3 Positive Things Retailers Learned During Covid

A business owner and her employee taking all the COVID safety precautions necessary to succeed in their business

Cris Willis

“The only thing that is constant is change” – Heraclitus

Our world keeps changing.  Our culture keeps changing, technology keeps changing, our customers buying patterns keep changing, and the world of retail keeps changing.

Are you keeping up with the times?

Times are always changing, and after going through the pandemic of 2020, the change in the retail landscape moved forward at warp speed.  The digital transformation was happening, but the past 12 months brought more change than we have seen in the last decade.  Retailers have to adjust, adapt, learn and implement changes to carry them into a successful future.

After talking to retailers across the country and asking them, “What is something that you learned last year that you are using in your business now?”  Here are their top 3 answers.

Positive #1 – learning Facebook Live selling & Comment Sold

One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is the shift to e-commerce; many consumers have embraced online shopping, and retailers have responded.  Livestreaming on Facebook (or another platform) is the closest way to engage your customers in a personal shopping experience with your store.  The National Retail Federation cited a study saying that Livestream-generated sales are expected to double to $120 billion worldwide in 2021.

Many retailers were shy and scared at first to get in front of a camera but soon found out that their customers love them, their associates, and their product.  Customers wanted to buy from their local stores, and it was not about having the perfect set or equipment.  Retailers found out that they only needed a smartphone and products to sell. With their store’s personality, they could start selling online.

Logistics was the issue for many as they figured out how to accept payments and ship products, etc.  For many, it may start a little clunky as they got it all figured out.  Then, many savvy stores started working with Comment Sold.  This solution converts social media comments into sales and automatically invoices the shopper.

Check out Comment Sold here. Note: I am not an affiliate for Comment Sold. I just genuinely love their product!

The number one answer to what is working now was social selling through live streams on Facebook and using Comment Sold.  One retailer shared with me that their company is on target to do $1 Million in sales this year from their Livestreams with Comment Sold.

Positive #2 – working with fewer associates

The 2nd most popular answer to the question about what retailers learned last year and are using in their business now was the ability to do more with fewer people.

During the time that businesses had to shutter, many had to lay off much of their staff.  At that point, the few associates running the store for curbside pick up, e-commerce, and social selling had to become experts in all of the product and all store procedures.  As the stores have reopened, many realized they could run their store more efficiently and did not need as many people.

One specialty store with different rooms carrying different kinds of products used to have cash registers in every room.  They believe that each room needed to have specialists for that product.  Throughout the shutdown, the few associates working learned all the product, proving it could be done.  That retailer switched to a centralized checkout for most products, and all of the employees are knowledgeable about the entire store.  Fewer registers have allowed this store to run on fewer associates.

Positive #3 – stronger communication with employees

One thing that became abundantly clear from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was the need for regular communication with your employees.  They needed to hear about the actions you were taking to keep them safe.  They needed to feel connected to the business and know about the plans to shutter and reopen the company and any layoffs.

With things changing daily, retailers had to develop how to communicate the most effectively with their staff, while many of them were not at the store.  Many retailers started private Facebook Groups for their team. This is a great way to communicate information to all of your staff; they can check it anytime and can comment and share information with you and other team members in one place.  Other retailers relied on making an email group for their employees and sending regular emails or texting their associates.  Some retailers discovered apps and business communication platforms that have helped them communicate and assign tasks like Slack, Monday.com, Asana, and more. The main lesson learned has been that consistent communication is always good, so they are continuing the practice of communicating more with their staff.

Once your associates are all back to work in the store, you can also create an area for communication.  Some retailers have a folder or notebook in the breakroom area, by the time clock, or at the register that each associate has to check each day.  One creative retailer made a “know-it-all wall” in her back room, where she posts new updates and information.  Each employee checks the board every day to find out about new products that have arrived, upcoming event information, policy and procedure changes, and so much more.

 

There have been many lessons learned throughout the pandemic.  Embracing this knowledge and staying flexible and agile is how the independent retailer will prevail and continue to thrive.  If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that change is inevitable. So smart retailers must continue to ReThink their business while prioritizing the customer and employee experience to be ready for any business disruptions that may come their way.

Cris Willis

Cris is a business coach for independent retailers. With 25 years of experience owning and operating a family business, she now guides retail owners to make smarter decisions regarding inventory management, marketing, sales training, product assortment, and more. When not at work, she loves to travel the country with her husband in their motorhome.

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Don’t try to go it alone. Retail is hard enough as it is. You need to talk to, share with, and learn from others who are going through or have been through what you’re dealing with.

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