Your Coronavirus (COVID-19) Retail Survival Guide
Mar18 2020 Ray hartjen Guest contributor The coronavirus pandemic has presented an unprecedented level of anxiety and economic uncertainty around the world, and it has forced retailers to reconsider their fundamental strategies to be...

Ray hartjen
Ray hartjen
Guest contributor

The coronavirus pandemic has presented an unprecedented level of anxiety and economic uncertainty around the world, and it has forced retailers to reconsider their fundamental strategies to be prepared to survive and move forward.

It is often said that there is never a dull moment in retailing, and perhaps the saying never rings truer than it does now. Usually in North America, March is about as boring as it is in retail - after the holidays and Valentine's Day, before Mother's Day and “Dads and Grads”.

Not this year. The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has produced a truly extraordinary time.

In a Digital Commerce 360 ​​survey Out of 304 retailers surveyed this month, 47% of respondents expected revenue to decline due to the coronavirus pandemic, while 33% said it was too early to tell. Fifty-eight percent said the pandemic would impact consumer confidence and 22 percent said there would be a significant impact.

From a brick-and-mortar store perspective, RetailNext can report that shoppers' traffic in the United States for the first two weeks of March is down 18% year-over-year, down 27% from week two. having significantly slowed down the month. -nowadays. In the EMEA region, buyers were also down, posting a 20.1% drop in the first two weeks, with the 28.4% drop in the second week being mainly responsible. And it will get worse before it gets better.

Say straits, indeed.

That being said, a recovery will come, and just look at China for when. Harvard business review put the Chinese economy in recovery, and reports that Supply chain congestion is 73% of 2019 levels (73% of goods arrive on store shelves), compared to 62% in the worst part of the outbreak. This is six weeks after the height of the initial outbreak.

So what are you doing now to meet current conditions and prepare for a recovery? Retailers are under different circumstances in different locations. For example, in the Bay Area, citizens were ordered to “shelter in place” for three weeks with only essential services open, and this had a huge impact on retail - from many stores are closed. However, in other areas and in certain segments, the activity is booming - Best buy, for example, reports an increase in people working from home, with increased sales of technological equipment and even refrigerators and freezers for storing food.

Whatever your specific situation, there are several things all retailers can do during this unique time.

Establish and strengthen health and safety protocols

Whatever your retail segment, you need to have health and safety standards in place. Now is the time to make them more stringent. Establish and / or strengthen hand washing and surface disinfection policies - counters and table tops, chairs and their arms, point of sale terminals, doorknobs and others. Insist that employees who feel ill stay home and away from your workplace. For a full list of effective countermeasures, consult the Ministry of Labor Tips for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

Communicate clearly and transparently to employees

The media, both traditional and social, are rife with misinformation. Additionally, in times when there are gaps in communication, it is human nature to fill those gaps with speculation, rumor, and innuendo, and these are rarely accurate.

Let your employees know what you are doing and why, and feel free to share how you feel. This public health crisis is as emotional as it is physical, if not more. Share with your employees your plan to ensure the health and safety of your stores, your teams and your customers, and let them know that their safety and health is your top priority.

If you need to adjust your hours of operation or close your stores, let your employees know and explain the reasons for your decisions. And, if there is a situation where you don't know, tell them you don't know, but as soon as you do, you will let them know as quickly as possible.

Manage your cash flow and review your budgets

If cash flow is tight, look for ways to free up or create creative lines, whether it's with your financial institutions or managing your accounts payable and payable. Programs are available from sources as different from each other as Small business administration to Facebook, who announced a $ 100 million grant program the 17th of March.

Since many retailers are experiencing lean times these days, be sure to review budgets for summer and fall and make any adjustments you can. And, if your business is doing well now, look for ways to invest to keep the momentum going for the rest of the year.

Work your supply chain

The general recovery will come. The question is: what are you going to do when things go as usual? If your business is in decline this month and next, what countermeasures will you put in place in May and June to "make up for lost time"? Prepare and adjust your supply chain accordingly now for all upcoming promotional plans and pushes.

Plus, avoid the rush and communicate with your supply chain about your holiday inventory needs. Many supply chains across various product lines are stretched to the limit (and beyond), and it may take time to tighten up. In a zero sum game of winners and losers, make sure you end up on the right side of the line.

Communicate with your customers

Be careful not to get caught up and lost by all the “noise” that is overwhelming buyers right now. It looks like everyone's inbox is filled with email subject lines that say "A special message ...".

