It was reported last week that patterns of spending will likely change once lockdown is lifted. A recent survey conducted by PwC found that consumers intend to reward more responsible retailers and those that have looked after their staff during this time. They also stated that they intend to shop more on their local high streets; favouring independent retailers over their larger counterparts. This news can bring hope to many competing with the likes of Amazon, which is now reportedly selling around a staggering £8,800 worth of goods per second.
With queues to supermarkets in some places leaving consumers with a wait of more than three hours and stock levels running incredibly low at other physical stores, it’s little wonder that people are turning to online shopping. Sites such as Amazon are proving particularly popular; acting as a one-stop shop for a whole host of weird and wonderful items that people are now realising they need. As an independent, this Amazon-style experience could ensure survival through the lockdown.
Customers may not expect to be able to buy products online from their local stores and have these delivered the same week. It’s clear that consumers would rather shop with local stores if they can, but sometimes find the practicalities of Amazon’s slick online experience and faster delivery more alluring. As such, for independents, it will be crucial to ensure the digital experience is perfected; not only easy to navigate but equipped for increasing demand and ready for efficient deliveries in order to encourage shoppers away from certain e-commerce giants.
Implementing the right technology
Providing a seamless and convenient customer experience doesn’t require a huge budget and doesn’t need the latest and greatest in shiny new technology. What matters to customers right now is being able to get hold of the goods they need quickly and efficiently, with as little stress as possible. With the right technological support and tools, teams within smaller operations can leverage data to demonstrate relevance, usefulness and offer a personalised experience at every step of the journey – in the same way that Amazon does. What’s crucial though is that this is done thoughtfully and sensitively. For example, if a customer viewed a ‘non-essential item’ several months ago, this may no longer at the top of their priority list. Looking through real-time data will allow you to see the most popular items being viewed at any one time and subsequently provide a basis for delivering more relevant personalised experiences at scale.
Getting the word out there
With so much competition from retail behemoths, it will be important for independents to shout loud and proud about their offering. Social media is particularly valuable for this and even more so during the current context. Providing useful, engaging content will encourage users to visit the website and potentially lead to conversion. For example, letting people know that you are providing next day deliveries on items will be extremely appealing during this time. Similarly, providing discounts and special offers to key workers, as well as updating customers on the wellbeing of staff will show the community that the business is responsible, supportive and providing an important service to both new and existing customers during the lockdown period. Email newsletters are another way to keep up regular digital communication, again providing content that will become useful and relevant to people’s lives today and encourage greater support from shoppers. Loyal shoppers themselves are often a retailer’s best cheerleaders, and positive word of mouth from these will go a long way even after the pandemic comes to an end. As such, it will be essential for independents to deliver on promises – whether that be free or next day deliveries or promises on updating stock levels.
One thing that independents can leverage more so than their larger counterparts is the ability to be agile and nimble. Maintaining pace with the changing demands of consumers can be challenging enough at the best of times, but during times of crisis, showing a true understanding of the customer is critical. As a smaller retail operation, independents often have the flexibility to adapt more swiftly to changing situations and, right now, this should be flaunted to customers as a real source of differentiation.
Consumers are very much on the side of independents currently and this presents a unique opportunity for those businesses successfully navigating this difficult landscape. Now is the time to show customers that you understand them and their new needs and adapt accordingly to provide them with the best experience possible.