Why It’s Important To Offer BOPIS With An Omnichannel System

Why It’s Important To Offer BOPIS With An Omnichannel System

Shoppers now expect the perk of Buy Online Pick Up In-Store to be a given. However, you need to consider the operations of your retail business before you can offer BOPIS. Without support from modern retail software, BOPIS runs the risk of decreasing customer satisfaction.

Being able to find exactly what they want at the price point they need will undoubtedly thrill shoppers. However, if the second half of the process falls short of expectations, it will drive customers to search elsewhere and put the business lower on their list of trusted retailers.

1. Accurate inventory information without extra staff

Omnichannel inventory management

Retail expert Suzanne Sears notes that more and more consumers are feeling confident about returning to in-person shopping. She says “Pent-up savings among consumers, who have greater access to products than services, are making purchases. This has created a demand for work in warehousing, shipping, supply chain, buying, stores, e-commerce, and right on through the entire operation.” This has significantly impacted the search for qualified new hires. Staffing shortages have become a widespread problem. Businesses across North America are not only struggling to find employees but also struggling to keep them around.


Reduced staff means there are fewer employees available to manually track inventory across multiple systems. Understaffed stores cannot handle these challenges, resulting in inventory accuracy as low as 70%. This means that at any given time, nearly a third of inventory stock can be inaccurate. This is especially true with high-traffic or high-inventory stores, many of which are understaffed today. In order to offer BOPIS successfully, retailers will have to invest in a system with real-time inventory across all sales channels. This will let them provide the type of inventory availability accuracy that today’s shoppers expect.

2. Automatically attract more local customers

The best omnichannel systems today will not only help retailers effectively offer Buy Online Pick Up In-Store, they will help them automatically attract more nearby shoppers. Because real-time omnichannel solutions such as TAKU are able to provide reliable, accurate inventory information and real-time stock availability, they are able to connect to local marketing tools to automatically drive more foot traffic in store.

Omnichannel systems such as TAKU help retailers manage all of their inventory across all sales channels with a single, smart product feed . The feed can then be connected to Google Merchant Center and Google My Business. This integration is a built-in feature of TAKU that automatically helps retailers can be found more easily on Google. By plugging their store inventory into a free product showcase called ‘See What’s In Store’, retailers can easily show real-time stock availability in store. Where before large retailers would need to hire agencies or staff to upload products into Google manually, modern omnichannel systems are able to do this without any data entry and stock levels update instantly as you sell in-store or online.

Omnichannel data integrated to Google to drive local traffic to store.
TAKU Retail helps you automatically showcase your products on Google

The retail market is increasingly competitive, retailers need proper inventory management to compete. A system that automatically updates all stock quantity info right away (no matter where or when the sale takes place) is essential. That is why retailers will need to make investments in modern inventory systems. It will allow them to ensure they have properly implemented BOPIS.

See How TAKU Can Help With Seamless BOPIS

TAKU is a single retail platform that will put you in the driver’s seat. It enables you to manage all of your in-store and online operations in a single place. Whether you have 5,000 or 100,000 SKUs, TAKU lets you quickly import customer and inventory data from your current POS, feed file, or e-commerce platform. Unlike other retail cloud platforms, TAKU is customizable and crazy fast in-store and online. With an easy-to-use design and built-in training tools, set-up is faster than many other systems. Never manage products or stock levels in different systems again.

Learn more about how TAKU works by clicking below.

A graphic depicting a woman picking up local products through BOPIS. Link to a webpage of TAKU Retail's features.
What is Buy Online Pick Up In-Store?

What is Buy Online Pick Up In-Store?

BOPIS, also known as “Buy Online Pick Up In-Store,” is an important feature that today’s shoppers expect when shopping with their favorite retailers. Sometimes referred to as “Click and Collect,” Buy Online Pick Up In-Store is exactly what the name describes. Your customers shop for and purchase your products online and then pick them up in person at one of your physical locations.

Curbside Pickup is a form of Buy Online Pick Up In-Store that increased in popularity in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted many retail stores from offering in-person shopping. BOPIS and online shopping continues to grow as customers find it convenient to “pre-shop.” 

Buy Online Pick Up In-Store should be an essential feature for any retail business, but especially for merchants running physical stores that target local shoppers. According to an Invesp survey, a whopping 50% of people surveyed said that they decided where to shop online based on whether or not they could pick up in-store. 

