Scroll to the bottom of the page to download PDF versions of the checklists!
After temporary shutdowns, provinces, states, and cities are getting ready to reopen again. Depending on your location and the industry that you’re in, you may or may not be on the path to resuming your operations. Whatever the case may be, there is a lot you can do to prepare your store for re-opening. Reference our checklist below when the time comes to start selling from your store again.
As the number of new COVID-19 cases slows globally, state and provincial governments have started re-opening the economy in phases. For many places, the first phase involves re-opening stores for pickup only. Depending on where you are located, this can even refer to curbside pickup only if you have an entrance that opens up to the street. In the US, States are managing the reopening of the economy and stores in different ways. Read more about how each of the 50 states are re-opening in the US.
For more information on Canadian workplace safety & guidelines for curbside pickup and re-opening phases during COVID-19, you can visit the different provincial resources below:
Set up curbside pickup on your e-commerce store. Find out how to easily set up an online store and offer curbside pickup on TAKU eCommerce here. Free access until July 1, 2020.
Enable staggered pickup times. Avoid big lineups and crowds by requiring customers to make an appointment to pick up their purchases. 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.
Install a stand with a transparent physical barrier for protection. Consider installing a stand outside your store with plexiglass to accept payments.
Encourage “Contactless” Payments (e.g. tap or Apple Pay) and discourage the use of cash to protect your staff wherever possible. You may even want to increase your “contactless” limit with your merchant processor but remember that you are liable for any potential chargebacks on “contactless” payments.
Get creative with window displays and merchandising. Re-do your window displays to show off new or popular merchandise, discounted items, and relevant products (masks, grocery staples, hand sanitizer etc.).
Place signage in the window: Put up signs to let customers know you are open for curbside pickup and/or delivery. You can also use signage to remind customers about social distancing procedures, your updated return/exchange policy, and store cleanliness or sanitation measures.
Offer customers hand sanitizer wherever touch is unavoidable.
Review receipt management procedures to train staff to put receipts directly into shopping bags instead of handing them to customers or, even better, ask if they are ok to receive their receipts by email. 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.
Encourage social distance outside of the store by increasing the space outside the store where shoppers are waiting to pay. It’s as simple as adding tape on the floor to clearly show where shoppers need to stand. Costco has famously used pallets outside of their stores to enforce social distance requirements in an orderly fashion. Consider assigning an employee to assist customers waiting in line.
Make merchandising improvements at your storefront: Re-do merchandising displays and organize your store to display what you offer right at your storefront.
Organize back office tasks: Remember to review your fulfillment processes as your cashiers will need to have easy access to product or curbside orders at the front of the store to minimize their walking around the store. This way, when shoppers arrive to pick up their purchases or buy things, the checkout process will be faster.
Sanitize surfaces: Regularly sanitize high contact surfaces like PIN pads, checkout counters, door knobs, handles etc. Some customers will need to touch your PINpad to pay. Consider wrapping your PINpad with plastic wrap so that you can wipe it down with sanitizer between every customer but still protect the device.
Stagger employee shifts. In order to promote social distance, schedule a maximum number of employees per shift (2 or 3 employees per shift etc.)
Implement proper hygiene and social distances practices. Communicate new health and safety procedures to staff. Ensure proper hand washing, sanitizing, and overall cleanliness. Place signs in the store to remind employees to wash their hands, sanitize, and keep at a safe distance from one another.
Conduct a physical inventory count to verify inventory amounts. Record losses of inventory that is damaged / expired / 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 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.
Contact your employees:Confirm readiness to return to work and good health.
Communicate shift schedules with employees once you’ve confirmed who is ready to return to work.
Inform staff of health and safety procedures going forward. Health and safety will be the top priority of both employees and shoppers for now. If it is not possible to always maintain the required distance from customers, you will need to look at both re-designing the layout of your store, the checkout procedures and supply masks, gloves and hand sanitizer where required for everybody’s protection.
Implement proper hygiene and social distancing policies: Post signage throughout the store, in break rooms, stock rooms, and the bathroom reminding staff to wash their hands and stay at a safe distance from other team members / customers.
