Four things retailers need to focus on now

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Photo via Slidebean on Unsplash

It’s not over yet but we’re starting to see some signs of life in the old economy which is a relief shared by all of us, particularly retailers. There’s no need to sugarcoat it: the past couple of months have knocked many businesses about, although there are bright spots and there are opportunities amongst the doom and gloom. As we head into the recovery phase, what are the opportunities and how can you make the most of them?

Trust in the ‘familiar’ is key as consumers venture out

Despite valid concerns for their health and safety, the data shows consumers continue to do the vast majority of their shopping in-store. With the retail landscape having shifted during the pandemic as some businesses have scaled-down or closed altogether, there is an opportunity for retailers who are open. Now is the time to build familiarity into a strong trust. Ensure, firstly, you are meeting government requirements to operate as a COVIDSafe business. Once people are in-store, focus on ease of shopping. Pay attention to reducing the time it takes to complete the transaction and offer consumers ways to get everything they need in one shop. With brand loyalty disrupted by CV-19, laying the groundwork now will pay dividends now and well into the future.

For homegrown brands, the opportunity is amplified. With global supply chains wreaking havoc on our supermarket shelves during the early days of the pandemic, plenty of people will be thinking ‘buy local’. This is great news for retailers that stock products which are locally grown and made. Brands with a farm-to-table approach will be particularly well-placed to tell their story with a focus on authenticity, provenance and known, clean sources. For retailers with a homegrown offering, now is the time to shout it from the rooftops.

Supercharge your e-commerce offering

While most retailing will be via ‘bricks’ rather than ‘clicks’, one of the lasting impacts of COVID-19 will be more widespread use of online shopping. It has become the sport of choice for many acting as a necessity as well as a pleasurable past-time. This change is likely to stick with Kantar research finding 38 per cent of consumers will continue to buy from online stores they first visited with another 31 per cent continuing to buy products and services they first discovered during the crisis.

This increase in online shopping has had its downfalls with many shoppers experiencing issues with their online orders such as shipping delays and out-of-stock notifications. People have come to expect that their packages will be late or may not come at all. With many consumers trialling new outlets during the pandemic, this isn’t the kind of first impression you want to be making. If you haven’t already, get on top of your stock situation and update your e-commerce platforms accordingly. 

For the sectors that have been in demand during this time – Commonwealth Bank credit card data shows food and alcohol spending is much higher than a year ago, while spending on household furnishings and equipment was up by 53 per cent as people tackled DIY projects that they could no longer ignore – the case has well and truly been made to invest in supercharging your e-commerce offering.

For brands that were not ready for the digital deluge, ditto. Same goes for brands that have seen a reduction in spend during the crisis. Commbank data suggests that while apparel was one area that took a hit with card spending on clothing around 30 per cent weaker than last year, this started to increase in April. And the latest data from the bank suggests spending is up in June with an increase of 6 per cent in the week to June 12 alone.

The bounceback is beginning, albeit slowly. You need to be ready. While the businesses flourishing online are a step ahead, it’s never too late to enter or improve your standing in the online marketplace. Long-term future growth is inevitable.

Review your pricing

With many households experiencing a reduction in income, people are and will continue to be looking for bargains. Kantar research found the proportion of consumers who say they pay “more attention to prices” increased from 59 per cent in late March to 68 per cent by the end of April. But don’t take that to mean you need to apply a slash and burn approach to quickly liquidate stock. Despite the current climate, people still expect to pay quality prices for quality goods. Being seen to offer good value is the test.

Keep communicating meaningfully

It may come as a surprise but plenty of research points to consumers being happy to hear from brands during the pandemic. And now, as we enter recovery, keeping your customers informed is perhaps even more important. With plenty of businesses still facing stock issues both in-store and online, being transparent about this is a smart approach. By offering some degree of personalisation to your loyal customer base, you can better serve their needs and seem intuitively in tune. Once you get to that level of relationship, loyalists become advocates, which feeds more customers into your sales funnel. There’s no better time for that to happen than when momentum is returning.

Returning to normal will no doubt throw up many and varied challenges, but these simple guidelines can help you to make the most of the opportunity from the pent up demand that has built over the last few months.

Craig Flanders is the CEO of advertising agency Spinach.

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