Here are 6 reasons why more and more shoppers are choosing to use BOPIS and why retailers need to offer the option.

1. Increase profitability with BOPIS

When customers purchase items online and pick them up at one of your retail locations, it significantly decreases the cost of fulfillment. According to John Mulligan, Target’s COO, Buy Online Pick Up In-Store purchases are 90% cheaper to fulfill than orders shipped from a warehouse.

Benefits of BOPIS infographic with TAKU Retail
The benefits of BOPIS.

That’s not the only way that Buy Online Pick Up In-Store reduces costs and increases profitability. It also cuts down the cost of packing materials and requires a lot less labor because the order only needs to be picked instead of being picked and packed up for ship out. As a result, there is no need to offer free shipping or cover the cost of shipping fees with Buy Online Pick Up In-Store. This will not only save you money, but it will also save your customers money. 

2. Avoid shipping costs & shipping delays

Shipping costs stock image

Shoppers increasingly expect free shipping. But a recent study conducted by Hanover Research and LaserShip, the largest regional e-commerce parcel carrier in the U.S., reveals that shipping rates are rising faster than they have in a decade. Not only have there been general rate increases but 64% of top online retailers are struggling with an off-schedule price increase. The study indicates “nearly half (49%) of these increases are price hikes between 10% and 19% and another quarter (27%) fall between 5% and 9% increases.”

At the same time, the pandemic has significantly increased the demand for shipping, overwhelming many shipping companies. An earlier study indicated that the U.S domestic package market was on track to reach 100 million packages per day by 2026. That number is now expected to be reached in 2022, with e-commerce responsible for 86% of that growth. This greater overall demand has driven up the cost for retailers to ship out online orders that often require free or subsidized shipping, and increased delivery delays.

Besides shipping costs themselves, BOPIS is also more environmentally friendly for small to medium physical retailers that target mainly local shoppers or carry products that are costly to ship (e.g. bulky or fragile products). If you don’t have the ability to ship from a warehouse or a dark store, using a lot of single-use packaging material or shipping out products that were already shipped once to the store or already merchandised on shelves is wasteful and causes unnecessary emissions. BOPIS encourages shoppers to buy from local, nearby stores instead of having something shipped from much further away or packaged with a lot of disposable packaging materials.

3. BOPIS leads to lower rates of return

In addition, items picked up in-store result in significantly lower rates of return. This is because merchants are more likely to check purchases when they are picking up items so returns are avoided before products leave the store. And returning in store is something that the majority of shoppers want. An Inmar Intelligence survey from July 2020 found 58% would prefer to return purchases in a store.

And lowering return rates is key to ecommerce margins as it is becoming increasingly costly for retailers to handle the return process. Although some retailers do offer to cover return shipping costs, this is becoming less possible as the overall cost of shipping increases. Bloomberg reports that return costs for retailers rose 59% in 2021 and added that it now costs $33 dollars for a retailer to process the return of a $50 item. Forcing customers to mail returns adds to their frustration, making it less likely that they will want to repeat the experience. By allowing them to return items in-store, they don’t have to deal with the inconvenience and expense of mailing orders back.

Again, the shipping cost of returns is only part of the story. Oftentimes retailers will need to spend extra money to cover the cost of offering return-friendly boxes otherwise they risk the chance of receiving returned goods that are unsellable due to damage during the return trip. With e-commerce return rates almost 3x higher than with in-store shopping, this means a 3x higher chance that returned goods are unsellable at their original price. The waste of damaged goods along with 2x the amount of disposable packaging materials just adds to the true environmental cost of shipping out online orders vs. BOPIS for local retailers.

4. Reduces merchant processing costs

With so many retailers starting to sell online since the pandemic started, many merchants now know that e-commerce sales generally require higher merchant processing fees to accept payments online versus payments taken in person in store. But once you take into account that return rates can be 3x higher with online orders, this means that retailers pay significantly higher merchant processing fees in general with online orders because any fees that are paid during any sale is lost during a return. Returned sales do not refund transaction fees. Some processors even charge additional return fees. This is why it’s important to consider features such as BOPIS to reduce returns and/or even take more payments in store.