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.
Store Exterior and Interior
Ensure the storefront is clean by washing windows and doors, sweeping the sidewalk, and getting rid of any debris/garbage outside your store. Any areas of high traffic will need to be cleaned repeatedly throughout the day.
Place signage in windows and doors: This includes reopening signs, any promotional/sales signage, and health and safety or social distancing policies.
Sanitize doors knobs, handles, countertops, PINpads, etc. Any areas of high touch by employees or customers will need to be sanitized repeatedly throughout the day. Consider wrapping your PINpad with plastic wrap so that you can wipe it down with sanitizer between every customer but still protect the device.
Ensure the store interior is clean by sweeping and sanitizing floors, walls, fixtures, surfaces, displays, shelves, and windows.
Verify product tags and pricing and print new tags if necessary. Ensure all products are accurately priced and discounted items are tagged.
Have the store’s new merchandising plan and products tags ready for staff/merchandisers. You’ll want to ensure staff are scheduled to help merchandise the store before you open.
Fill shelves and displays with stock.
Place promotional signage around the store.
Hang health & safety and social distancing policies around the store so that customers will be able to easily read and understand the new procedures.
Re-stock employee equipment: Receipt papers, tags, printer paper, hand sanitizer etc.
Re-stock washroom equipment: Soap, toilet paper, towels, and hand sanitizer
Security, Technology, and Utilities
Ensure that your utilities are working properly:This includesheating, 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 POS system, credit card terminals, and scannersare 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 (PINpad) 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).
Post COVID-19 Health and Safety Measures
Install plexiglass barriers at checkout counters to protect cashiers who are ringing in sales. Look at merchandising display stores for pre-made versions designed for retail as it may be more costly to install and/or cut your own. The cost of standard plexiglass sheets has gone up significantly.
Promote physical distancing by placing shelves and displays 6 ft. apart and by placing signs around the store.
Purchase non-medical protective equipment (gloves & masks) for employees:You may want to encourage customers to wear masks as well. This is particularly true if you serve a demographic that is considered high risk.
Use signage and social media to communicate physical distancing policies: Place signs both inside and outside of your store so customers are aware of the measures you are taking.
Review your fitting room policy if you are a clothing or apparel store. Many stores are no longer allowing fittings and instead relying on better descriptions or even fitting technology.
Modify your return and exchange policy: You may want to put a hold on return and exchanges for the time being given the hygiene concerns.
Limit the amount of customers allowed in-store: To promote physical distancing, have a limit on the amount of shoppers allowed in store at a time. This can be handled manually at the store or by offering online bookings for specific time slots through apps such as Eventbrite or SimplyBook.me for scheduled shopping solutions with personalized check-in.
Regularly clean and sanitize all surfaces, especially your PINpads which can be wrapped with plastic wrap so that they can be wiped down with sanitizer between every customer while still protecting the devices.
Make hand-sanitizer available to customers.
Adjust your store hours:Consider shortening your opening hours to help staff keep up with the extra cleaning required and to give them time to replenish stock.
Promote on digital channels. Take advantage of digital channels such as social media, email, SMS etc. to let your customers know that your store is re-opening. Mention how your store is implementing health and safety procedures and physical distancing. Shoppers will still be hesitant to leave their homes. Give shoppers peace of mind that your store is safe.
Run promotions. It will take time for things to return to normal. Incentivize shoppers by offering promotional deals or by highlighting relevant products (e.g. face masks).
Update Google My Business. Make sure to update your Google My Business listing and let customers know you are open for curbside pickup or delivery. If you are planning on shortening your store hours, you should also adjust your hours of operation on your listing.
Get added to local directories. Adding your business to local directory listings (Bing, Yahoo etc) will make it easier for shoppers to find you online. Directories like Support Retail were created during the pandemic as a free tool to help connect local businesses to shoppers in the area.
We hope you found this article helpful!
For more information on how to take orders online and offer curbside pickup, click here.
👇👇👇 Scroll to Download the PDF Version ofour COVID-19 Survival Tips for Retailers!!
