When retailers lose their primary channel, what do they do next?
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It goes without saying that we are all living in unprecedented times. From the health of families, to the health of the entire world—everyone has been impacted in ways that we have never before experienced. And far beyond that of physical health, comes the health of our economy. Retailers of all kinds are now reeling from mandatory closures, losing their primary channel and, therefore, their primary source of income.

So, in the face of global strife and the subsequent loss of access to business, what do retailers do to weather the proverbial storm? The good news: there is light at the end of the tunnel, and for many an even greater potential for future success.

For the past several years, the concepts surrounding digital transformation have been a prime subject for all retailers. From the biggest terms like Omnichannel Customer Engagement, to Micro-Segmentation, to platforms and tools such as Customer Data Platforms—all lofty dreams with lofty goals along with the time and energy needed to reach the pinnacle of digital success. But the fact remains that retailers have neither the time nor the resources to tackle big projects amidst all that is happening around the world.

All that aside, I promised light at the end of the tunnel, so here it is.

First and foremost, think of what brick-and-mortar truly represents to the retail environment: the idea that face-to-face interaction is the number one driver for sales. And yes, eCommerce is, of course, a major part of the equation for many; however, research still shows that 1:1 interaction and engagement still wins. Even now, as people practice physical distancing, the want and desire to leave the house and see others is at an all-time high. Simply put, humans are social creatures.

With that here are some easy things to do to re-engage with your customers, to let them know that you are still here and are anxiously waiting their return to your business.

First, leverage the channels that you still have. For stores, embrace and engage through email and social media. A perfect example of this is a small business here in the nation’s capital—an example that shows that if the smallest of companies can do it, then anyone can—a locally owned bicycle store. It has promoted sales through its eCommerce platform, email and social.

Along with promoting early tune-ups, parts and accessories, and more, it has shared images of bikes being cleaned and disinfected before delivery. The result? By showing the public that it is still there even though the storefront isn’t open, it has made a lot of sales and increased customer loyalty. The lesson here is to spend time engaging through available channels, promoting through photos and videos, and staying connected to your base.

For those who have an even more intimate customer-related business model such as restaurants, again use the channels that are available. Whether it’s social media or email, reach out to your customers and remind them why they fell in love with your business to begin with. Food delivery channels such as UberEats, SkipTheDishes, and even newly formed local food delivery companies—these are a prime way to keep people engaged with your business even without the in-person visits.

But don’t stop there, from restaurants to clothing stores, make video conferencing a way to reach your customers. Host online fashion parties to discuss products, promote sales, and continue with face-to-face engagement. For restaurants, host how-to events teaching cooking techniques, wine reviews—the list goes on.

The true meaning of all of this is that digital transformation isn’t just about big projects and long timelines. Readily available channels are all right there waiting to engage customers. From the simplest of things like a heartfelt email, to regular social posts to encourage your customer base to engage with you, to a $50 /month investment in a video conference platform—every single one of these creates a connection, and more-so a new habit that can take you far beyond the next few weeks of isolation.

As people learn these new habits, knowing that you were there for them all along, I will guarantee your customer loyalty will not only flourish, but you will be talked about for years to come as an innovator in the face of diversity. Even better, embracing the simplest of technological advancements now, will lead to the bigger ones in the months to come.

And, if one thing comes from all of this, it’s the lesson that advanced preparation for a future bump in the road can result in even greater success. Because luck always favors the prepared.

Andrew Armstrong

Andrew Armstrong

Chief Customer Officer

Andrew Armstrong is the Chief Customer Officer at omNovos – working globally with customers to design world-class customer engagement programs. He’s a prolific writer and speaker on topics including customer loyalty, personalization, and retail marketing technologies. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter - his open approach to all topics usually leads to a fun discussion and a few laughs.