by Anh H. Nguyen
There is hardly a more stressful time to be retail owners right now. Everyday brings a mixture of uncertainty and anxiety. As citizens living in the midst of a pandemic, you worry about the welfare of your family, your friends, and the society as a whole. As business owners, you care about the prosperity of your companies and the people in your employ. And with almost every kind of establishment closing down and residents cooped up in their own homes, there is no outlet for de-stressing, no temporary distraction.
Palexy's goal has always been consistent: to provide value for our customers in the retail market. From the beginning, we have worked closely together in a symbiotic alliance. As such, your success is our success, your pain is our pain. In the face of unprecedented challenges, there are a few things we would like to suggest so as to make this storm easier to weather.
1. Keep calm:
Hope is a precious commodity right now. But no matter how bad the current situation seems to be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. No pandemic in the history of the world has lasted forever. And when the situation is stable, panic will subside, and the market will spring back as a matter of course. Whenever you feel despondent about the future of your business, please bear in mind that this is merely a setback. A better use of your time and energy would be to make plans for long-term growth. See Preparing for the aftermath of Coronavirus: plans of action for retailers.
2. Take care of your employees:
Although they are the backbone of retail business, good retail workers are hard to find but often under-appreciated at the best of times. Now, just like the owners, they are dealing with multiple hassles: pressure from work, potential loss of income, childcare arrangement, shortage of goods, fear of contracting diseases,... It is more important now than ever to establish an open channel of communication with your employees. Set up safety measures so that they could go to work without fear, listen to their concerns, and give praises when appropriate. The staff's positive state of mind helps raise their productiveness - which could mean the difference between staying afloat and failure for your business.
3. Take a look at staff-rescheduling:
During lean times, normal rules fly out of the window. It is imperative to cut costs without compromising services. There are several methods to mix up staffing to reduce business expenses: using Palexy's Traffic Day Map to flexibly allocate staff at different stores at different hours, rotating high-performing employees between stores that need attention, utilizing part-time workers, etc.,... For more use cases of staff-based approach using AI, see https://www.palexy.com/post/the-apocalypse-of-physical-retail-solutions-part-2.
Example of a traffic chart retailers could rely on for staffing purpose.
4. Getting to really know your customers:
Are you ignoring certain subsets of your customers? Many pass by your stores without ever stepping in because the displays do not appeal to their preferences. Many come in but get overwhelmed by the convoluted layouts. Many love your products but are unimpressed by the services, so on and so forth. Without the assistance of computer vision technology, those non-buyers and buyers alike are but a faceless mass. By clearly seeing which demographics interact with your brands, there are countless ways for you to broaden your customer base: you can tailor marketing campaigns to target them online, tweak the product selection to fit their lifestyles, freshen up the store windows, to name a few.
A useful graph to compare buyers and non-buyers for both short-term and long-term strategic planning.
5. Master the art of cross-selling:
Take a hard, good look at your inventory. Which items could go up in value when paired with others? Map out divisions of your goods that complement each other and train your staff to recognize them, too. For example: when a customer is interested in a blouse, a helpful sales assistant should suggest several skirts to go with it. Someone buying cheeses may welcome some choice wine recommendations. Has a washer buyer considered a dryer as well? Using camera footage to compare transactions is an effective way to determine what works and what does not. One caveat, though: do not aggressively cross-sell for the sake of cross-selling. You need to make sure that the additional products actually serve a purpose besides adding to your profit. Attaching promotions to cross-selling is a good idea, too.
What a cross-selling chart looks like for a fashion retailer.
6. Invest in post-purchase customer services:
You do not ever want your customers to have buyer remorse, but especially not when you need to stand out in a sea of desperate competitors. Go above and beyond when it comes to services, not only when shoppers are in your stores, but also after they have left. Make joining your loyalty program easier for customers, follow up diligently, listen attentively to their feedback, and keep them in the loop with newsletters, texts, and emails. A touch of personalization goes a long way towards maintaining brand loyalty. If you are creative, you do not need to spend a ton of money: it is the thought that counts.
7. Build a corporate culture around resilience:
When cash runs low, employees' perks may disappear for a while. But if your company's core values are strong, you may find that many employees will stick with you to the (hopefully not bitter) end. Early on, identify the merits you look for in difficult times: integrity, resourcefulness, dependability. Make hiring decisions based on that and never stop reenforcing those principles at all levels. Reward talents, but do not overlook work ethics: it could be as simple as a thank you email, a spontaneous award for model employees, or a company retreat when you have had an especially good year. In the long run, attitude always matters as much as aptitude (even more).
8. Be healthy and safe:
Please remember: A healthy person has a thousand wishes, a sick person only one. Follow guidelines, take precautions, be vigilant with hygiene, be mindful of others. The better care we take of ourselves and our loved ones, the more quickly this pandemic will abate, and the sooner life can return to normal.