What should independent retailers do during COVID-19?

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With first the bushfires and now COVID-19 contributing to the temporary closure of many retail stores, it’s not a stretch to say that 2020 has presented sizable challenges for retailers in Australia.

To help retailers get on top of the drop, we have mapped out four phases of impact on the sector, and what to do during each of them. Here’s what retailers can do.

Keep your customers engaged

It is crucial to stay connected with your customers using every platform possible, and online marketing tools like Marsello let you talk to your customers via email, SMS and social media and maintain those all important open lines of communication. Regularly update customers via email, social media, SMS or any other platform about how your business will operate in the interim, how they can continue engaging with you and, perhaps most importantly, how and when they can explore your new or improved eCommerce site.

Double down your eCommerce

Nothing will replace face-to-face exchanges between retailers and their customers, but now it’s important to replace those interactions until it’s safe to reopen. Every sale, lead and connection matters, so if your business is still in a position to fulfil them, continue to take orders and double down your eCommerce offering over the coming weeks and months. Encourage people to shop online, promote any discounts or deals, focus on your loyalty schemes, make your checkout process as seamless as possible and clearly include your current delivery and wider business processes.

Prepare, refine and be productive

While your store is closed it’s the perfect time to make any changes, implement processes and carry out the stock checks that you were always too busy to do. In particular, it’s a good time to implement the tools and systems that will help you succeed during the upcoming digital phase. But think, too, beyond the coming weeks and look to the future.

Physical stock counts are difficult when shoppers are in store, so now could be the opportune time to carry out a thorough stock count. Digitise your stock-taking process using an app which lets you do full and partial inventory counts using your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Why not use this time to dig into your reporting and analytics, too, and develop a more holistic understanding of your business so that you’re ready and raring to go when it’s time to reopen.

Let your customers know you’re open again

Ready to open your doors again? You could spruce up your storefront, make a big splash on social media, send emails and texts to your customers and hold special events. Hopefully, the downtime gave you a chance to refine your operation so that when you’re open again you can focus on the things that got you into retail in the first place – freedom and control, beautiful products and delightful, long-lasting relationships with your customers.

While these are indeed unprecedented times, the Aussie independent retail sector has faced and conquered challenges before. As an extended community, now is a time to come together, support each other, share best practice, and rely on technology to ensure that collectively we’re ready to lead a bright retail future.

Dave Scheine, Managing Director – APAC, Vend