When the time is right for your brand, send sincere and authentic communications to your customers. Your top priority should be their health and safety, and you should let them know via email, text, and store display. Offer solutions to their most pressing problems, and keep in mind that your particular business may not have solutions right now. For example, if you are selling jewelry, it is hard to think that someone Needs your products and services now. So communicate that you will be ready for them when the time comes.

Maybe try something creative and inventive, and something new for your brand. There are a lot of homeschooled kids right now - how can you help their parents? Post videos and other content of an educational nature, like the source and manufacture of a product, or links to free, publicly available resources that integrate well with your brand, like the nifty LUNCH DOODLES with videos by Mo Willems.

We have never dealt with a situation like this before, so there is no “right” answer. But, there can be some wrong answers, so be creative, but make sure you are sincere and genuine.

Plan ahead

Few brands had predicted a global pandemic. But a lot of brands, big and small, have crisis management or business continuity plans in place and they are being implemented wisely. Crisis management plans are relevant for any crisis, be it a natural disaster or otherwise. If you don't have a crisis plan created (and updated regularly), you are learning a difficult lesson in one of the most difficult ways imaginable.

Learn from your current situation and experience and prepare adequately for the future.

Final thoughts

It is clearly a time of great uncertainty. However, now is not the time to sit passively and wait. When in doubt, take action. Even if it turns out you are moving in the wrong direction, it is easier to change course when moving than when you are standing still - ask any boat owner.

Whether your business is facing a time of problem or opportunity, the best you can do is work on your current situation and plan for when the pandemic will pass.

Good luck and stay safe and healthy.

Note: For RetailNext customers, please refer to the previous open letter from Alexei Agrachev blog post from Friday March 13.

RetailNext helps retailers reopen stores through occupancy capacity. Find out more here!

Join the #retail, #ConnectedJourney and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter at @RetailNext and @RayHartjen, as as well as


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Are you a retailer ( or retail sales associate ) who’s struggling with how to approach shoppers ? Worried that you lack the magic touch, or that you’ll come off as an annoying salesperson ? Would you rather be awkwardly staring at your store’s point of sale software screen than actually talking to the customer in front of you ?

You should keep reading because, after years of being one of the strongest sellers at my store, I can garantit you : anyone can sell. That’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of practice. But over the years, I’ve found that a customer will tell you verbally and/or physically how to sell to them. If you’re listening properly and looking for the right cues, you can always tell if a customer is interested in what you have to say, what approach to take with them, and what exactly they’re looking for.

Check out the tips below, put them into action, and you should find yourself successfully closing sales : Practice Active ListeningActive listening isn’t just about standing in front a customer silently. There are a few important things you should be doing to engage in this practice :

The most important part of active listening is to not form a response while the customer is speaking. This is really hard to do, and is going to take a lot of practice. It’s very natural to latch on to one part of a comment and form a response to it, and then shut out the rest of the comment. to become a good listener, a sales person must resist doing this. Active listening should engage your whole body. Things like nodding and having an open stance show the customer that you are listening to what they have to say. Once it’s time for you to speak, give the customer a quick summary of what they said. This has a few purposes. First, it allows you to come up with a response post-comment without things being awkwardly silent. Second, showing the customer that you heard everything they had to say will often open them up to providing you with more information than they initially supplied.

Practicing réactive listening means that you are fully engaged with learning what the customer wants. This engagement makes a huge difference. Not only will you understand what the customer wants in a deeper way, but you also gain their trust easier.

Next : Pay Attention to Body LanguageAlong with réactive listening, you should be practicing ‘active looking. ’ ( Yes, I just made that term up. ) People will betray a lot of what they’re thinking in the things that they do with their body. A lot of body language experts will tell you some odd things to look for, like watching if someone scratches their nose, but I don’t think that level of depth is necessary. In fact, I think that if you’re watching for a customer to scratch their nose, you’re probably not practicing réactive listening.

However, there is still plenty of body language you should be paying attention to while you’re actively listening. Let me give you a bermuda list of tells you can easily pick up on during a conversation with a customer. 1. Eye ContactWhere a person’s eyes are looking is one of the easiest ways to tell what they’re focusing on. If the customer is looking at you, or the products you’re working with, that’s a good sign. It means they’re engaged with you and are interested in what you have to say and sell.

If they’re looking around, at someone else, out the door… anywhere that’s not where you are – that’s not a great sign. Usually if this is the case you should say something like, “Let me know if you need anything else, ” and let them do their own thing. No eye contact doesn’t mean you won’t be able to close the sale – but it could spell dysfonctionnement if you don’t pay attention.