5. Increase shopper basket size

Increase customer basket size with TAKU Retail
Increase your consumers’ basket sizes.

One of the biggest reasons why Buy Online Pick Up In-Store is often more profitable for retailers is that it increases the opportunity for bigger orders and for impulse buys. Research indicates that 75% of shoppers who’ve used BOPIS will make an additional purchase and 49% of shoppers go on to make additional purchases while picking up their items in store. Not only does this result in a more satisfied customer, but it also means more profit or higher margin sales for retailers with minimal effort.

Creating a separate section for BOPIS pickups means that shoppers don’t have to wait in long lines. And placing items strategically in the BOPIS section will also benefit retailers since having a positive experience makes customers more likely to purchase other items while they’re in-store. In-store retail management systems such as TAKU are great for upselling during the BOPIS pickup process as they have the ability to handle all orders and take payment for add-ons, all under a single login. So the same staff member helping a customer pull his pickup order can also accept payment from him for those extra high-margin impulse buys he wants to add.

6. Increases customer satisfaction and loyalty

Buy Online Pick Up In-Store gives businesses that have both an online and brick-and-mortar presence a competitive advantage over those retailers that only offer online shopping. Customers can choose between shopping online, in–person, or a mixture of both. BOPIS allows customers to shop from anywhere at any time. They are no longer restricted to retail business hours which means they benefit from the convenience, flexibility, and faster service that BOPIS provides, especially to local shoppers.

Satisfied customer and increased customer loyalty

BOPIS also gives customers visibility into which stores have a given product in stock, helping them avoid wasted trips and thus improving their overall shopping experience. Customers can get an accurate view of which items are in stock at a particular retail location, so they don’t have to waste time getting to a physical store only to find out that the item they want isn’t available. 

Michael Ketzenberg, a professor of the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, feels retailers should embrace and aggressively market BOPIS, stating in Harvard Business Review that “It’s more profitable than other omnichannel services and it gives retailers the opportunity to offer a small discount or other incentives to encourage customers to opt for the BOPIS option, creating a win-win for both the customer and the business.”


Want to learn how to easily integrate BOPIS into your business?

How is Cloud Technology Changing the Retail Industry?

How is Cloud Technology Changing the Retail Industry?

In today’s digital era, more and more retailers are recognizing the benefits of cloud technology. 1/3 of retailers are expected to adopt cloud based technology by 2020.

Cloud POS is expected to grow 22.7% annually from 2018 to 2023

But what are the benefits of having cloud technology in your retail space?

3 Key Benefits of Cloud POS for Retailers

1) The ability to sell and operate from anywhere

Web-based POS solutions store data in the cloud which makes them available around the clock for authorized users to pull reports or manage inventory right from the comfort of home or while on a business trip. In comparison, traditional, installed software requires managers to be on-site in order to gain access to important business information such as sales and inventory reports.

With a well-designed cloud POS system, retailers also have the advantage of running their POS software on any hardware from iPads to Windows computers. This flexibility means that retailers are not tied to a specific operating platform. Retailers using traditional POS software and are looking to make the switch to cloud, can do so easily with their existing hardware.

work from anywhere with your cloud retail POS

2) Reduced Ongoing Costs

In the long-term, cloud POS software is more cost-efficient than traditional software. This is due to the elimination of many hidden ongoing maintenance costs associated with installed software. In comparison, cloud-based POS solutions requires minimal upfront investment, have little to no downtime during updates, and reduce the amount of in-house technical support and post-sales support required.

Retail cost of on-premise vs. cloud computing

3) Access to Real-Time Business Information

Cloud POS software also comes with the benefit of easier access to real-time information. In other words, inventory and sales data is updated as products are received or sold rather than every few hours or daily. If used well, more timely data can help to eliminate significant inventory costs by minimizing stock-outs or overstocking slow sellers. This is particularly important for retail businesses that have multiple locations where consolidated sales and inventory data is critical to purchasing decisions. At the same time, a well-designed cloud POS software will have real-time marketing integrations that help drive more local traffic to your retail store.

Real-time information

For more information on how retail technology can be used to drive growth and improve operations, sign up to receive our monthly blog updates.


Want to know more on how to choose a great retail POS system?

