When something poses a current or potential fundamental existential threat, it should certainly not be played down. The shutdowns that have happened due to the coronavirus pandemic represent a worst-case scenario for retailers and require that the high-street sector, in particular, explores all alternative options in terms of sales channels. Below we explore some of these alternatives and present various examples of the array of measures and ideas that need to be put forward by and for retailers.
Please note: When implementing any of the following sales ideas, it is essential that official national and regional regulations are always taken into account so as to identify sales channels to the customer that can be used in compliance with distancing criteria, hygiene regulations etc.
“Around my high-street store”
- The provision of a pick-up facility at/in the store is a grey area, but in practice is most likely to be permitted, especially if the goods collection point is separate from the sales area and is separately accessible.
- If the situation is unclear, the provision should be clarified with the local authorities in accordance with local conditions.
- In all cases, the requirements relating to hygiene, access control and avoidance of queues must be observed.
- Sales consultations and ordering can take place in advance by telephone or e-mail.
- Customers can find out the times for order pick-up, e.g. via shop window notices, notices on online channels and newsletters.
- The collection and payment process should be as contact-free as possible (electronic payment).
- Customers order online, by e-mail or by phone and pick up their goods by driving up briefly to the shop and notifying their presence.
- The retailer then puts the ordered goods in the boot of the car.
- Payment can be made by bank transfer on invoice or conveniently by non-cash payment.
- In this time of coronavirus, window shopping is experiencing a renaissance.
- The more that products are presented in or very close to the shop window, the more this visual proximity encourages people to buy.
- Vouchers – the ideal gift solution and a way to improve financial liquidity. They can also be displayed in the shop window.
Video sales consultation
- Depending on the product, video sales consultations can help compensate for the lack of a tactile experience. The customer can be guided visually to the shelf and product and, if relevant, shown a brief product demonstration.
- If the store has video chat facilities. e.g. WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts or Teams, it has the necessary technical requirements to achieve this.
- The option of video sales consultations can be publicised to customers.
- There is general agreement that distance selling activities are permissible. All forms of distance selling are permitted, including the relevant end customer logistics, i.e. dispatch by logistics service providers or delivery by the company’s own delivery service.
- If necessary, delivery service visits can also be used for specialist consultations as these are permitted outside the shop premises, for instance on site at the customer’s premises, subject to compliance with hygiene regulations. Alternatively, advice can be given over the telephone, by video or e-mail.
“The weeks since the shutdown have demonstrated in a remarkable way that, despite the initial shock, the high-street retail trade has become very creative in bringing its goods to the customer. However, it has not generally been possible to compensate for the loss of in-store sales. At the same time, though, the retail sector has also made a digital leap in terms of its customer communication. And this will help them in the post-coronavirus era.”
“Around my online presence”
- Web shop operators have a clear advantage.
- “Click & collect” systems enable the combination of online ordering and in-store collection.
- Since lockdown, many providers have waived their minimum order quantities for free delivery.
- If vouchers have not yet been integrated as a “product”, service providers such as Firstvoucher can be integrated with direct download options relatively easily into the overall process including payment.
Social media posts
- Products and product details can be advertised in social media and thereby reach a wide audience. Facebook and Instagram remain ahead of the game in this time of coronavirus.
- To bring the complete range of offer as close as possible to the customer, the number of posts may be slightly higher than usual.
- In terms of visual language, the combination of product and emotional element acts as a trigger for orders.
- Bringing a touch of QVC to the store … To present the range of products on offer behind the shop door even more vividly, a promotional video like this can be used to present product/gift ideas (possibly in themed areas) and trigger a desire to buy.
- Nationwide non-commercial shop search engines such as shopdaheim.de and wir-liefern.org offer the opportunity to showcase yourself as a retailer, sorted by sector. Customers can search using postcodes and find contact details and web links.
Google My Business
- Google searches including “delivery” are relevant not just for the HoReCa sector.
- Google has changed its guidelines and allows the addition of the attribute “delivery” to the company name during the current period of shop closures. Retailers should therefore add “delivery” after their name in their Google My Business profile.
- Customers registered for newsletter services can be provided with more detailed information on topics such as goods and ideas for activities via this communication channel.
Britta Meyer, Unternehmerberatung
Britta Meyer has been working since 1997 as a consultant in the retail sector. Since 2010 she has been an independent consultant for the company Britta Meyer Unternehmerberatung. Her work focuses on numbers-based corporate management and the analysis and optimisation of business processes. Britta Meyer moderates numerous knowledge exchange groups in various trade associations, gives lectures at trade fairs and other industry events and regularly publishes articles in industry media.