For retailers dealing with the impact of COVID-19, shutting down may not be an immediate option, particularly if they are an essential business in their community. Over the past 10 days, we’ve spoken with many small businesses who are looking for ways to better manage the impact. Scroll down for tips on how you can minimize the impact of COVID-19:
Sell Online and Stay in Contact with your Customers
Offer Contact-less Options. It is expected that shopper behaviour will be significantly impacted by COVID-19 at least until there is a vaccine developed next year. This means that shoppers will have health and safety top-of-mind for the foreseeable future. Prepare now to make sure you are prepared before your competitors. Take this time to set up “Leave At My Door” delivery options or “pre-scheduled contactless curbside pickup” with orders placed online, by phone, fax or email. These are great options as you have confirmed pre-paid sales before you pack an order, you minimize staff and customer exposure and you avoid the cost of packaging products for shipment.
Make sure you have a Google My Businessprofile and keep your store hours up-to-date. For a limited time, Google will be showcasing any Posts made on merchant GMB profiles to people searching locally to ensure that local businesses get more coverage in their community. GMB Local Posts are a free (!!) and effective way to stand out in local searches and update shoppers about any new offers, delivery options, etc
Connect with local businesses to pool resources. Large retailers who rely on delivery such as Amazon can’t ship products in a timely manner anymore. There may be an opportunity for your local businesses to step up, particularly if you supply complementary products by offering local delivery together.
Keep an eye out for government Requests for Proposals if you’re in a position to re-tool your business to help address the challenge of COVID-19..
Look for ways to leverage the new “Stay-at-home Economy,”the new market created by demand from family, friends and children in self-isolation as a result of coronavirus. There are reports of sizable increases in at-home related categories including: personal fitness gear, home office equipment, indoor games, home and garden supplies, educational materials and books, hobbies, entertainment-related electronics, direct-to-consumer (DTC) friendly products suitable for mail-order subscriptions such as coffee, etc.
Keep an eye on your POS sales datato see if there are new trends to make sure you are stocking and promoting the products that shoppers want now vs. what they wanted to buy a few months ago.
Take advantage of marketing offers to get free ad creditsto reduce the cost of staying in contact with customers. For example, Google has announced $340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in your existing Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across Google advertising platforms.
Be flexible and don’t be afraid to take action.A flexible and adaptable mindset is what will get you through this crisis. The situation is changing day-by-day which means you will need to make adjustments in your response. Even if you come up against resistance in the beginning, shoppers will eventually come around because people still need to buy and consume things.
Expect long-term changes in shopper behavior.While some pre-crisis shopper behavior will return, this pandemic will have long-term impact on general shopping behavior. Make sure you’re aware of those changes and adapt your business to match them. My parents are both over the age of 70 and have never ordered anything online in their lives. While they still prefer shopping in stores, needless to say, they are both avid online grocery shoppers now and will likely continue to buy more online in the future as they find it more convenient for re-stocking.
If sell B2B, find a way to pivot to target recession-resistant or essential companiesas they will be the most likely to invest in new products or services.
In-Store Management Tips
1) 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. If possible, have staff wipe baskets or trolley handles before passing them to shoppers.
2) Have clear signage to help customers understand the impact of COVID-19 on your store and what to expect for their shopping experience. Download these signs from CFIB to customize for your own business: Temporary Closure Notice, Safety Notice to Visitors
3) Pre-pack bulk goods such as fresh produce wherever possible to minimize touch. Stop offering samples unless they are pre-packaged.
4) Encourage Social Distance In Store by increasing the space in the checkout area between cashiers and where shoppers are waiting to pay. It’s as simple as adding tape on the floor to clearly show where shoppers need to stand as Walmart has done. Costco has famously used pallets to enforce social distance requirements in an orderly fashion.
5) Merchandise for fast retail as most shoppers will be shopping for necessity versus discovery. Keeping in mind the social distance required for safety, you will want to consider moving fast-moving goods in an easier to access location.
6) Put up transparent barriers wherever possible to minimize transmission while protecting staff.