How to Build Resilience In Your Retail Business

How to Build Resilience In Your Retail Business

Every so often, retailers are affected by things out of their control such as recession, inflation, seasonal natural disasters and pandemics (just to name a few). One of our customers had a huge setback when a large truck crashed into their storefront because of black ice. Bottom line is, you always have to be ready for surprises. Without the right precautions in place, this could put a huge strain on your businesses and could lead to closure. In an uncertain world, we want to make sure you have the right tools to manage your store so we have put together a few tips below to help you stay resilient through any unforeseeable events.

retail visibility

Inventory

  • Conduct a physical inventory count to verify inventory amounts. Record any losses of inventory that are damaged, or expired, or spoiled. You’ll want to make sure that the inventory you have counted matches stock levels in your POS or inventory management system.
  • Review your inventory to decide what needs to be discounted and promoted immediately to bring in cash flow and to minimize the losses from your most outdated stock.
  • Contact your suppliers and vendors to get an update on order lead times and ensure accurate delivery schedules. You don’t want to sell what you can’t fulfill.

Staff

  • Use new hiring tactics. Write engaging job descriptions, promise of more hours, and offer a rewards-based incentive program so that your staff can stay invested with the success of your store.
  • Review loss prevention and security policies with employees. Don’t forget to review your POS access rights to make sure the staff permissions are still accurate.
  • Staffing alternatives with technology. Labor is hard to come by these days, modern omnichannel systems like TAKU Retail (with features like our self-checkout kiosk, and automatic inventory sync) can reduce the amount of hours needed to run your business.

Retail Store Exterior and Interior 

  • Regularly make sure that the storefront is clean by washing windows and doors, and cleaning high-traffic areas thoroughly.
  • Have the store’s new merchandising plan and products tags ready for staff. Ensure that all of your staff are informed of any new changes and are scheduled to help display stock before you open. 
  • Place promotional signage around the store. 

Retail Operations Management

  • Organize back office tasks: Review your fulfillment processes as cashiers need to have easy access to product or curbside orders at the front of the store to minimize their walking around the store.
  • Review receipt management procedures and train staff to put receipts directly into shopping bags instead of handing them to customers or ask customers if they want an email receipt instead. Remember that privacy regulations require that you get positive customer consent to save their emails for future use so an email marketing tool to capture consent that will allow customers to unsubscribe themselves. 
  • Enable staggered pickup times. Requiring customers to make an appointment to pick up their purchases to avoid huge lineups outside of your store. E-commerce providers such as TAKU eCommerce allow customers to choose a pickup time and date at checkout. Alternatively, you can use apps such as Eventbrite, Calendly or Acuity Scheduling, many of which are free for a single store account.

cloud pos

Security, Technology, and Utilities 

  • Ensure that your utilities are working properly: This includes heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), phone, internet,  electricity, and plumbing etc. If any of your utilities were disconnected while you were closed, it’s a good idea to call the utility companies to make sure they are working before you re-open. 
  • Check all surveillance and security cameras to make sure they are working properly.
  • Ensure alarm systems are working and consider updating alarm codes if needed. 
  • Verify that your retail POS system, credit card terminals, and scanners are ready to process sales. Before opening, ring in a test sale to make sure your POS is good to go.
  • Make sure that your payment terminal (PIN pad) is capable of accepting contactless payments. Know what your contactless limits are and increase them if you are comfortable with the higher risk (contactless “tap” payments are subject to chargebacks).
  • If things are a bit dated, consider updating your security system. You can look at online reviews comparing different systems to get a better idea.
retail incentives

Retail Marketing

  • Run promotions to give shoppers incentives to shop and highlighting relevant seasonal products. Remember to add this information to your online store, Google My Business, and all of your other social media channels. Read more about how to use Google My Business to attract local shoppers in your area here.
  • Let people know that you take orders online – TAKU helps retailers showcase their products 24/7 online and accepts payments easily and quickly (read more here). Fulfill orders in-store and allow customers to schedule a pickup time so that customers can pop in to pick up their items without the stress of long wait times or lineups.
  • Update Google My Business. Update your Google My Business listing and let customers know you are open for curbside pickup or delivery. Remember to adjust your hours of operation on your listing if you decide to shorten your store hours! 
  • Get added to local directories. Add your business to local directory listings (Bing, Yahoo etc.) to make it easier for shoppers to find you online. Support Retail is one of our favorite directories and was created during the COVID-19 pandemic as a free tool to help connect local businesses to shoppers in the area. Being featured on local directories with links to your website improves SEO which also means that you are able to have your website appear ahead of your competitors on search engines such as Google.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to add a few relevant tips for retailers that have reopened or planning to reopen soon. We understand that it might be a little overwhelming, but completing this list can help your employees and staff feel safer, and create more trust.

