The coronavirus outbreak has not only changed the way people shop, but it has also changed the way businesses sell. Teams are working remotely, and there is still a focus on essential products like household and cleaning supplies. Consumer spending behavior is unpredictable. There are plenty of new obstacles for retailers, but many are rising to the challenge and adapting their operations to “the new normal.”
We talked to our internal sales team and to online retailers across several industries about how the global pandemic is affecting their operations. Most of them spoke to moving quickly and adjusting on the fly, and the widely-reported trend of mask making continues.
Here is how retailers are selling in the age of COVID-19.
Investing In Ecommerce
Ecommerce is having a moment with the majority of consumers choosing (or mandated) to stay home. The current landscape has marketing experts projecting major growth in the ecommerce industry, which presents an opportunity for traditional retailers who are launching websites right now. Transitioning from a POS-focused business to ecommerce is not quite the undertaking it may seem. Retailers can choose between hiring a web developer to launch an online store or utilizing the DIY method offered by ecommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
Moving More Quickly
The landscape is changing every day, which means it’s important to move quickly and be efficient with time and with budget. Retailers have been looking for ways to be more nimble so they can respond to consumer demand as it rises, or so they can abandon projects that are no longer relevant. Automation is helping them save the time and resources typically spent on busywork, and they are building new workflows as a result.
Pivoting To Meet Demand
As unemployment numbers rise, demand for non-essential products and services fall, so retailers have been getting creative with their pivots. Many are now making masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, even if their original business has no connection to PPE. Others focus instead on in-home entertainment like crafts, puzzles, and even yarn for knitting—we had a yarn seller tell us that business has never been better.
By the time shelter-in-place restrictions lift, spring will have sprung, and any seasonal items will no longer be in demand. Retailers who pre-purchased this inventory from their vendors (typically months in advance) would rather sell it at a discount than pay to have it stored in a warehouse, so clearance sales are everywhere right now.
Focusing On Human Connection
At the end of the day, business owners and consumers are facing the same human struggles. Social distancing, concern for loved ones, and uncertainty for the future are difficult, but people are making the most of it by connecting with each other however possible. Retailers have reported spending more time talking with their customers. Companies are donating money and supplies to health care and front-line workers. Relief funds are being distributed to small businesses and the people working for them. The business world has largely shifted to a people-first, rather than product-first, approach.
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