Words from the Wizard: Rethinking retail post-Covid-19

Advice our CEO: from subscription services to the power of testimonials.

Greig Robertson

Digital Content Lead
· 7 minute read
Rethink retail post covid-19

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As most brick and mortar stores selling non-essential items had to close their doors in March, people turned to another direction – ecommerce for businesses.

Recently the Chief Wizard, co-founder and CEO at Builder.ai, Sachin Dev Duggal, penned his thoughts on the future of retail for businesses. It was featured on ET Retail by Economic Times. Since Sachin also wrote about alternative options for businesses learning how to connect with customers, we wanted to share these powerful insights with our readers as well.

Builders, we always strive to help our customers beyond their digital transformation needs and sharing the expertise of our leadership directly with you is just one such endeavor. We hope these insights help retail businesses out there trudge through and thrive despite all challenges.

In what felt like an overnight shift, traditional customer interactions with businesses either stopped, changed, or morphed. Among those businesses most vulnerable are the smaller retailers without an online presence that depend on their customers to walk through their doors.

While many states are beginning to reopen, a lot of uncertainty still exists around the future of the retail industry. Will capacity be capped to 20%, 50%, or 75%? If stores are allowed to be open, will people feel safe walking in, trying on products and exchanging money with staff members? A recent survey found that 90% of shoppers were hesitant to shop in stores because of COVID-19 concerns. And what happens if all the stores need to close again after a matter of months if another wave of the virus occurs?

Maintaining an online business presence has been an essential trick to staying afloat for many smaller retailers throughout the last few months. As most brick and mortar stores selling non-essential items had to close their doors in March, people turned to online retail. There was a 50% uptick in US online sales in April from the year prior. Small businesses are now scrambling for the best retail management software. However, while digital transformation will play a part in many businesses’ survival, it doesn’t mean that physical stores won’t be around in one year. What it means is that their reliance on a singular channel of interaction will multiply. This is key.

The COVID-19 era has introduced an opportunity for smaller retailers to rethink how they do business, gain new revenue, engage with existing revenue and create efficiencies. Whether you're a business building a digital presence from scratch, revamping an existing presence, or are still unsure about going digital at all, I’ve provided some avenues to consider when looking to get closer to your customers.

Look inward and take stock

Retailers considering ecommerce for business should not use it as a dumping ground to showcase everything they have available to sell. First, business owners should ask: How many products do I sell? Who are my customers? How often do they use my product? How often do they buy my product? What are the top-selling items? What is my product’s shelf life? Does my product have wear and tear?

Just as business owners need to be strategic about how items are presented in their stores, they need to consider the answers to these questions to better understand how an online presence will make the most impact. Once you understand how customers use your product, you can fundamentally look at a different approach.

Consider a subscription service

Right now more than ever, people are looking for the most convenient ways to get what they want and need. Subscription services are a preferred option for consumers now as they can get their favourite or necessary products delivered directly to their homes without even needing to think about it. If you are selling monthly or bi-monthly products, such as button-down shirts, consider a simple subscription service where shirts are delivered on the first of the month, the previous ones are then picked up and cleaned and delivered the next month. One of the benefits for retailers is that they are maintaining a steady revenue stream each month. If you are selling consumable or household items, consider the ‘subscribe and save’ service as an alternative to one-time transactions. This is a quick and simple way to introduce a new subscription service to your store.

When considering a subscription service, you must learn how to keep customers happy and loyal. It will be important to communicate to your customers about how your subscription works, the premise, and how they will be charged. Additionally, offering a “skip” or “pause” option will also increase consumer retention.

Engage your happy customers and build testimonials

As more and more businesses move online, consumers become more skeptical of brands. In a world swarming with scammers, how can you take what a brand tells you at face value? Personally, I would never purchase a product with bad reviews, or no reviews at all.

People are more likely to purchase if others around them – even total strangers – have bought and enjoyed the product. So, as things are slower now, this is the best time to reach out to your customers and offer incentives in the form of discounts or coupons in return for reviews on your website, app, social platforms, Google, Yelp, and more! Your customers are looking for ways to help their favourite businesses and many will be happy to leave a review. Additionally, it is critical right now to keep your customers in the loop – about whether you’re open, closed, have revised hours and capacity limitations, are hiring, having sales, or promotions – the list goes on. Whether you have a business website or your retail app, create a news or updates section for this information.

Additionally, now would be a good time to build your social presence such as a Facebook group or an Instagram page if you don’t have one, to keep your customers in the loop, and help build brand loyalty.

If you’re going digital, choose your platform wisely

From what we’ve seen from our customers, apps are more impactful to a business than websites; and according to a recent study, ecommerce apps have a conversion rate that’s 3 times higher than mobile websites. People also view 4.2 times more products per session within apps, compared to mobile sites. Building your own apps is a proven method to push more people down the purchase funnel, with 1.5 times more conversions per session than through desktop.

And the trend isn’t going to change any time soon. In-app sales are growing 46% year-on-year, and as the world accelerates to its digital future, these numbers are only going to rise. Whether the transformation leads to something completely new – like a subscription service or an app – or something morphed – like building a social media presence to communicate with your customers – the COVID-19 era has introduced an opportunity. As tough as it is for us to use that word to describe the current circumstances, small and medium businesses around the world should feel encouraged and empowered to rethink and reshape how their businesses move forward.

With Builder.ai providing simple, straightforward retail app development, the future has arrived for smaller businesses. With no developer knowledge needed, and 0% commission charged on sales made through your apps, Studio Store presents the latest opportunities for small businesses to improve their conversion ratio.

To sum up, small businesses need to look into:

#1 Find the best retail management software

#2 Consider how best to use online retail

#3 Look into subscription services

#4 Engage with customers

#5 Build brand loyalty

#6 Get your own business app

Our Studio Store, complete with pre-packaged apps for a variety of products and services, is the perfect way to ensure your business makes the most of this era. Designed to bring you online in a matter of weeks, and at a fraction of the cost, they are tailor-made to suit your business needs.

Of course, we’d claim that we are the best, that’s a given. So why don’t you read about other brands and businesses saying it here?

Then you can check out our retail apps available for businesses, and get started adapting to the future of small and medium-sized businesses. We’ve made it so easy, that there’s no excuse not to. Get started today!

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Greig Robertson

Digital Content Lead

Greig is the Digital Content Lead at Builder.ai and a University of Bristol History grad. He has 5+ years’ experience in B2B SaaS, creating data-driven, human-friendly content for high-growth tech startups. When Greig needs a dopamine hit, he checks Builder.ai’s keyword rankings.

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