Most people were absolutely delighted to see 2020 leave and 2021 arrive. However, as the confetti settled, we were left facing a landscape that looked pretty similar to 2020.
As a retail business, a lot changed in 2020. Your perspective on how business is done and how to connect with customers and your community was completely upended. What can you do to move forward successfully in 2021?
Here are some ways you can position yourself for a successful new year.
#1 Reconsider Physical Space
Many retailers struggled to pay rent on their spaces last year, while no customers came through the doors. Even during times of reopening, fewer people were willing to brave public spaces. Those who did had to abide by a series of regulations, ranging from face masks to sanitation.
As a result, online shopping skyrocketed. Online sales jumped 49% in the U.S. between March 12 and April 11. People also opted for curbside pickup and other remote shopping choices at surprising rates.
While in the 1990’s bigger was better and malls reigned supreme, today more people are comfortable shopping online. How much space do you really need?
Organizations that downsize can not only save money and streamline their operations, they also create space for new strategies more suited to the digital age we live in.
#2 Awareness of Cleanliness and Immunity
You’ve probably never cleaned your store as much as you did in 2020. Part of keeping the virus at bay was the constant disinfection of surfaces. As we move forward into a new year, you’ll want to continue to structure your store and messaging to boost your customers’ feelings of safety.
A cleaner store will continue to be important, both to your customers and your employees. However, many customers may want new ways to browse your offerings safely. That’s where e-commerce, online stores, and even virtual experiences can make a big difference.
Google Maps offers a ‘Street View’ where you can walk through almost any city in the world. Why not create virtual aisles so that shoppers can view your products without having to risk getting sick?
You can also increase the use of in-store technology to improve safety and security for everyone involved.
#3 Flexibility With Staff
Retail has a reputation for being a difficult job to work and a difficult place to find good employees. In 2020, both managers and employees had to work together to keep businesses afloat.
This resulted in new work arrangements and schedules that gave everyone more flexibility. As you move forward, think about how many staff you need onsite, especially if you choose a smaller physical location.
You may also be able to create positions where employees can work remotely. If you’re focusing on e-commerce, some of the technical positions don’t need to be done at the store. This can help you hire and work with a more diverse workforce. The more diverse the workforce, the more successful the business.
You might also revisit your sick-time policies. It’s become clear that ensuring sick people can stay home is best for the safety of everyone in your store.
With changes in how stores operate, someone who can’t be on their feet for hours at a time can still be a high-quality employee for your business. Think about how you can incorporate this into your business.
#4 Increased Efficiency and Online Selling
As you review the new reality of 2021, you might see a need to revisit processes and prune your operations to be more efficient. Curbside pickup has become a new customer favorite to get items quickly and avoid shipping charges. How can you incorporate that into your business model?
Of course, online sales continue to grow. If you haven’t optimized your store website and made sure that the shopping experience is excellent from both a desktop and mobile device, the time is now. Having a smooth online shopping experience is essential to keeping loyal customers even post-COVID.
Most importantly, be sure your brand experience is consistent across in-store and online platforms. You want your messaging to be strong and for your ideal customers to know that you have the products and services that meet their needs.
The more efficient you’re able to be going forward, the more profitable and nimble your business will be. That’s vital since there could be another major disruption at any time.
#5 Empathy is Key Post-COVID-19
We’ve all been shaken by the events of the last year. Being empathetic and speaking to your customers’ and employees’ needs for safety and security is the best way to move forward.
Focus on how you can build relationships within your store first. How are your managers doing? How are your staff? What can you do to allow people to share their experiences and give ideas on how to effectively move forward as a team? Communication will help strengthen trust and camaraderie.
Next, build strong relationships with your customers as well. Communicate what you’re doing to make their shopping experience top-notch while keeping them and your staff safe. The more comfort you can provide, the more people will be willing to return to your stores.
2020 was hard, but we learned some good lessons. Let’s be kinder to everyone as we move forward.