How to Prepare for the Future of Retail

While big box stores have remained open during this pandemic, many smaller stores have had to close their doors or focus on curbside or online ordering. (A recent CommerceNext survey of found that 85% of retailers had experienced business disruptions due to COVID-19.) 

Now, with many stores re-opening their doors, they’re left with a lot to think about. No one can predict the future, but remaining flexible and agile is key to upping the odds of keeping your business up and running. Here are three strategies to help you adapt. 

1. Get creative with virtual offerings

The days of in-store events might be a thing of the past, so retailers will need to find new ways to engage with their customers. Even if your store is open for in-person shopping, consumers will have different comfort levels and circumstances dictating how much in-person business they’re willing to conduct right now. Consider what extra services you can offer digitally, like hosting virtual events or offering a shopping concierge via social media to help customers pick out their items. (Companies like Stitch Fix have followed the online styling service model for years, to tremendous success.) You can still keep your doors open for in-person shopping, but consider adding these virtual touches to your business model to bring in added revenue.

2. Have a contingency plan in place

The pandemic has shown us that our world can change at a moment’s notice. It’s clear that having a contingency plan doesn’t hurt. Even if your store is re-opening now, it’s wise to continue to make a play for strategies that were helpful when more stringent restrictions were in place in case we need to revert to them. Here are some suggestions:

  • Streamline your curbside pickup strategy
  • Make sure you have a solid e-commerce site up and running
  • Shore up your social media presence
  • Be prepared to have someone ready to answer customer questions or order queries digitally, so customer service is never interrupted.

Shoring up these strategies can help you boost e-commerce sales regardless of whether or not your brick and mortar shop is open.

3. Re-evaluate your inventory

Don't underestimate how much this pandemic has shifted supply and demand. Some of the things that were once important to us have been put on the back burner, while others have become crucial overnight. (Who would have thought to invest in Zoom or home office equipment six months ago?) Your inventory should reflect these changes. Have conversations with your customers, send out surveys, and do your research as you examine what to put back on your shelves. The world has changed a lot these past six months, and it pays to listen to what customers need now that they didn't before.

4. Allow for tips

The future of retail, like the future of many other industries, relies on the innovation and dedication of hourly workers. Retail workers may need to make home deliveries, bring items out to a customer's car, or take on additional responsibilities they previously didn’t have to. As such, customers are likely going to want to tip your employees for their extra service. Consider adding a tip option onto digital payments so you make it easy for customers to include gratuity with their purchases.

Shoring up your retail business for the future will boil down to staying flexible and finding new ways to offer more to your employees. To see how Branch can help you offer more to hourly workers, request a demo.

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