Few industries have been harder hit by the COVID Pandemic than the commerce industry. Between quarantines, delivery delays, and challenges keeping employees healthy, businesses have faced a triple whammy of obstacles. But some retailers’ ability to prosper in spite of these obstacles shows the power of resilience and the ability to pivot. Below is a look at the changing face of the commerce industry and five steps manufacturers and suppliers can take to overcome COVID-related challenges.
What steps can you take to adapt to the changing face of commerce?
By now, most companies recognize they need to adapt in order to survive during the COVID pandemic. But simply realizing the need to adapt is not enough. You need to take action and develop a strategic plan that will enable you to move forward safely and confidently with your daily operations. Below are five steps to help your retail business prosper in the midst of a global pandemic.
Step One: Embrace the retail industry’s “New Normal”
“Covid-19 shutdowns have rocked the retail industry unlike anything since the rise of Amazon.com (AMZN). The effects, both in the near-term and beyond, are still unraveling… Stores like Walmart, Best Buy (BBY), and Target (TGT), flexed their omni-channel capabilities, offering socially distant and convenient options like making purchases online, with the option to pick up in the store or curbside.” – Matthew C. Klein, Author and Barrons Economic Commentator
If you don’t already offer online shopping, curbside pickup, or delivery, it’s time to start. More importantly, carve out time to monitor any changes in OSHA guidelines for business. By taking a proactive approach to tracking OSHA changes, you can keep your employees safe and avoid costly fines for failure to comply with the latest requirements.
In addition to these measures, take time to update your and safety and wellness policies to ensure that your employees and visitors feel comfortable while onsite. Make sure you are compliant with state and local regulations and post your policies in highly visible locations throughout your store and on your website. Here are some other tips to create a safer physical work environment during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Limit the number of visitors you have at any one time
Make sure you have masks available for employees and guests
Increase the number of hand sanitizing stations you offer
Always maintain your stock of soap, sanitizers, and gloves
Step Two: Communicate changes to employees and customers
Operational changes tend to be best received when they are clearly communicated to staff and customers. Start by distributing an updated organizational plan to your employees. Take time to respond to any questions or concerns they have and let them know their feedback is valuable. Then make sure you provide any necessary training required for them to master new skills or learn new roles before you roll out any changes.
Once you and your team are ready to roll out your changes, it’s time to generate enthusiasm among your existing customers. With existing customers generating 65% of sales for most businesses, it’s important to show your appreciation for your most loyal ambassadors. Be sure to highlight the specific ways your company’s changes will benefit them. Ideally, you should roll out your changes with a special promotion through email, social media, and direct mail if most of your loyal customers are local.
Step Three: Ramp up your inventory management
For many retailers, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to become more lean and efficient. But determining where to start is not always easy. While you can try to map out a lean inventory management strategy on your own, a more effective way is to introduce a single point of contact for your warehousing and fulfillment needs. By enlisting the help of a 3PL provider, you can devote your attention to expanding your business while your 3PL partner manages the following:
Order kitting and assembly
Order fulfillment services
Local and nationwide truck delivery
Step Four: Create a stellar online shopping experience
“Just over 306 million Americans are affected by stay-at-home orders, nearly 95% of the U.S. population. COVID-19 will forever change retailing, and its initial impact on e-Commerce is creating challenges to online selling & service no one imagined in January.” – Louis Columbus, Principal, IQMS and Forbes Contributor
Merely offering an online shopping platform is not enough to guarantee your survival as a retailer during the COVID Pandemic. You need to create an online shopping experience that is second to none. This process starts with a user-friendly e-commerce site.
A few years ago, it could cost well over $10,000 to build a solid e-commerce site. But costs have dropped significantly as more web designers and platforms continue to emerge. Today, you can build a responsive site for roughly $5,000 – an investment that will save your retail business.
Once your site is in place, you need to make it your mission to continually improve your site. Here are some tips to help you improve the online shopping experience for customers:
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
Boost engagement with customers through your social media channels
Build a “best in class” logistics strategy with the help of a 3PL partner
Finally, bring the shopping experience to an impressive close by providing an outstanding “box opening” process. Consider a sturdy, branded box with tissue that also bears your brand name. You may also wish to include a short, hand-written note or special coupon in the box.
Step Five: Periodically reevaluate your strategy
Ideally, the changes you implement today will prove to be a success. However, that does not mean you should stick with the same exact strategy for the long haul. And with COVID-19 continuing to impact businesses across the globe, it’s up to you to regularly monitor your operations to identify opportunities for improvement.
The second part of this step is to continually seek new ways to stay in touch with your customers and keep your brand in front of their minds. For instance, you may wish to launch a monthly or quarterly newsletter that features testimonials and new product offerings. Depending on the type of business you have, you may also wish to consider offering a subscription service to help build a more reliable income stream.
What is the key to ensuring smooth operations during and after the COVID pandemic?
The COVID Pandemic continues to bring a host of unexpected challenges to manufacturers and suppliers. Failure to pivot and adjust your operational strategy can lead to supply chain bottlenecks, delays, and frustrated customers. By following the steps above, you can help prevent these pitfalls.
The best way to ensure smooth operations during the COVID Pandemic is to contact one of our logistics experts today.
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