Brick-and-mortar retail stores' worst fears were realised recently with the announcement of further lockdowns. And while at the time of this writing, the current lockdown is coming to an end, there is no guarantee that there won't be new ones.
It's important to learn from past experiences so that your business is better prepared and equipped to deal with a similar situation in the future.
Many businesses wondered how it could be possible to stay operational, still recovering from the financial blow of the first wave of lockdowns earlier this year.
With footfall falling to zero overnight, so-called 'non-essential' stores may have lost hope this time round.
However, in the right circumstances, it's possible to adapt your business model around new restrictions, implementing new strategies to keep sales flowing even when the doors are locked.
Successful adaptation is the key to survival, and this year has been full of great examples of businesses turning the obstacle of store shutdowns into a fruitful business opportunity.
In this article, we'll be offering three of the best strategies to keep your business thriving during a lockdown taken from real-world examples and recent research data.
Which strategy applies best to your store?
Take your store online
There may be plenty of reasons why up until now, you neglected putting your store online. You may not feel comfortable enough with the necessary technology or think your market is too niche, or that your business is too local, for it to be truly worth it.
Well, at this stage, any of those reasons are massively outweighed by the huge opportunity e-commerce now represents.
Experts predicted that e-commerce sales will top $4.13 trillion in 2020, and there will be over 2 billion active digital buyers.
With such explosive growth, the digital tools and services that facilitate setting up an online storefront have never been simpler and more accessible, leaving no excuses for business owners!
Not only do you gain access to a potentially worldwide market, but your store will also be open 24/7, not to mention completely secure from external events like shutdowns.
A further benefit of online selling is the ease with which you can collect customer data, which in our opinion is one of the most powerful secret weapons in achieving sustainable growth in commerce.
With customer data by your side, you can establish data-driven loyalty initiatives, run targeted discounts and marketing campaigns, and make informed decisions about your next strategic moves.
In the current environment, taking your store online is a no-brainer, the exception being if your business is in the hospitality sector and demands a physical presence like pubs and restaurants.
Being easily discovered online also doesn't have to involve building complex e-commerce stores right away, either. With platforms like OMG Portal, you can have your store easily found online by active local buyers, with no costs on your part.
Establish a takeaway service
Even though digital technology has advanced tremendously, unfortunately, there is still no way to order a pint directly to your house.
However, the more creative hospitality-sector businesses have kept doors open by offering their customers the opportunity of buying their goods for takeaway, to home, or a public space.
Customers get to enjoy their favourite products in the safety of their own home, and businesses get to keep their sales alive without endangering their staff. It's a win-win.
The specific rules on this may vary by area, but the official government word on this at the time of writing is that customers can leave their homes to collect goods' ordered through click-and-collect or as a takeaway.
For example, Starbucks has launched a service where customers can place their coffee orders on their smartphone apps to local chains for collection.
The appropriate question for you is how to implement this strategy most effectively. There are two components: establishing an ordering channel and promoting the service to your customers.
For the former, you want to select a channel or channels that are suitable for your demographic. For example, if you are a carvery restaurant that caters mostly to over 60s, you should allow customers to place orders over the phone.
And if you are an urban fast-food restaurant, then using your website or even social media channels for orders would probably be the most convenient and efficient for your target base.
Finally, it would be best to design a strategy for promoting the new service to your customers. OMG, partners can create and run targeted marketing campaigns based on the customer data collected on the platform, but more on that later!
Pay now, enjoy later
One of the more novel strategies coming out of this period is the 'pay now, enjoy later' scheme.
It works as it sounds. Customers place their orders (be it physical goods or services) and pay whatever they owe. Then, the waiting begins for the predetermined date when the good or service can be enjoyed. Consumers' willingness to do this is mostly driven by charity. They are supporting the businesses they know and love through tough economic times by giving them the vital cash injections they need until they can reopen again.
So if you have developed a strong relationship with your customers over the years by rewarding their loyalty in various ways, the responsiveness to this type of scheme should be strong.
However, there is a psychological basis to the scheme that may make 'pay now, enjoy later' schemes more rewarding and even cost-effective for consumers.
In their book 'Happy Money', behavioural scientists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton explain that a large part of the mental reward when buying things is waiting for their arrival, the so-called 'drool factor'.
You will recognise this feeling if you have ever planned an exciting trip, pre-ordered a new games console, or reserved a spot at an exclusive restaurant way in advance.
Additionally, the payment process can dampen the joy of whatever you're buying. Putting distance between the two may maximise the level of satisfaction and make the experience feel free when it arrives, even though it's not.
You can even offer small discounts to customers willing to partake in the scheme to encourage it's use.
It may feel like doom and gloom everywhere you look, but all is not lost.
We may not have to wait too long to get our physical stores' doors back open for business.
But in the meantime, there are plenty of digital solutions available to keep the sales flowing in.
If you've been putting off taking your store online, now is the best excuse to set it up.
When things are back to normal, you will have doubled your sales channels and future-proofed your business in the case of any other event making e-commerce the best solution.
Failing that, look at other businesses who are simply offering their goods for takeaway or delivery, or introducing novel payment schemes and think how you could do the same.
Stores using OMG platform throughout all of this are the real winners.
They have been able to gather vital insights into their customers buying behaviours in real-time, allowing them to make important strategic decisions before the bottom-line is affected.
They also benefited from months of developing goodwill from their customers, nurtured by loyalty initiatives like stamp schemes and targeted discounts.
So - what's the best strategy for keeping customers in lockdown or at any other time?
It's Joining the OMG platform, of course.