7) Encourage “Contactless” Payments (e.g. tap or Apple Pay) and discourage the use of cash to protect your staff wherever possible. You may even want to increase your “contactless” limit with your merchant processor but remember that you are liable for any potential chargebacks on “contactless” payments.
8) If you are an essential business that is still sourcing, pay special attention to your supply chain. Anything sourced from areas dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases will need alternatives in place. If necessary, even look at your suppliers’ suppliers for critical products.
9) Minimize Any Processes that Require Touch such as loyalty programs that require a tablet or credit card terminals that require optional prompts. Print out a QR code or signage for your web site and encourage users to sign up on their own phones.
10) Review Receipt Management Procedures to train staff to put receipts directly into shopping bags instead of handing them to customers or, even better, ask if they are ok to receive their receipts by email. Remember that privacy regulations require that you get positive customer consent to save their emails for future use so use an integrated email marketing tool to capture consent that will allow customers to unsubscribe themselves.
11) 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.
12) 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.
13) 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.
14) Minimize the Number of Shoppers In-Store to protect your own employees and make sure that shoppers are both comfortable and safe while in your store.
Let’s face it, no-one likes long line-ups. In fact, a slow checkout process is almost guaranteed to result in frustrated shoppers, poor customer satisfaction, and a whole lot of lost sales in the process.
So, while the brick-and-mortar checkout experience has long since evolved from the standard cash register, shopper expectations have also risen along with it. Used to the convenience that e-commerce provides, today’s retail shoppers expect a similarly fast and easy checkout experience.
That’s why we’ve put together the following tips to help you speed up your in-store checkout. Keep reading to find out how you can provide a frictionless experience that will keep your shoppers smiling while you ring in more sales!
1) Accept different payment methods
Nowadays, shoppers pay with a lot more than just cash or card. That’s why accommodating different payment methods can go a long way in reducing lineups and speeding up the checkout process. In fact, the more payment options you accommodate, the easier it is for shoppers to check out efficiently.
To speed up your checkout process, consider enabling the payment types below.
Contactless Payments: Contactless payments are a faster alternative to chip and pin transactions. In fact, tap-and-pay technology has been adopted by many major credit card companies – becoming a popular payment option for in-store shoppers.
Expert Tip! Check your processing contract to see if you are liable for any chargebacks on contactless payments. While the increase in speed may still be worth the risk of possible chargebacks, you will want to minimize your exposure by encouraging the use of digital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) which have secondary authentication. You can also consider having CCTV coverage in your checkout area to deter would-be fraudulent shoppers.
2) Offer a buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) option
And what better way to provide immediate shopper convenience than a BOPIS option? After all, a great deal of retail continues to happen in nearby physical stores as shoppers are looking for something for immediate usage and they can’t wait for delivery. BOPIS solves several problems that have increasingly discouraged today’s customers from shopping in-store by:
Optimizing the customer experience by ensuring that shoppers are never disappointed (e.g. products are out of stock) when they get to the store.
Saving shoppers time when they are in the store – everything is already ready for pick-up. Retailers can streamline the process even further by dedicating certain checkout lines and POS stations to BOPIS shoppers. Don’t forget to merchandise around these areas with high-margin “snackable” products to capture any last minute impulse purchases!
At the same time, BOPIS also boosts sales and profitability for merchants by improving cashflow with prepaid orders, encouraging more impulse buys in-store, reducing overall delivery costs and minimizing returns compared to e-commerce.
It’s important to remember that BOPIS is most effective when used with a retail POS that can handle “unified commerce” as real-time stock levels are key to product availability. Unified commerce is just another way of saying a total retail management platform that offers a single view of inventory, sales, and customer data across an entire business in real time. As expected, the need for real-time data grows as sales volume and transaction complexity increases.
3) Upgrade to a line-busting POS
Perhaps the most important decision you can make to speed up your checkout process is to choose the right POS system. With so many different options out there on the market, it’s best to choose a POS that is designed for checkout speed. Particularly, look out for the following features in your POS software:
Cross-platform capabilities that let you turn any device into a station. You’ll want to ensure that your POS is mobile-friendly and that it can be run from any device. This will allow you to ring in sales from anywhere in your store when lineups get too long. Which means you can speed up the checkout process for your shoppers based on real-time demand.
