Many small businesses, and particularly retail stores in America, are struggling due to the chaos introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to survive, and possibly even thrive during these trying times, it’s necessary to resourceful and innovative. Most of the advice to follow centers on customers, but there is more to success than just generating revenue (I know, shocking concept, but bear with me!)
First and foremost, it is about relationship management. Stay in front of your customers through newsletters, social media, postcards, etc. The more you can reach out to them and become a local resource for what they want and need most, the better for you and your store in the long run. You cannot afford to be passive in this time of ongoing crises and hope that customers will suddenly appear. You must become their advocate and a better resource than the online competition because you show you care directly about them – while utilizing some of the benefits of being online. In addition, strengthen your relationships with your vendors – they are struggling too, so discover ways you can help each other. Don’t be shy. Build your reputation as someone they WANT to do business with and help. Create a vendor roundtable. Create co-promotions online and offline. It is going to take more work, but in the long run, you will have a better business. In that frame of mind, here are some resources, advice, and tips for you to put in place to help you gear up for the all-important Holiday season!
1. Have a Virtual Presence for Sales
Because people turned to online shopping in record numbers during the lockdowns, you MUST be online to stay top-of-mind for your customers. If you don’t have an e-commerce website already up and running, set up a Facebook business page featuring a store with your top sellers. Or use Instagram to feature new products that can be bought with just a click. Facebook has excellent tutorials on how to set either of these up.
Wix and Squarespace make creating websites easy. Just point and click, then add some pictures and prices. You can also create some “how-tos” about using products and post those articles on Wix, Squarespace and on your social media, including LinkedIn, to build your credibility and exposure.
2. Hold a Customer Loyalty Sale
You know who your best customers are, and you’ve got ways to get in touch with them, right? Reach out to those who’ve supported you through this latest crisis and say Thank You with a personally written card. Offer them something: a gift card, a special shopping day (think premieres/new products or a popular vendor trunk sale), a discount (either one-time or maybe once a month for the rest of the year). What would make them super happy? Be creative!
3. Hold a Sidewalk Sale
During physical distancing restrictions, you can bring your stock outside to feature special products or products that are easy no-brainers to buy. Entertainment and self-care tend to be picked up fastest. Think about bundling products together at a good discount. Working with your vendors would be exceptionally valuable for that process.
4. Hold Virtual Events – card readings, classes, guided meditations, etc.
Events (virtual or otherwise) are a personal favorite, as events build a sense of community. Two keys to these events: be consistent by creating a theme and sticking to it, and get talented people who exude charm and charisma to help you. Guest speakers or readers from outside your area may create curiosity and get more people paying attention. Create a book club or a product of the month club. It will take time to build up, so hang in there. If you can, get permission to record the events, and offer them to your best customers as a bonus.
5. Make Product Videos
They don’t have to be fancy or expensive – a smartphone, a tripod, and a flexible desk lamp will get the job done. Feature tools for troubled times, or new releases, or just your favorite things. You don’t need a script, just your product knowledge and enthusiasm will carry the day. You might even invite a special customer to participate with you as a bonus! Create them consistently – not necessarily daily, but at least twice a week and post at a particular time. These are also excellent social media outreach posts for you. Zoom or Google Meet video conferencing apps are easy to set up and learn, and you can upload them to your social media.