With tighter covid restrictions in place, the next 100 days will be the toughest ever for retailers. But Graystone Strategy’s Peter Scott says it’s an opportunity
The next 100 days are always the busiest and most exciting in the retail calendar. A time when gifting mobiles and devices is top of people’s lists. But this year will be the bleakest we’ve known for a very long time. The likelihood of further lockdowns, regional restrictions and a challenging economic and employment outlook add incomprehensible pressures.
There’s no doubt it will take an approach that is agile enough to adapt week to week. A strong team spirit, a solid digital plan and keeping things simple will be critical.
Engage your team and they will engage your customers. Every retail leader will have heard that a thousand times, but already you can spot the mobile stores and electronic concessions in department stores that have switched the teams into selling and service mode.
Store teams are going into battle for your brand. They will have experience to draw on, but never have they faced such tough circumstances. They may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of going to work, confused by the mix of messages in the press, and vulnerable. The same can be said for customers.
The number one priority therefore is to make sure everyone feels supported, engaged and motivated so they have the confidence to deliver and extraordinary experience in extraordinary times. Invest in the following four things for a winning approach:
- Communication – it must be consistent, concise and correct. Timetable regular updates so people know when to expect them. Be as open as possible so you galvanise trust. You might not have all the answers and that’s OK – you may even find your team can crack a problem.
- Have help lines. This is so powerful at the best of times so consider it essential now. It builds a sense of togetherness if they are open from the minute the shutter is unlocked to the minute it goes down.
- Lead by example. If your teams are prepared to go to a store to work then the leadership team has to be too. Be visible, understand your price plans, make a sale.
- Motivate, excite, engage. Surely now more than ever we must inject fun into going to work? Get it right and you’ll become a fun destination on the high street. The tills will ring.
Keep the shopping experience simple. Covid-19 rules are there for a reason, and certainly not to be broken. But have too many on top of the prescribed ones and it can all get confusing for customers and turn them away. Put yourself in their shoes:
- Have as few rules as possible so that customers understand what they have to do.
- Declutter. Are there products and fixtures that are redundant? Do they make the store stressful and get in the way of merchandising your top handset picks for gifting?
- Wow windows. Posters with the latest handsets are important but don’t forget to showcase what shopping with you is like – be bold and people will be attracted to your store.
- Innovate to help cut down sale times or add extra value. Can you gift wrap and send a gift on? Can people book online appointments rather than visit? Can you create a Secret Santa offer for your business customers’ virtual office parties?
The next 100 days are geared to gifting so use every channel wisely. This all comes down to walking through the experience and putting in place tactics to manage points when people might walk away.
- A website overhaul might not be the best thing to do at the moment but make sure the pinch points aren’t holding you back. Is navigation easy? Will pages load quickly? Are images really selling the devices you need to sell? Can you get a credit check and get a SIM activated at checkout?
- Go to the customer – With fewer people heading to a shop make sure you’ve recruited the best people to answer questions on chat and social media. They could clinch far more deals for you than you expect.
- Think about how you can create virtual experiences that move people to a sale. Could you design a digital version of the Christmas shop where customers are able to virtually walk through the store and add things to their basket? How easy is it to select a price plan without help?
- Get the supply chain and ops team support too. They will be the unsung heroes moving stock and getting orders delivered. They need capacity. Invest now and it will pay off.
Whatever you do, don’t lose sight of the fact that different is good. Different can mean positive change and innovation, and different can translate into success.
Peter Scott is head of retail advisory at Graystone Strategy, which provides consultation to telcos and mobile retailers