Updated: Jul 22
Every year, we deal with the cold and flu season, but COVID-19, a.k.a. the "Corona Virus" as it is most commonly known, has changed our lives in a monumental way.
You now check the news every morning for an update of confirmed cases, the rising death toll, and the latest headlines from the CDC. It's all over the news, blogs, social media, and everyone is stuck at home. Grocery stores and pharmacies are still running low on resources - especially basic needs like medicine, soap, cleaning products, etc.
TikTok is more popular than ever as a result of the collective boredom around the world. It has changed the way we consume news, the way we socialize, the way we shop. People around the world have more free time now than they've ever had before.
While some people are using this extra time to catch up on some Netflix and over-indulge in snacks (we all might be a little guilty on that one 😳), others are choosing to be creative: family game nights, painting, exercising, video calls with friends and family, and more. But the true entrepreneurs out there have been searching for new and better ways to run their businesses so it can survive and thrive in spite of the new way of life, post-pandemic.
Due to the quarantine restrictions, retail businesses around the globe have been hit with an unprecedented mass-shuttering of doors, and severe blows to the bottom line with brick-and-mortar stores shut down, and aging inventory piling up.
Many millions of businesses have reduced hours, laid off their staff, or closed their doors permanently as a result of the dramatic halt in in-person traffic. However, in all of this chaos, there have been some glimmers of hope - people and brands that used this "spare time" as an opportunity to grow into the future.
Brands lacking an eCommerce presence are at a major disadvantage, as now, and for the foreseeable future, online shopping is the most favored way to shop.
Not just for the convenience of having your every heart's desire shipped straight to your door overnight, but now our health and safety is also on the line.
Many medical experts say that social distancing measures will be a part of our lives for at least the next several years, so it is imperative that retailers ensure their eCommerce experience is up to par.
When the proverbial sh** is hitting the fan, you have to think outside of the box. Your world is no longer normal, and even if it is seemingly stable, the world of all your potential customers has changed dramatically.
We've all heard that the United States will begin re-opening in phases state-by-state. Even before your state begins phases to re-open, there are plenty of ways that you can take advantage of this decrease in business (and increase in free time) to set up [or revitalize] your eCommerce operations.
Success is NOT out of reach...
Here at FOMO agency™, we specialize in helping retail businesses find the best retail solutions providers for their business needs. We set up tailored introductions to the best eCommerce website developers, marketing agencies, and retail software solutions to help you automate and elevate your business.
Retail Software Solutions
eCommerce platforms (like Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, etc), marketing automation tools (like Hubspot, Klaviyo, MailChimp, Marketo, etc), and other software applications have made it easier than ever to create and maintain an online presence. However, to truly stand out, you must find a way to tailor that experience as much as possible. Your brand identity and business are just like a finger-print; they are unique to your DNA.
Many businesses do not have the time and/or internal resources to deliver the experience (UX & UI), engaging marketing content, and automated functions that their customers deserve. So, retailers turn to seeking a third-party expert to hire.
The question is: How do you find the right eCommerce Service Providers for your business?
Check out your favorite search engines, review platforms, or marketplaces and you'll find a LOT OF OPTIONS to sift through, and little method to the madness.
Because there's no way to filter out businesses that are not the right fit for your project (ie: it's requirements, scope of work, and budget), retail business owners end up going through the beginning stages of a sales cycle with several unqualified vendors, wasting valuable time trying to find the right fit.
A consultant, like FOMO agency, will do the scoping and discovery for you ONCE - and connect on your behalf with several qualified vendors who will send quotes for us to review together.
From website design and digital marketing to merchandising and inventory planning, FOMO agency™ will help answer all your eCommerce questions.
Enter your information below to speak with us about growing - or starting - your online retail business!
Some things to consider:
Are the products you sell considered basic-needs items? (Medicine, Food, etc.)
How have past crises impacted your business? (Think 2008 recession...)
Where are your manufacturers located and how are they being affected?
How quickly can you replenish items that may have increased demand?
How might deliveries be impacted?
If you have 6-month lead times, you are probably starting on your 2021 inventory buys. Let's hope that this virus situation gets under control by then, but it's worth considering how it could impact your sales if this problem continues to grow.
Would you rather buy too much inventory or too little? We'd always err on the side of buying too little vs buying too much. The goal is to find a sweet spot that doesn't put you in a pickle either direction. It's hard enough to crunch the numbers to understand history, competition, etc. during normal periods. Now, throw in an unpredictable medical crisis, and you have yourself a dilemma.
A well-trained Merchandise Planner can take a look at results your business has seen in other times of economic downturn (or other societal spending shifts) to help forecast what type of changes you should expect to see in the business. If you don't have a merchandiser, I'd consider exploring your options sooner than later.
