Adapting to present circumstances will secure the future

Avoid queues building up

During this lockdown period I was very pleased to order my first home delivery from my favourite fish and chip shop, which had suddenly partnered with Just Eat, thereby providing further evidence of how even the humblest of businesses are adapting amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

A similar adaptive mindset has been taken up by B&Q with its introduction of contactless click & collect involving online orders being delivered to shoppers’ cars when they arrive at the retailers’ car parks. Social distancing can be safely maintained while DIY projects are successfully completed.

Such actions are definitely providing new ways for businesses to generate sales, although we would not quite call my fish and chip order a ‘secondary revenue’– which typically include advertising, affiliates and loyalty programmes. But it is still arguably an add-on to my chippie’s core model.

Whatever the definition, it is clear that in the present circumstances when companies are under great pressure those still operating need to maximise the value of the situation in generating revenues of all types while for those retailers unable to trade right now they need to work on placing themselves in a position to fully benefit when they do begin to operate again.

The scenario right now is potentially lucrative because marketing has effectively been switched off.

For those in the former camp the scenario right now is potentially lucrative because marketing has effectively been switched off. In many categories such as supermarkets, take-away food, DIY & home and entertainment the retailers involved do not need to employ any marketing activity. Companies typically lose money on the first few transactions – because of the high costs of customer acquisition – so this present scenario is proving beneficial. But care has to be taken. 

Accepting too many orders and failing on the execution element is a risk and must be avoided otherwise retailers could end up letting what is effectively an open goal become an own goal. Businesses have to ensure they deliver on all the promises they make to customers. B&Q has sadly fallen into this trap and has been struggling to cope with the serious queues both online for ordering and at its stores during collection.

Retailers also have to ensure that their actions involve protecting their employees, with measures like social distancing being put into practice. Next has been very careful in this department and initially closed its online shop in order to evaluate the safety of its warehouse employees. Having introduced the relevant processes, and limited the number of orders it takes each day, Next was inundated with massive online traffic when it re-opened its web shop. Its credibility is clearly fully intact.

Enable them to hit the ground running when they are able to trade again.

For non-essential retailers there are also important actions that can be taken. These should enable them to hit the ground running when they are able to trade again. It is highly likely that many people still visit retailers’ websites even without being able to buy so this is undoubtedly an opportunity to whet people’s appetites for future purchases through the placement of relevant content on the websites.

Communications to customers are also vital. They could ask people’s opinions and keep them informed. Online travel site Travelzoo cleverly sent out emails to its customers that included recipes relating to iconic dishes from different countries with the suggestion that it was the next best thing to an actual trip. It was not about them selling anything but about advocacy. Even though people are hunkered down right now in this lockdown period it is important that retailers are thinking of the future – whether or not they are currently trading.

My favourite fish and chip shop did just this and so regardless of whether I decide to visit its shop or take the home delivery option once the lockdown ends it has certainly retained my loyalty for the future.

Richard Piper, business development director, Webloyalty