The world can be a shaky place right now, and there may be some rough times ahead. You can rest assured by following the tips outlined in this post. When you build resilience in your retail business, you can handle uncertain times with the utmost confidence and certainty.


Want to learn more about how to be seen as the top result on Google (or other search engines)?

best local seo practices
Why use a Clicks-to-Bricks strategy

Why use a Clicks-to-Bricks strategy

It’s no secret that retail is no longer a one-step shopping experience. Customers want the flexibility of taking their in-store experience online and vice versa. In 2020, Walmart responded to the global pandemic by improving their omnichannel experience and adding more square footage to their stores for online order fulfillment. This helped them achieve a 97% spike in e-commerce sales.

A study by First Insight showed that customers in many categories still prefer in-store shopping versus buying online. In particular, the study showed that over 70% of shoppers are more likely to make impulse purchases or buy more in store, because of the merchandising and customer experience.

It’s just that the pandemic has made it more likely that the customer journey starts online, even if the actual purchase happens in a physical store. As such, for traditional merchants, it’s not about whether customers are shopping more online or in-store. It’s about needing to serve customers across multiple channels, often at the same time. This is why the entire omnichannel shopping experience is increasingly important.

But if you’re a traditional retailer just starting out in this brave, new world, where do you start? Changing store processes to serve omnichannel shoppers isn’t something that can happen overnight. This is where “clicks-to-bricks” strategies come in.

5 steps to moving a physical store online from clicks-to-bricks

Clicks-to-bricks simply refers to strategies that focus on using “digital storefronts” or “pre-shopping discovery” online to drive foot traffic into stores instead of encouraging customers to mainly shop online. Even if you offer delivery, there are a lot of benefits to focusing on store-driven online shopping.

Top 5 Advantages of a Clicks-to-Bricks Strategy

  1. It maximizes local awareness of your business online. During the pandemic, a lot of businesses focused on selling online and neglected the fact that store shoppers also start their buying journey online. Whether it’s checking store hours or stock availability, being found online is key to offering a smooth customer experience. The easier it is for shoppers to find you online, the more likely they are to purchase from you as compared to some of your competitors who may not be as easy to find.
  2. It increases sales per shopper. Shoppers buy more when shopping in store. Retailers want customers to buy in store because they are more likely to make additional impulse buys with higher margins. If store products are linked to online search with tools such as Google’s See What’s In Store (SWIS) or Local Inventory Ads (LIA), you’ll get store shoppers that walk in “ready to buy” as they already know what you carry and have on your shelves. In fact, helping customers “pre-shop” or “discover” products online can drive more traffic to both physical and online stores. This will increase overall sales per shopper as you’re able to serve shoppers in multiple channels.
  3. It maximizes profitability. Besides bigger basket sizes, using online awareness to drive higher quality foot traffic to your store means that you’ll be spending less in marketing for higher sales. If you use omnichannel tools that link your store data with online research, you can even save on the cost of having employees or agencies manage your product information online.
  4. It gives you useful customer insights. Connecting with customers on multiple channels means more opportunities to gather information about your customers. Whether it is an email address or a physical address, having more data increases retailers’ insights into their customers and their buying habits, making marketing easier and cheaper over time.
  5. It gives you useful inventory insights. Knowing what sells well on which channel allows retailers to sell and target specific segments when releasing new products or product lines.

Want to learn more about in-store merchandising?

Merchandising on a Budget
Retail Crisis Management: How to Prepare for Emergency Situations and Business Interruption

Retail Crisis Management: How to Prepare for Emergency Situations and Business Interruption

👇👇👇 Scroll to Download our COVID-19 Survival Tips for Retailers!!

