The introduction of a second lockdown may come as frustrating and daunting news for the majority of business owners in the retail industry.
Whilst reports released last week by the Centre for Retail Research, showed Britons are expected to spend £1bn more than last year in the run-up to Christmas, how they spend their cash will now be almost entirely online.
In addition, a recent survey by Atom Bank found that over half of Brits have used shopping as a mechanism to cheer themselves up or reward themselves, and with the doom and gloom of a second lockdown – that doesn’t look set to change.
Ahead of what could be a bleak winter, how can business leaders in the retail industry adapt to the new restrictions, in order to succeed this holiday season?
Brett Smith, director of customer success at the workplace management platform, Planday, provides some top tips and tactics for retail businesses, to cater for consumer demand during the UK’s second national lockdown in the run up to Christmas.
1. Utilise in-store staff’s product knowledge
“Although business leaders may be taking advantage of the government furlough scheme to control outgoings, there may be opportunities to utilise your staff’s product knowledge by offering in-store staff temporary positions in customer service – either on the phone or through an online chat app.
“Online shopping has always been huge at Christmas, but during Covid-19 it has boomed. In September, internet sales made up 26.1% of total retail – and will continue to do so during the second lockdown. It’s therefore important that removing in-store presence doesn’t impact the overall customer experience, and the customer still feels they have access to sales representatives who have expert product knowledge.
“From a sales perspective, increasing the overall value in the basket is crucial to make up the difference in lower foot traffic and well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable staff are a key to making it work.
“Not only will this tactic improve the customer experience, but it will also provide a moral boost for your staff whose day jobs have been put on hold once again.”
2. Offer a click and collect service
“If you’re not already, now is a great time to register with reputable delivery platforms or scale-up your online store so you can keep moving stock and maybe even offer instore staff temporary roles to manage the influx in distribution.
“People are not able to physically browse your products either, so it’s important to think about providing as much information and imagery on the page as possible – so people feel confident enough to purchase without seeing the product in person first. Offering an extended return window is another tactic to encourage people to purchase too, so they can test out your products first.”
3. Take learnings from the first lockdown
“Sadly, the second lockdown is just another bump in the road this year. Consider if there any learnings you can take from the first lockdown when it comes to the products that generated the best sales back in Spring. Analyse any patterns during the first lockdown, and consider any that could be successful once again.
“Take the opportunity to set up a reward scheme for people who are repeat customers too, using customer data to identify them. You can then utilise this for wider paid marketing too, and target them with product offers and promotions.”
4. Use social media to keep things fresh
“A vibrant and active social media channel is a vital part of any employer branding or good business marketing, but in the challenging times of another lockdown, it is even more important.
“With everyone stuck in their homes, your chance to connect with them has never been greater. Use this chance to showcase your products and how you are adapting your services.
“Be responsive with comments and direct messages and queries on your pages too, so customers feel they can communicate with you directly.”
5. Look after your staff
“When it all comes down to it, your staff are your best asset. 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for the whole of the retail industry, and the introduction of another lockdown will be extremely tough mentally and physically for many employees.
“If you do make the decision to furlough staff, it’s important to be as transparent as possible during this period, ensuring they are kept up to date and informed with business updates, and a view on when they may be returning to work. It’s vital to maintain a sense of team morale too – so try introducing weekly team video calls, even these are just for a casual chat and catch up to keep up positivity levels!”
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