(Pssst - FOMO agency can help with this too! We have merchandising experts with over a decade of retail industry experience coming from brands like Levis, Old Navy, and Johnston&Murphy.)
When attempting to forecast your sales for an impending crisis, it's best to consider the past to get a glimpse into the future. This is always a MUST when forecasting sales, but these extenuating circumstances must also be considered.
For example, if you were in business in 2008, how were your numbers affected by the recession? When the economy started tanking, so did customer spending.
Fashion, Apparel, Beauty, Home Decor...these things are just not as high on the totem pole during times of need or panic. Don't get me wrong, people still want this stuff, but their shopping patterns change, and their objectives are different.
Maybe COVID-19 won't have quite the same impact to business as the Great 08' Recession, but it's worth looking at the changes your business saw during that time, and use it as a reference to predict what lies ahead.
For businesses that were not around in 2008, you may be wondering what data you can turn to for these insights. Fortunately, publicly traded companies are required to publish their quarterly and annual results. You can use resources like MarketWatch to look at the results that companies similar to yours experienced during that time.
Obviously, if you're a denim retailer, and you see that American Eagle Outfitters saw a -16% decrease in Q4 sales during 2008, that doesn't mean you should just go planning a -16% for your own business. However, this type of historical analysis can certainly help set some guardrails to prevent you from swinging the pendulum too far.
Obviously, a recession is a very different beast when compared to a viral outbreak. BUT, the virus does impact the economy, and we are already seeing that. On February 24th, 2020 the DOW dropped more than 1,000 points; the S&P dropped over 110 points - the market has seen some of its worst days since the Great Recession.
People are losing thousands in their retirement accounts, millions on stocks and other investments. Let's be honest: that FEAR we were talking about can be a powerful force on the economy.
It goes without saying, there is no silver bullet when dealing with something new and unprecedented. However, with some trained eyes, thoughtful analysis, and educated guess-work, you can take steps to minimize the risks you expose your business to from an inventory perspective.
Health & Safety Measures
It should go without saying that the health and safety of employees and customers is always TOP priority.
American's are notorious for going to work sick so as to avoid taking sick days.
Many people feel obligated to come in when they are sick. Sometimes it's pressure from management; sometimes it is a hard-working employee who is trying to give their all. However, our lives have changed. We MUST put policies in place and create a culture that puts the health and safety of our employees and customers first. We need to be smart, and considerate of those that surround us.
Consider the Following Policies:
Remote Work - if a job does not truly require an employee to be in the building, then offer them the ability to work remotely. This is especially great for those sick employees who feel they can still work.
Sick-days - make sure employees know they can take as many as they need; that does not mean they all need to be paid days off.
Cleaning Schedules - make cleaning a part of the regular routine. There should be sanitizing wipes easily accessible for employees to use. Also, if you do not have a cleaning crew, make sure someone, if not everyone in the office is chipping in to keep things clean.
Sanitizer Stations - This is not a hard one, make sure this stuff is easily accessible. It's probably wise to keep some disinfectant spray on hand as well.
Health supplies - Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Immune system drink mixers (like Emergen-C), cough drops, and solid first-aid kit.
Hygiene signage - sometimes a passive reminder is all it takes.
Open Door Policy - make sure your teams know they can speak to their managers about any health concerns they may have personally, or with anyone in the office.
How do you create this culture among your team? Consider the idea of providing every employee with a welcome desk kit. It comes packed with things like a personal sanitizer, wipes for their desk, etc. You can get super fun and creative here; let the team know it matters and that you care about them.
In a Brick+Mortar environment, the risks are increased due to exposure to the public: customers, window cleaners, delivery drivers, mall security, etc. There's not much you can do to stop a potentially sick customer from walking into your store.
Make sure customers, or anyone who enters the store (or office) have easy access to things like hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes, especially for commonly touched items like baskets and shopping carts.
Employees in stores should also be vigilant of sick shoppers who might enter the store. Consider not shaking hands, and always be prepared to sanitize or wash your hands after the interaction. Be mindful of where a visibly sick customer walked, and what they may have touched. Consider using disinfectant spray to ensure the work environment is clean, and your employees and other shoppers are safe from anything a sick customer could have exposed them to.
Check out OSHA's "Precautions for all Workers during Flu Season."
Stay safe, folks 😷; happy selling 👊🏻
About the Author:
Dustin D. Thede has spent over a decade in retail with a foundation on the front lines as a sales leader and has been helping retail businesses adopt new software and pursue custom development projects since 2016.
Today, Dustin focuses his efforts on helping small to medium businesses (SMB’s) make more informed business decisions in the age of Digital Transformation.
“There is a lot of opportunity online and in stores for retailers. The ability to develop creative, data-driven strategies is key to success in an ever-evolving retail world. A plan today is a vision for tomorrow.”
Dustin D. Thede
President | FOMO agency