that apply to the current pandemic, now is the best time to create and implement one.
“Be there” for your customers by maintaining a strong online presence; post regular updates on social media, update your blog regularly, and ensure that your product catalog is always up to date. Inform consumers that you’re open and ready for business and any dates of business interruption. Make customers feel appreciated by running promos and providing discounts where applicable.
You should also communicate regularly with the backbone of your business operations—your employees. Ensure that they remain motivated to work and that you’re taking the necessary steps and implementing necessary measures so that business disruption is minimized. Provide assistance to employees who are finding it hard to adjust to the “new normal” and ensure they have what they need to do their jobs efficiently and comfortably.
As you do your best to keep your business afloat and your brand relevant in these challenging times, remember to be human. Build relationships with your customers by putting yourself in their shoes and walking a mile in them; learn what concerns they have and provide value beyond your product offering.