There’s no denying that we now live in a physically and digitally connected world. The benefits of being globally interconnected are visible in the growth and stability of the world economy over the past decade since the 2008 global financial crisis. But history and economies are cyclical. We were already looking at a potential downturn before the recent coronavirus global pandemic started but retailers are now looking at the most unpredictable global business environment in decades. This is where retail crisis management helps to give businesses options to manage the unknown.

For businesses that were launched in good times, owners will now need to quickly adapt to the challenges of managing uncertainty and risk. Like any other business, owning a retail store comes with its fair share of risks. Even at the best of times, store owners must deal with operational risks that impact cash flow. After all, the US economy was strong for the majority of 2019, yet U.S. retailers still lost 50.6 billion due to inventory shrinkage alone.

With the help of new technology, there are ever more ways to tackle theft and organized retail crime, but they are not the only challenges facing retailers today. Whether it’s a natural disaster in the form of a fire or flood, supply chain disruptions, or an employee ranting about the company on social media, unexpected retail risks can have a huge impact on your bottom line. 

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help minimize the risk of unexpected emergencies, plan for interruptions to your retail business, and do your best to protect your employees, assets, and reputation.

I’m not by any means a risk management expert. I am, however, a repeat small business owner. So I know what it’s like to face the terror of a sudden downturn AND not be prepared to deal with negative cash flow. If any of the tips below help others minimize their stress or better prepare for the next crisis, that’s good enough.

External Threats

retail external threats

Environmental disasters are external crises that are generally out of the control of any one private business. These include forest fires, hurricanes and, of course, global health pandemics. Because these are environmental and often cannot be predicted, these are often the most costly. They usually impact the economies of entire countries, can cost billions of dollars in damage to affected businesses and homes, and require a long recovery time. Besides the $1 billion in lost sales experienced by retailers during hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, these disasters resulted in $125 billion in property damage.

Business Insurance for Major Disasters

Nobody really likes to purchase business insurance but it’s often critical to the survival of a company in the face of a business-interrupting disaster. Even if you don’t live in an area that is prone to serious storms or other seasonal events, you need to make sure you have enough insurance to cover fire/water damage for your inventory, assets or property. Not only is this type of coverage mandatory on some leaseholds, it’s the only way to protect yourself against legal claims if there is 3rd party damage during an incident, which is also a key part of retail crisis management.

It’s important to remember that environmental disasters can be considered “acts of God” or “force majeure” and can nullify some insurance depending on your carrier and the type of plan you have. While some companies will step up at times of crises, you shouldn’t count on the possibility of coverage in the middle of a disaster if your plan has such exemptions. This is exactly why you should always read your insurance policy to understand what type of financial coverage you are actually buying. If the language in the fine print is too much, write to your insurance broker to make sure they give you a clear written response on what coverage you get with your insurance premiums

Technology, Flexibility and Adaptability

retail technology and flexibility

Adaptability for a business today is often tied to flexibility and technology. How flexible your processes are will determine how quickly you can adapt to different market environments. For retailers, this means using technology and tools that will allow you to immediately change how you are selling or taking payment with customers. The latest cloud systems not only automatically back-up your data, they work on any device and allow you to sell wherever your customer is. So when your store suddenly loses power, you can switch from your till to your mobile phone to keep selling.

For retailers dealing with the impact of COVID-19, for example, shutting down may not be an immediate option. Small businesses who cannot afford to shutdown or are looking for better ways to manage the impact are encouraged to:Download our free checklist

