How do brick-and-mortar retailers stay in business despite the Coronacrisis? We’ve presented the four most important lessons for retailers at the Idealo web conference on April 27, 2020. At the online event, experts from different fields such as shop technology, payment, fulfillment, marketing discussed how retailers can react to the current challenges. Retailers were presented with best-practice examples.

Below we have summarised how brick-and-mortar retailers can digitalise their business and what the most important lessons from the Corona crisis are for them:

1. Walk-in customers are not as reliable as expected

Brick-and-mortar retail relies heavily on its walk-in customers. The store closures during the Corona crisis therefore mean massive sales losses for many physical shop owners – estimates indicate around 25% of reduction in sales volume. While there are various initiatives to support retailers, these are often not enough. Many retailers are now realising that a new strategy is needed. Short and long-term measures as part of an omnichannel strategy and the development of additional sales channels is now more important than ever for physical businesses.

2. Merchants must contact their customers

The closure of the stores has not only posed a challenge to retailers, but has also led to question marks among customers. Customers often want to support the shops in their neighbourhood, but do not know how to. This is where the retailers need to inform their customers. Awareness of local retail and the effects of the crisis are currently still particularly high among customers. The many initiatives that have been set up to support local retailers indicate this quite impressively. This is where good customer relationship management comes in. Merchants who have so far given high priority to their CRM and have already built up their communities online have been able to cushion the loss of sales better than others. For retailers who have so far postponed digitalization and the establishment of customer communication channels, now is exactly the right time to do so: Via social media channels such as Instagram or Facebook, newsletters and alternative consulting services via WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime or other channels, retailers can reach their customers and continue to sell. Good customer relationship management and the establishment of additional communication and sales channels can have a fundamentally positive effect on sales – and is particularly beneficial for retailers in times of crisis. Those who take care of these issues now are better positioned in case of a second wave of infection.

3. Online traffic becomes a must

It is now important for stationary traders to take effective measures quickly. Those who are not yet present online can create their own online shop and social media accounts at short notice. As a first step, retailers can inform about the new channels via eye-catching posters in their shop windows or flyers. The next step is to optimize the online presence and use online marketing measures to generate more online traffic. This includes, for example, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine advertising (SEA), the creation of an entry in Google My Business, a presence on marketplaces and price comparison portals such as idealo, and the use of the company’s own social media channels. Merchants can use all of these channels to promote their own online shop. In addition, brick-and-mortar retailers benefit from local marketing and storytelling, but also from an omnichannel strategy. As a result, the online shop becomes an extension of the existing business and can also be used in the long term for digital touchpoints in-store.

4. React quickly to changing situations

The faster retailers react to changing circumstances, the better the impact is on sales. This applies in principle to consumer needs that are constantly changing, but also to unexpected events such as the Corona crisis. For example, some retailers who normally sell clothes have now switched their production to masks, which customers are increasingly search for due to the legal obligation to wear masks. Vouchers are also currently being sold more frequently. Adaptability and flexibility then pay off – especially as long as closures or restrictions are not ruled out. But even now the contact and hygiene rules are already confronting brick-and-mortar retailers with challenges.

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