The Coronavirus (known as COVID-19), declared by the WHO as a pandemic, has spread far from its origin in Wuhan China, impacting retailers around the globe. “Temporarily closed”, doors closed, lights turned off – these are the words to describe the current status of many businesses. According to Statista, between March 9, 2020, and April 21, 2020, European retailers are expected to face a loss of 3.26 billion British pounds due to disruptions caused by the current outbreak. While the negative impact of COVID-19 on brick-and-mortar stores is undeniable, we can predict that the digital side of the retail business will grow at a faster pace than expected. How retailers should react and adapt to COVID-19? Let’s have a look at what exactly businesses can do to adapt to the current situation and offset the loss of in-store sales.
Maintain effective communication with your customers
Businesses should be mindful of how to communicate with customers during the pandemic period. Any companies that appear as if they are capitalizing on the Coronavirus situation to attract followers face the risk of alienating consumers. In fact, social networks have also suppressed this behavior. For example, Facebook recently implemented a policy to prohibit ads that refer to the Coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, or that provide misleading information.
It’s better to choose information from credible sources, share clearly and often with your customers on all your official channels. Utilize your loyalty or membership programs to keep customers informed and engaged.
Take advantage of online sales channels
Since person-to-person and brick-and-mortar retail are severely restricted, especially in affected regions, everyone is turning to online shopping. It’s time to move ordinary salesmen online too. Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan, which was forced to close 40% of its stores during the outbreak, redeployed its beauty advisors from those stores to become online influencers. They have leveraged social media channels such as WeChat to virtually advise customers and create sales, helping the company achieve 200% growth compared to the previous year.
Live streaming is also an interactive way to show products and boost sales online. It can be followed by an additional call or text chat to complete the orders and talk about upselling. One typical example of embracing this method is Alibaba, with its Tmall Fashion blooming with luxury brands starting to experiment with live streaming.
Another online sales channel to look at is a marketplace. However, the surged number of orders, together with restrictions in transportation due to Coronavirus concerns, will definitely cause delays in delivery. If you utilize the marketplace channel, make sure your customers are informed and aware of this issue.
In the time of virtual shopping, it’s gonna be a miss not to mention a virtual try-on. If we look on the bright side, social distancing could increase the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies for virtual try-ons and virtual showrooms.
The Italian luxury shoe brand – Les Petits Joueurs, in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 on their business, has launched since early this month a full virtual showroom with Augmented Reality (AR) options to try on every product. In just the last few days, they have observed more online sales as a result of this innovation.
Buy online – pick up at the store and home delivery
Since many merchants have closed their brick-and-mortar stores, retailers have turned to curbside pickup and home-delivery options. With the expected increase in delivery demand, promoting shipping offers can be a good strategy to stand out against the competition. However, the global spread of Coronavirus can cause delays in supply chain and delivery. It’s critical to maintain communications with warehouses and distribution centers to ensure your shipping offers are viable.
The problem is, that a lot of customers will appreciate the convenience of Buy online – Home delivery option and stick with it even when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Should retailers take this opportunity to move to a completely online business model? Well, this should be taken with great caution. Since it is also very costly to operate and will definitely decrease the foot traffic to physical stores. Forrester’s research shows that 30% to 40% of shoppers who go into a store to shop or pick up an online order end up buying additional items
An opportunity for D2C sales
D2C (Direct-to-consumer) brands have been making a splash for several years now as the future of retail. These brands have hit various retail sectors, ranging from mattresses, razors, shoes, fitness & health, and many more. As consumers are changing their shopping preferences from in-person to online, D2C brands are likely to have a significant boost and can become among major retailers after the pandemic is over.
Go back to “basic” and “local”
The global spread of Coronavirus, followed by various lock-down or boundary restrictions, has resulted in severe disruption in production and supply chain. While brands that have traditionally looked to Asia for sourcing may experience difficulties, those with a local and sustainable supply may find this time a good opportunity to survive and compete.
Also, as consumers have now focused their spending more on necessities during crisis time, sales of luxury goods is expected to go down. Brands, thus, are advised to focus more on basic goods and services and adjust from business-as-usual to business-as-best-as-possible.
To conclude, while the full impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are yet to be measured, it is for sure that your 2020 plan will not be as you expected. What we should do is stay informed from credible sources, be positive but alert, and try to look on the bright side to find ways for our business to adapt and mitigate the negative effects. Let us know your thoughts and sharings on how your businesses are driving through these days!