The first half of 2020 has left the retail landscape looking very different than it did at the end of 2019. Canadian retailers have had to deal with challenges and changes since the start of the pandemic. Between retailers closing in Canada, changing consumer behaviour, the shuttering of non-essential businesses and reduced foot traffic to brick-and-mortar businesses, the coronavirus market impact means big changes in the retail industry.
Yet the news isn’t all bad. There's hope for Canadian retailers willing to revise their strategy, resulting in potentially thriving business. However, it's important to understand your challenges and opportunities before completely changing your business strategy.
Review and revise your retail business strategy
Don’t rush to make changes to your marketing strategy and business plan as a knee-jerk reaction to the headlines on reduced consumer spending during and after the pandemic.
Instead, consider the best strategies for your business, location, and demographics. Think ahead to how and where consumers will spend their dollars once the crisis ends.
Seeing the “big picture” first before drilling down to tackle actionable tasks will help you best keep up with the challenging times. It will inform your strategy development as you make changes to protect and optimize your business now and once the crisis ends.
Protect and optimize your retail business
Protect your business by focusing on improving and diversifying the delivery of your products or services.
Offer your customers the opportunity to order online or over the phone. Consider introducing curbside pickup, shipping or home delivery options of your products. Are you in a service business? Introduce phone consultations or video appointments for clients.
When it comes time to renegotiate your commercial lease for your retail business, make sure it includes language to protect you in the event of another government required shutdown. The same goes for renegotiating contracts with suppliers.
In the quickly changing retail industry in Canada, it's important to stay up to date on customer trends analysis and stats in your industry and region so you’re aware of potential challenges for traditional retail businesses. Connect with local public authorities enforcing pandemic-related business restrictions. Then you’ll know who to contact regarding exceptions, clarifications, etc. should restrictions occur again for any reason.
Instead of lamenting the changes in the retail industry, develop retail business strategies to optimize what might appear to be pain points in the retail industry.
Strategies to Help Your Retail Business
As a proactive retailer, take quick action by adjusting optimize elements of your retail strategy. Once implemented, turn your focus to strategy development to address the longer-term changes in the retail environment.
Some quick adjustments could include:
- Discounting underperforming stock
- Optimizing window displays to promote in-store specials and inventory to customers lined up outside
- Adding your website address and QR codes to any posters or ads to boost online purchases
- Lowering your shipping fees and simplifying your packaging to save money
- Expanding your return and exchange policies
- Selling physical gift cards for your brick-and-mortar store to provide immediate cash
- Promoting digital gift cards for your online shop
- Collaborating with other retailers to offer their customers discounts on your complementary products or services. For example, an artisan coffee company can collaborate with a personalized mug company, or a web designer can collaborate with a sales copywriter
- Reaching out to high-value customers with a discount coupon via email
Longer-term strategies could include:
- Building a pre-order strategy to help with cash flow
- Improving or establishing digital channels (ie. website, eCommerce shop, social media shop)
- Updating your website to include an eCommerce shop for physical and/or digital products
- Optimizing your site for ROPO to serve customers who like to “research online purchase offline”
- Reaching out to potential customers through social media
- Adding personalized messages to your email newsletters/communications
- Adding live chat options to your online store
- Creating virtual showrooms on social media channels to showcase your physical products
- Prioritizing getting or creating supplies of essential products and services in preparation for a second wave
- Adjusting your store layouts to make it easy for customers to comply with social distancing
- Adding arrows on the floor or creating one-way aisles
- Creating local inventory ads for online viewers to share what’s currently available in-store locally
- Experimenting with selling online through different eCommerce sites
Take an action now to protect and optimize your retail business
When it comes to protecting and optimizing your retail business in the pandemic age, it's critical to act quickly. Start with immediate, actionable changes to stabilize your cash flow now. Then you can focus on adjusting your retail strategy to best serve your customer in the future. Use our tips as a guide to help ensure your business survives and thrives through these uncertain times.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.