  1. Add or Expand Digital Sales Channels including e-commerce for shipment or pick-up in store.
  2. Offer Contactless “Leave At My Door” Delivery with prepaid orders online, by phone, fax or email.
  3. Make sure you have a Google My Businessprofile and keep your store hours up-to-date.
  4. Encourage Visible Hygiene Management in store by having all staff use gloves or wear masks. Have hand sanitizers readily available at the checkout area, near doors with handles, etc.
  5. Encourage Social Distance In Store by increasing the space in the checkout area between cashiers and where shoppers are waiting to pay. Stop offering samples unless they are pre-packaged.
  6. Encourage “Contactless” Payments (e.g. tap or Apple Pay) and discourage the use of cash to protect your staff wherever possible. You may want to increase your “contactless” limit with your merchant processor but remember that you are liable for any potential chargebacks on “contactless” payments.
  7. Minimize Any Processes that Require Touch such as loyalty programs that require a tablet. Print out a QR code or signage for your web site and encourage users to sign up on their own phones.
  8. Sell In Store Gift Cards with an Incentive (e.g. extra $15 for every $100 gift card) to encourage shoppers to come back to the store when things are back to normal.
  9. Offer Free Pens to shoppers who don’t have their own. It’s a cost-effective gift that discourages the use of public pens and helps customers remember you. Remember to minimize touch when offering them.
  10. Join Local Social Media Support Groups to stay engaged with the community. These are not commercial spaces so don’t sell unless it’s appropriate but find out what your community needs. Here is a great example of a small business that found a way to give back.
  11. Communicate Proper Treatment Procedures when staff are sick. Make sure all managers and staff know what to do when they are sick. There is a lot of information out there – be sure to refer to the most credible medical sources in your country. In Canada, that will mean the public health authorities for your province or territory. In the US, the CDC is a reliable authority for guidance. For further details, you can also review the steps to prepare worksplaces for COVID-19 published by the WHO.
  12. Limit Stock Quantities for any essential household and medical products to avoid stock outs.

Internal Threats

Not all emergencies are external. There are a number of internal risks within a company, many of which aren’t any less significant to the survival of a business than, for example, a natural disaster. You’ll want to work with workplace safety experts if your workplace involves food, hazardous materials or any type of production but for most of us in retail, cash flow, reputation and operations crises are usually top-of-mind for small business owners.

Cash Flow is the Lifeblood of a Business

cash flow

I’m not the first business owner to say that timing is everything when running a business. During good times, this can refer to being in the right place when unusual opportunities present themselves. During bad times, this refers to whether you are financially in a position to survive when there is an interruption to the business. And more often than not, retail crisis management refers to your cash flow position because you need to have access to liquidity or credit to be able to get through an unusually slow period – you can’t sell hard assets quickly or for a good price in the middle of a crisis. So yes, while a natural disaster is completely unexpected and is out of anybody’s control, what you can control is the position you are in when disaster strikes.

I’m certainly not trying to preach about the virtues of keeping unused cash in the bank (assuming there is even any) instead of reinvesting in the business, etc. But if you haven’t already, you may want to get approved for a line of credit only for emergencies when the business is booming or you have the opportunity to. The key is to get credit when you don’t need it and to not use these emergency resources for any daily operations. Yes, hindsight is 50-50, and this won’t help you if you’re already dealing with an emergency but history does repeat itself so can better prepare yourself for the future.

Operations Resilience Planning

Operations covers many different parts of a business. It’s not possible to list every area a business owner or manager can review but, by and large, most retailers should always have some sort of plan in place for:

  1. Succession or delegation if management is incapacitated
  2. Data loss or privacy breaches
  3. Supply chain breakdown

1) Management Incapacitation

Nobody ever wants to think about a scenario in which they aren’t around. But the fact is, if you are a small business owner, you are likely an employer and others depend on you for their livelihood. You can plan for every possible risk but if you cannot issue payroll, approve payments or make important decisions when they need to be made, you’re exposing your business to extra risk. Make sure you have a contingency plan in place for your own responsibilities including who is authorized to access company bank accounts during an emergency. Speak to your accountant or lawyer to learn more about the options.

2) Data Loss or Privacy Breaches

data loss

Just as many people rely on smartphones to remember all of their contacts, the data you use to run and track your business is irreplaceable. In a retail business, this usually refers to your POS data. Not only is the information stored in your POS system critical to your business decisions (e.g. how much product to order based on sales, etc.), it’s also a legal requirement in most countries to both collect sales taxes and report profitability.

Ransomware and database hacks

Not only do natural disasters damage physical structures like storefronts and warehouses, they can also lead to a loss of important company files and data. Environmental disasters aside, as a business, you are also exposed to ransomware or database hacks on a daily basis. Luckily data security is definitely something you can more affordably control now in the age of cloud computing. It doesn’t matter what type of technology you use in your business operations. Don’t take a chance with unexpected damages or hardware failure with your business data. Store it in the cloud, or better yet, use a cloud POS system so that you can run your business from anywhere. After all, even if your data is secure, you need access to your POS system and other retail management tools to be able to continue operating.