Hands/ArmsAnother important thing to pay attention to is what people do with their hands and arms. Typically, if someone’s arms are crossed, they are uncomfortable and probably not interested in what you have to say. You should tread gently : let this customer know you are there to help. If you’re talking with a customer who is clearly shy and uncomfortable with talking to you, I recommend acting in a more reserved manner and avoiding things like answering questions the customer has yet to ask. In addition, because this posture reflects a closed off mind, I mostly suggest avoiding suggestive selling. Suggestive selling does not work well on someone who is not interested.

Open arms and palms facing towards you, however, are an super sign. If your customer has taken this sort of posture in your conversation, you’re doing well. In fact, I would definitely recommend going for it with suggestive selling. ( Of course, make sure you’re showing them items that are actually related to what they want, not just some pre-placed item that your manager wants to get rid of. )

Facial Expression—Particularly the Curve of Their MouthLastly, you should be paying attention to the termes you customer is making. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to pay close attention to your customer’s facial expressions. Even if a customer is pulling a straight face at you, most people’s mouths are fairly expressive in small ways. Often, the corners of the mouth will be curving slightly up or slightly down. Down is not good for you – it indicates frustration or annoyance. Curving up, though, is an excellent sign. Additionally, you should pay attention to how tightly the lips are held. If they’re pressed tightly together, it can mean the same thing as crossed arms.

That’s the three major areas of body language you should be paying attention to while actively listening to your customer. Keep in mind that while the customer’s body can give you an indication about how they feel towards you and your product, it’s the listening that is going to yield you the important information about what they want. Now that we’ve established good customer reading techniques, let’s talk about what to do with the information you pick up :

Respond With Similar Body LanguageOne of the easiest ways to set someone at ease is to “mirror” their body language. You don’t want to go overboard on this – that can seem creepy or just mean. But little things are really important. Start with pace and timing. Is the customer in a hurry ? Or do they want to take things slow and steady ? Speak and act at the same pace as the customer. If she’s in a hurry, speaking quickly and speed walking across the store, then you should speak quickly and speed walk across the store as well. If she’s speaking slowly and moves slowly, your speed talking and walking will only come across as aggressive to her.

In addition, you can do subtle things like adopt a similar positionnement, or use similar hand gestures. With the hand gestures, be careful. You don’t want to come across as mocking your customer. Don’t make juste replicas of hand gestures, keep it general. Determine if someone is ready to buy ( or not ) based on non-verbal cuesHere are a few more tips to help you differentiate shoppers who are ready to buy versus those who aren’t interested.

According to SCORE contributor Lee Perlitz, signals that shoppers are interested in a product include : Spending time looking at or discussing one product type – When a customer spends time focusing on just one product, there’s a good chance they’ve already set their sights on that one and are interested in purchasing it. Looking around for somebody to help them – Catch the shopper’s gaze when you see them looking around. According to Perlitz, you can approach them “if they sustain the glance or raise their eyebrows. ”Body language – A shift in body language signals “a change in esprit state that may well indicate readiness to buy. ” For example, if the shopper suddenly styles relaxed after you’ve answered their questions, that could be an indication that they’re ready to buy.

Be sure to approach customers once you see them exhibiting these signals. Failing to spot these signs or not acting in time could result in you missing out on the sale. On the flip side, here are the non-verbal signals indicating that someone isn’t ready to buy. Avoiding eye contact – If a customer doesn’t hold your gaze when you look at them, it likely means they’re not ready to make a purchase yet. Making ‘not now’ excuses – Statements like “just looking” or “not now” are clear signals that they aren’t ready to buy. Perlitz recommends that retailers “make an encouraging remark to keep them looking and back off. ”Looking at many different products – Not being focused on just one product is another indication that shoppers should be given space.

When you see or hear people exhibiting the signals above, then it’s best to hold off on the hard sell. Figure out the type of customer that you’re dealing with and respond accordinglyAs you know, there are several types of customers who walk through your doors, and you need to tailor your approach accordingly. tera help you do that, we’ve put together a quick slideshow summarizing the most common genres of customers in retail. Check it out below :

More tips ? Those are our tips and tricks to help anyone become a good sales person. It’s important to remember that truly good sales people work on creating trusting relationships with their clients before they sell them anything. If you are capable of creating a trusting relationship, you are capable of selling. These tips are intended to help you create that relationship.

What tricks to reading customers do you employ ? Let us know in the comments below ! Author Bio : Cara Wood is a digital administrative assistant at Capterra, a company that puts software buyers in touch with software vendors ! When she’s not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.


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