Easy to navigate salescreen. Look for a POS software that is user friendly and designed for minimum clicks. Ideally, cashiers shouldn’t have to leave the salescreen in order to complete a transaction.
Fast barcode scanning. To ensure a fast checkout process, it’s necessary to choose a POS system that is designed for fast scanning speed. It’s also important that your POS software can handle multiple barcodes per SKU.
Advanced inventory search. In addition to the features mentioned above, your retail POS needs to have smart search functions and the ability to quickly recall your last search. This will give you and your employees the ability to search products by keyword, description, or tag in case labels fall off or barcodes are not scannable.
4) Train your staff effectively
Having the right POS technology and hardware in place is not enough. Retailers need to consider the people who are actually operating the technology a.k.a their sales associates!
Staff are a crucial part of checkout optimization. Which is why store owners must devote the time and resources to adequately train them. To make things easier, think about adopting a POS system with built-in training tools. This will boost employee productivity and encourage self-service while significantly reducing training costs and time.
5) Email Receipts
While digital receipts are environmentally friendly, they’re also useful in cutting checkout lines. For one, shoppers won’t have to wait for their receipt to print out. And your employees won’t have to waste time refilling the receipt printer – risking the chance of aggravating customers who are already waiting in line.
In addition to streamlining the checkout process, digital receipts also come with significant business benefits, including:
Giving retailers an easier way to build email lists and gather customer data
Helping reduce fraudulent returns
Decreasing overhead costs by eliminating printed receipts
Driving future interaction when you include links to the store website and social media
Allowing retailers to include personalized marketing message on receipts boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty
Expert Tip! Privacy is an increasingly important customer expectation. If you are collecting email lists, make sure that your POS system gives you the ability to legally collect consent for marketing directly from your customers.
We hope you found this article helpful!
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Inventory shrinkage (loss of inventory due to employee theft, shoplifting, vendor fraud etc.) continues to be a serious issue for retailers – both large and small.
In fact, according to the 2019 National Security Survey, industry-wide shrinkage was estimated to be $50.6 billion. Thus highlighting the importance of having a loss prevention plan.
So, to help you establish a plan of your own, we’ve put together some tried and tested tips and strategies. Check them out below!
What is retail loss prevention?
The loss associated with shrink is two-fold; you’re losing your initial investment in the merchandise itself as well as the revenue that the product could have generated with sales. This doesn’t even include reduced customer satisfaction due to stock-outs.
Which is why store owners should consider retail loss prevention to be a priority. Loss prevention can be defined as a set of best practices that a retailer should follow to prevent product and profit loss.
In order to better understand how to prevent product loss, you must understand what causes it and how those losses occur.
As outlined above, the number one cause of inventory shrinkage is shoplifting. Shoplifting can take many forms, whether it’s an individual acting alone and stealing one or two items or it’s a serious case of organized retail crime where thousands of dollars worth of merchandise is stolen.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to take necessary precautions so you can lessen the chances of shoplifting taking place in your retail store.
The following are some merchandising best practices that can help deter physical theft:
Merchandising best practices
a) Use effective signage: Make it clear to potential thieves that your store is being monitored. Hang signs around your store warning shoppers that they are under surveillance. Or alternatively, you can use signage to remind them of the consequences of committing theft.
b) Cameras: It’s good practice to place cameras by POS terminals, the entrance/exit to your store, and by any loading/delivery areas. To beef up your security even more, you can also consider hiring security staff.
c) Mirrors: Smaller retailers may not have the resources to install cameras in every corner of their store or have their employees constantly monitor the aisles. For theses retailers, mirrors are a cost effective option to make a significant impact when it comes to loss prevention. Placing mirrors in key areas and corners of your retail space will allow one or two employees to easily monitor the whole store. It also helps your store look more spacious.
d) Revise your store layout: Thieves are less likely to act when they are in plain sight of store employees. This is why it’s a good idea to organize your store layout so that employees have maximum visibility – avoid tall shelves and clustering product displays together. Also, consider placing valuable merchandise closer to staff or in locked displays.
e) Keep your store organized: An organized store is key to deterring theft as well as encouraging shoppers to buy. Keeping your store organized will also make it easier for staff to identify missing product. On the other hand, a disorganized store makes it easier for thieves to operate and can even play a part in attracting them.
