The impact of the Corona crisis on retail is immense. In Germany and many other European countries shops have to stay closed, with a few exceptions such as grocery stores or drugstores. Many stationary retailers – especially owners of smaller shops – fear for the survival of their business. One of the biggest fear factors is uncertainty: Nobody knows how long the restrictions will last and when retail will return to normal. At the same time, sales of many online retailers are increasing and more and more customers are having their goods delivered to their homes easily and safely.
The good news for brick-and-mortar-retailers is that it’s easy to build an online presence and reach customers. This not only boosts your sales but also offers your customers more convenience. In the best case, you can turn them into regular customers who will remain loyal to your business even after the Corona crisis is long over.
Create a free online shop with the stayopen initiative
To be accessible on the internet and to offer services such as Click & collect, you need an online shop. This also serves as a digital showcase for your shop where you can present your products. In order to help small shop owners limit the loss of sales through Corona, ePages has launched the stayopen initiative together with partners such as PAYONE, Hostpoint, Hostalia and Vilkas. As a brick-and-mortar-merchant, you can quickly create your own online shop with this initiative which will be free of charge until at least the end of June. If the regulations on shop closures persist or if risk groups still need to be protected, the shop will be free of charge beyond that date. No previous knowledge is required to create the shop. You manage it comfortably in the browser. You can choose from a variety of design templates, add products and edit the other content. The shop is always perfectly displayed on all end devices such as PCs, smartphones and tablets.
The free online shops can be created via the following websites:
www.payone.com in Germany
www.vr-payment.de in Germany
www.hostpoint.ch in Switzerland
www.boxecommerce.com in France
www.hostalia.com in Spain
www.vilkas.fi in Finland
www.ecorner.com.au in Australia
www.dominios.pt in Portugal
All further information about stayopen can be found on our website.
Offer Click & collect/pickup in the shop
In addition to the delivery of goods to your home, Click & collect is also becoming increasingly popular. Customers order products online and pick them up from their local dealer. This is convenient for customers and retailers don’t have to send parcels. Queues in the shop and contact with other people are avoided. Customers also benefit from the fact that they often can pick up the goods on the same day and no shipping costs are incurred. Click & collect can be set up in your shop in just a few steps. Instructions for users of the shop software ePages Now can be found here.
What’s most important: Don’t forget to inform your customers about the services offered – for example in the shop header or with posters in the shop window.
Have products delivered to your customers’ homes
One of the most important rules in the Corona time is to always keep sufficient distance to other people. That’s why many shipping service providers now offer contactless delivery, for example by having the courier leave the package at the customer’s door. Sometimes it’s already possible that customers no longer have to confirm receipt of the delivery in writing but that the messenger takes a photo of the parcel in front of the customer’s door.
While the delivery of goods has almost always been handled by service providers such as DHL and DPD up to now, many brick-and-mortar-retailers deliver to customers in the neighborhood themselves during Corona times. Here too, contact between the messenger and the recipient can easily be avoided.
How to reach customers in your city with little effort
Search engine optimization (SEO) usually plays an important role for online shops. Through various measures, merchants can ensure that their shop achieves a high ranking in search engines such as Google and thus attracts more visitors. SEO is currently not so relevant for brick-and-mortar-merchants because it may take longer for these measures to take effect. Instead, it is much more important to reach the inhabitants of your city or neighborhood today and show them that you are still there for them.
A practical means of doing this is by using QR codes which can be scanned by the user with a smartphone. Using such codes, you can direct customers to your shop without them having to laboriously enter the address. You can create the codes, for example, using the free QR code generator, print them out and hang them in your shop window. If you wish, you can also offer additional QR codes – for example for certain products in your shop or for further information on delivery.
Even if search engine optimization should not be your top priority, there is one Google service of vital importance: Google My Business. When customers enter the name of your business on Google (or search terms such as “bookstore near me”), it allows them to find your company profile on Google. If you haven’t yet created one, or haven’t claimed an existing listing, now is the time to do so. In addition to the most important data, such as your address or telephone number, you should also enter a link to your online shop in Google My Business, point out services such as Click & collect and enter your current opening hours. All information about Google My Business can be found on the Google website.
Finally, a very easy to implement tip: inform your customers about all the new products with posters in the shop window. Here you should especially provide this information:
- – The address of your online shop
- – Services offered (e.g. click & collect and shipping)
- – Opening hours, during which products can be collected from your store
- – Further contact possibilities (telephone, email, social media etc.)
If customers can pick up products from your store, it is advisable to additionally specify the rules for this – for example, “Always keep a distance of 2 metres from customers in the queue” or “Please have counted cash ready.”
We wish you every success with our tips and hope that you see the challenges of the Corona era as an opportunity to drive your business forward.
But the most important thing is: Stay healthy!