Privacy Strategy

With GDPR in Europe and ever more privacy regulations everywhere around the world, it’s important for small businesses to start on the process of developing and implementing a privacy strategy to protect their reputation with customers. There’s no point stressing out over the fact that you may have missed certain regulatory deadlines. Regulators and customers everywhere would rather see that a company has a plan and is working on improving rather than giving up or saying “it doesn’t apply to me.” For some basic steps you can take to get started on how to better manage privacy in your small business, you can refer to this blog post.

3) Supply Chain Breakdown

Global Container Yards

If just one link in a retailer’s supply chain is broken, it can have a significant impact on business operations and profit. Which is why retailers need to be able to react quickly to unexpected supply chain events – whether it is a natural disaster, supplier failure, political or labour strife. 

While there is no way to prevent these events from taking place, there are measures you can take internally to minimize the impact of such disruptions and be better prepared including:

Retail Crisis Management is Risk Management

Having total supply chain visibility involves looking at possible environmental, social, and political risks. Identify possible “what-if” scenarios – what happens if a supplier is facing a weather disruption and loses power? Do you have an alternative source? What if there are transportation delays? What if political events drive up prices of raw materials? These “what-if” scenarios are numerous and may seem unlikely to occur in the first place. But it’s important to know what that list looks like first so that you can start to develop contingency plans to have more options when an unexpected crisis does take place.

Look at manufacturing and distribution coverage

Supply chain coverage

Depending on the size of your business, broaden your connections by reaching out to suppliers in different networks and regions. Seeking out alternate suppliers in different locations will help you re-route orders if one of your suppliers is negatively impacted by an external event.

Transport flexibility

Unexpected issues and events can arise when inventory is being transported to and from distribution centers. For instance, merchandise can be stolen, delays can occur, and weather disruptions can cause damage to roads and transport routes. To prepare for these risks, it’s important to have transport flexibility. In other words, if one avenue of delivery is disrupted, ensure that you have the capability to switch and depend on another logistics channel. If instead, you opt to go for a third-party logistic provider, it’s a good idea to ensure that they can also provide the same kind of flexibility.

Remember that changes in lead times with suppliers during a major disaster will likely change the speed and cost of transport you will need. Do a cost analysis of what your business can afford to spend to get products to you and make sure you have the credit or cash flow necessary to fund the upgrades. During an emergency, you may need to consider foregoing profits or even taking a loss simply to keep enough revenue flowing through the business to cover fixed overhead costs.

Reputation Management

retail reputation

Brand reputation and reputation management are critical to a retailer’s success. In fact, a report done by Total Retail shows that 90% of shoppers have chosen not to purchase from a company because of its bad reputation. Which is why consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to determine the quality of a business.

But, certain circumstances can arise that can quickly impact the viability and perception of your brand – e.g. a distraught employee publicly telling off a customer, poor management of health risks, etc. – creating distrust amongst consumers, and so on.

Help your retail business build a reputable brand and better prepare for compromising situations:

1) Be transparent about company policies and preventative procedures

In the case of an external crisis, consumers start distrusting businesses. Under these circumstances, it’s best to get ahead of the situation by reassuring employees, suppliers, partners and shoppers that you are taking preventative action or being as proactive as you can. During the recent coronavirus pandemic, StichFix made sure that members were aware of the rigorous cleaning process their clothing goes through between rentals to minimize any fears customers had about the cleanliness of renting clothes.

2) Manage negative reviews promptly

Gathering customer reviews is one of the best ways to make a good impression on a potential shopper. And even if you receive negative feedback, remember that it’s normal (and more realistic) for companies to receive a few bad reviews, just as long as you respond promptly and clearly show to customers that you are taking action. To learn more about customer review management and how to respond to reviews, click here.

3) Clearly communicate staff expectations

Setting clear company expectations with every new employee will pay off in the future when you’re trying to contain a potential public relations emergency. You may not be comfortable with the unconventional employee handbook Telsa gives its employees but the point is that you can’t expect employees to know what you expect without giving them some guidelines. Depending on the size of your business, it shouldn’t be an extensive document but it’s worth those late nights or legal fees to get one prepared since you will be sharing it repeatedly in your company. And, of course, communication doesn’t stop with orientation or handbooks. Part of retail crisis management is clearly communicating with employees and setting a good example during and after any crisis. There’s no better way for senior management to walk the talk.


We hope you found this article helpful.