To contain the spread of COVID-19, multiple countries have implemented lockdown. India and Singapore have imposed a lockdown for over 50 days now. Germany, Spain, and Greece are planning to extend lockdown for weeks but with relaxation in areas with fewer corona cases.
Corona pandemic has impacted both online as well as offline sales; while e-commerce players are actively delivering essentials across the world, offline stores are under great loss. In varied countries, people are not allowed to go out, which has impacted the sale of offline players.
While e-commerce players have worked in-close ties with the government to deliver essentials and help people in need, offline stores had to shut their operations completely. The pandemic’s impact is growing but governments are now opening up the market to keep the economy moving.
Offline players need to work on a plan that comes into effect when such pandemics occur. More or less, Brick and Mortar stores irrespective of their size must have a plan that saves the day.
Best practices and precautions for offline players to tackle pandemics
1. Leverage Social Media
Be it China, India, or Singapore, all these countries allowed local stores to offer door-step delivery. Millions of retail players leveraged the opportunity, hired delivery boys, and delivered essentials. While the fast movers were able to make the most of this opportunity, nascent players missed out on the opportunities.
Leveraging social media to create awareness among their audience about their services or products being available can help retail players keep the business cycle moving. Through Facebook and Instagram ads, local stores can reach out to customers and take orders. WhatsApp is a viable option but governments have restricted the message sharing option to contain the fake news related to COVID-19 from spreading. Through Facebook ads, store owners can redirect customers to WhatsApp and take orders.
2. Keep up with the News and Regulations
In India rules and regulations related to home delivery and online orders have changed quite frequently. While bigger players receive notification from the government, small players are often left on their own. Lack of information can bring in legal hassles for you hence it is necessary to keep up with the changing regulations.
Here’ how you can ensure that you are working in sync with government regulations:
- Get in touch with a local administration representative.
- Opt-in notification from local newspaper applications and agencies.
- Get yourself registered with the local municipality, they send out circulars on a weekly basis.
3. Create a Strong Supply Chain
When such lockdowns are implemented millions of labors are rendered jobless, hiring a few of them to strengthen your delivery network can wonder for you.
How hiring more workers for time being will help
- Fast Response: With all shops shut, people at home are dependent upon home deliveries for the regular supply of medicine, food, and other essentials. Fast response from shops will urge them to shop more. If your delivery is fast, people will also buy non-essential items which might include entertainment options or gardening tools.
- Supply Chain: Fast delivery is the only option when you have different people for different jobs. If the delivery guy is expected to take orders, pack them, load them, and deliver then deliveries are going to be delayed. By hiring people to take orders, pack them, and load it on a delivery vehicle, shop owners can bring the requisite speed and ensure instant delivery.
- Diversify your business: When you have established a supply chain and have enough workforce, you can collaborate with other business owners too. Get in touch with shop owners who sell medicine, gardening tools, and other items in demand like soft drinks or packaged food items and offer to deliver it too for a small commission.
4. Focus on the Customers
A pandemic is perhaps the best time for retail players to build a loyal audience. By offering quality services to people in need without overcharging them, offline players can create a brand identity. The good with quality service during a pandemic is that people will remember it and come back to you again and again after the pandemic is over.
Here’s everything Brick and Mortar stores should avoid doing
- Overcharging: Well a nominal delivery is okay and justified by charging exorbitantly to people who are order essentials is just not a good business move.
- Pushing specific Brands: In contemporary times multiple stores are forcing specific brands on people. Some retailers have collaborated with brands that offer high commission and are now forcing people to buy it only. Since people are restricted at their homes and cannot really go out and get items from other shops, they are compelled to take whatever is available or is being delivered. Such shady business practices will come around and cost you a lot.
- Not thinking long term: One-day delivery and easy return are the reasons why people shop online if their local stores start offering one day delivery with easy return options, people will definitely buy from them. This pandemic is an opportunity for every offline retailer who is impacted by the growth of the e-commerce industry. Put a supply chain in place, expedite it, take feedback from people, and strengthen it. Think long term and establish yourself as a brand and you will never be harmed by the growth of online sales.
5. Avoid Accumulating Debt or Offering Huge Credit
Corona pandemic started during November 2019 and it continues to impact the world in May 2020. The life of this pandemic can be as long as 2 years. Acquiring debt or offering unbearable credit can break the back of your business. During these times of turmoil, it is necessary to be on the safe side.
Here’s how to run the business during a pandemic
- Stop all kind of credit to people
- Offer credit to only those people who are unable to earn
- Rely more on cash/card/cheque payments instead of credit
- Do not overfill your warehouses on credit from suppliers and manufacturers
- Keep sending payment to suppliers to ensure regular supply
- Charge a nominal delivery fee because people are willing to do
- Put all your marketing and brand activities on hold and focus on getting orders and fulfilling them
Corona pandemic is likely to continue for at least 2-3 more months. Singapore has already announced lockdown till 1st June and India is on the same road. Brick and mortar players have an important role to play here and they must prepare for it.
Retail players have nothing to lose here and so much to gain. This pandemic is perhaps an opportunity for them to build a network that works like e-commerce but isn’t e-commerce. Create a strong supply chain and deliver quality products and you will see, how loyal people will become to you.
Try new things, offer a discount, charge a nominal delivery fee, and cater to customer complaints and you are all set to be a part of the bigger league. Use this lockdown to overcome your challenges.