2) Use RFID technology
A radio frequency identification system (RFID) is an advanced technology system used by larger retailers to improve inventory management and protect against shrinkage. It is particularly effective against internal theft and administrative errors as RFID tags are harder to manipulate.
RFID chips contain inventory information and are embedded in product tags or packages. This then lets store owners track product information in real-time. They are especially useful for retailers who are omnichannel as RFID provides item level visibility so you can track merchandise from distribution to sale.
While RFID technology has traditionally been too expensive for small retailers, the cost continues to fall as more and more retailers are using them. In some cases, the cost has fallen below $0.05 per tag. While this may still be too high (especially when you add the labor cost of applying tags), depending on your volume (which may allow you to request your supplier to apply them) or the value of your products, it may still be more cost-effective than any losses you would incur as a result of shoplifting.
Many POS systems give retailers the ability to create different staff accounts and set user permissions. These permissions allow store owners and managers to restrict staff members from accessing certain features in the POS system. Put simply, user permissions are ways for business owners to limit employees from performing tasks outside of their job description and to prevent internal theft.
Depending on the size of your business, you will want to be able to customize the type of rights different employees have access to. If you have a lot of staff or have turnover due to seasonality, you’ll want to look for POS systems that allow you to easily group employees by different customizable roles. In this way, you can easily set the access rights for a role (e.g. cashier) and then simply assign any employee to this role without having to manually set up the rights for each person.
4) Manage refunds and returns
Fraudulent returns (returning used, stolen, exchanged merchandise or returning merchandise with counterfeit receipts/money) happen frequently in retail. And while return fraud is harder to assess than shoplifting, a strict return policy can help prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Here are a few tips for developing a practical return and exchange policy that minimizes the risk of internal and external theft:
Require the original receipt for all returns and make sure the store’s return policy is printed clearly on all receipts. Most POS systems will allow you to customize receipts to include important important information such as store policy, contact info, and social media.
Make sure employees are strict about enforcing the store return policy. Consider placing a written version close to your checkout tills. It’s also a good idea to have employees remind shoppers of the policy at checkout.
Require customer ID to process refunds and exchanges and train staff to spot fraudulent returns.
Consider offering refunds only in the payment method used to make the purchase. While there is a processing cost to allowing refunds on credit cards, it is a lot easier for savvy users to process fake returns if it is possible for them to refund using cash. After all, it’s as simple as reprinting a receipt, processing a return and pocketing the cash themselves.
Look for a POS system that gives you the option to accept returns with a separate return screen that forces users to associate a refund to past invoices.
We hope you found this article helpful.
If you are a Toronto retailer, you can download the following whitepaper for emergency situations.
As a retailer, you’re bound to experience high and low seasons.
Periods of slower sales can happen for many reasons such as natural seasonality (e.g. Halloween supplies), the weather, or competitive promotions. Whatever the reason for your slump, it’s important to view your off-season or slow periods as a potential opportunity.
Low seasons are actually the perfect time for retailers to focus on their marketing efforts. With a little bit of creativity and planning, you can make it through your off-season with not only more new customers, but a larger base of followers to promote to. And who knows, you may even find a new revenue opportunity in the process!
Keep reading for 3 strategies that you can use to keep your retail business profitable during your slow periods.
Why an off-season marketing strategy is important
There is a common misconception that businesses should only invest in marketing during their high season. But this isn’t the case. Your slower seasons are actually the time when you need the sales lift from marketing!
In particular, an off-season marketing strategy is key to:
Building local and online awareness: Knowing is half the battle. Shoppers don’t know what they’ve never seen. Marketing during the off-season gives your retail business time to build online presence and brand awareness with target shoppers. You can educate customers on what your store has to offer and how you are better than your competition. This way, once your peak season hits, you will be top-of-mind with shoppers.
Minimizing your overall marketing costs: Ad spend decreases during the off-season as less competitors are bidding on ad space. This means that you can get more exposure at a lower cost versus advertising during your high season.
Getting ahead of your competitors: Besides getting new shoppers in your door, marketing during the off-season also gives you the opportunity to start building your own mailing lists or followers. This is particularly important as you need time to attract a following of people interested in what you offer. But by starting earlier than your competitors, you will be ahead of them by having a new list of potential shoppers that you can market directly to during your high season.
Marketing strategies for the off-season
When we’re talking about marketing, we are specifically talking about digital marketing. While traditional marketing has its place, for most privately owned businesses, digital marketing offers the easiest way to promote your business, especially during your off-season. After all, today’s average shopper now spends more time with digital content than traditional media.
With so many people basing their purchasing decisions on reviews, gathering reviews should be a key marketing strategy for your business all year round. But the off-season is usually the best time to ask loyal and long term shoppers to leave a review on your Google My Business (GMB) profile, especially now that you can create a GMB shortname unique to your business. You can then use customer reviews as promotional material across all of your digital platforms including your social media and store website. By staying active online and promoting positive customer testimonials, shoppers will remember your retail business when peak season hits.
2) Consider paid marketing options
Digital marketing benefits retailers of all sizes as it is always the fastest way to cost-effectively access an incredibly targeted audience of shoppers. The advantages of digital marketing include:
Fast impact: Compared to traditional marketing, paid digital marketing will make an impact much faster. Depending on the type of campaign, you can get up and running in minutes.
Flexible and accountable: The results of digital marketing are much easier to see so you can immediately know whether a campaign is working and make changes right away. This is a major difference from traditional marketing where your investment is a one-time deal since you can’t make changes once a flyer or a radio ad is printed or produced.
Lower overall cost: A well planned out digital marketing campaign can reach a targeted audience at a much lower cost (as long as $10/day) than traditional marketing methods.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of digital marketing for retailers.
Sephora, Canadian Tire, and Williams-Sonoma are some of the big box retailers who have seen success with Google LIA. Now for the first time ever, Local Inventory Ads are also available to independent retailers who are looking to attract local shoppers. And the best part? They are available in an automated way that doesn’t require retailers to hire new staff or keep inventory stock levels updated.
To learn how you can easily implement Google LIA together with your POS system, click here.
While Google LIA has proven to be a viable marketing strategy all year round, it is particularly effective during off-season for the following reasons:
Bids are lower: As mentioned above, there are fewer competitors buying ads during off-season – which means lower ad spend is required to gain impressions.
Marketing costs are minimized: LIA only showcases in-stock product and will automatically turn off when stock runs out, reducing your marketing costs.
Get in front of local shoppers who are actually looking to purchase your products: Google LIA displays in-stock product to shoppers within a certain Km radius (you have full control over the geographical range) who are actually searching for products that your store sells.
3) Promote your business on social media
With the rise in social media and e-commerce, shoppers are closer than ever to retail businesses. Not only do you have a way to directly showcase your products and store, you can now build up your list of followers for personalized offers.
While websites are still a great way to offer a “digital window” into your store, with the rise in social commerce (e.g. Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping, etc.), it’s very important for retail stores to be active on social media.
Check out these 6 tips to help you grow your social following more quickly during your low season:
Make sure you have a verified Google My Business (GMB) account and are active on it. GMB is one of the best free online marketing tools available for small businesses today. Not only does GMB help local shoppers find you on Google Maps, it has options for you to post content (e.g. special offers or events) which improves your SEO.
Improve your content design with cost-effective graphic tools. You don’t need to be a designer to use drag-and-drop tools such as Canva that even have free versions.
Use original images for the best results as these rank better on SEO.
Don’t forget to include the links to your social media accounts on email signatures, invoices, receipts, ads and on any window displays.
Clearly display your social media links at the cash register and train your staff to encourage shoppers to sign up for special offers while they are waiting.
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