Strategies for helping your Retail business survive the COVID -19 Pandemic

Wayne Hockley |
April 22, 2020 |
Retail Strategies

In today’s blog, we will trace a mythical Pet Food Shop and offer practical and real-world advice to this business owner. In the middle of April, we are now far enough into the pandemic that the severity and the questions covered in today’s post are no longer hypothetical. The good news is, there are options for small retailers. Let’s set up the situation for our mythical Pet Food Shop owner. The overall purpose of this blog is to inspire and cause retail owners to dream about new ways of doing business during this time of isolation, but also to set them up well for when the economy begins to recover.

Currently Government regulations have established that a Pet food store is an essential service, so they are allowed to be open, but staff and customers have expressed strong reservations about “entering” the store due to the cramped nature of the store layout.

  • The store is full of inventory, but sales have dropped to almost nothing – the only way for customers to reach you are by telephone.
  • The store has not captured client contact information so is unable to proactively reach out beyond “putting a sign on the door”.
  • The business plan for the store was to bring in high end, top end expensive dog and cat food brands – your store shelves are full, but you have tried to cancel future shipments with your supplier.
  • The business location is always been a key reason why people come to the store, other competitors in the area include national chain department and grocery chains with cheaper food brands
  • Customers say they come back because they value the advice, they receive in making the right nutritional choices for their pets from your staff.

The company has some money in the bank, but it is clear that some of the product on the shelves will need to be turned back into cash to help stay ahead of the bills, in the next 45 days. So, what steps can we recommend to help move some of the product on the shelf and keep the store operating? You are aware that your typical SKU size is a 20kg bag of dog food, and a 10kg bag of cat foot – both will last for a month. So, here is the danger and the opportunity – if you can’t communicate that you are there for them they might turn to the lower cost options from the department and grocery chains – places of business they need to go into anyway.

Recommendations to this owner:

  • Make a BOLD SIGN for the front of the Store – declaring you are OPEN FOR CURB SIDE PICKUP – CALL XXX-XXX-XXXX
  • Call your suppliers back asking for existing PO’s to be switched over from the “ULTRA Premium” (you already have lots of this) to “GOLD or SILVER” brands of the same food. Be prepared to speak to the difference between the products. You need to appeal to as wide a clientele as possible now, but you don’t want to compete head to head with the lower end brands.
  • Take the SHOW OUTSIDE (talk to your landlord first), highlighting the “new” lines – offer a “launch special” – 2 BAGS of ULTRA PREMIUM and receive 1 10KG BAG of “GOLD” for free OR 2 BAGS of “GOLD” and get 1 10KG Bag of Ultra for free.
  • Facebook Business is offering a page of advice on how to help retailers. They have 4 points:

1. Stay connected to your customers – You need to publish a Facebook page – start targeting dog and cat lovers in your community.

2. Consider ways to keep your business running – we have started this in the ideas above

3. Keep your employees Safe and Informed – have a staff meeting (zoom video for 40 minutes) to position safety and get their ideas on how to connect with customers.

4. Get examples and Inspiration from others – Facebook has ideas

  • Facebook offers you the quickest and cheapest way to target customers – existing and new ones. Facebook allows very detailed targeting, in this case here could be your search criteria (you do this online).
    • Aged 35 – 60
    • Within a 15 km radius of your location
    • Who are interested in dogs and/or cats
    • Have a household income in the 25% of the household incomes in your region
  • You could target an Ad – offering your curbside pickup service, and offering your 2+1 Free while announcing your new product line.
  • You could also run a Facebook Ad- highlighting a “physical distancing dog event for Saturday morning” – offering nutritional advice from a local veterinarian and a chance to run your favourite dog through a home-made obstacle course – with a free nutritious treat at the finish line.
  • Anniversary date that owner got dog/cat
  • Dog or cats name
  • Age of the Dog or Cat
  • Owner nutritional preferences – prefers Ultra for …
  • Price sensitivity – None, Some, SUPER.

These recommendations – especially if you were to hire the help of a young marketer (does not have to be expensive) will result in an effective “relaunch” of your business and offering you the chance to “capture your client’s information”. If you can capture your client’s information, you can begin to interact with them in ways that help you achieve your “new business goals.”

The strategy above is good, but it’s not optimal. Optimal with limited additional cost and effort would set you up for the long term in terms of using your customer data. If you were to use a Customer Relationship Manager system like the Dynamics 365 CRM online system (monthly fee) and connect it to the Facebook Ads (yes you can do that – no rekeying) as new clients enter their contact information you could begin to add personalized touches like:

In your CRM – with additional information you could target customers whose dogs are no longer puppies and schedule an appointment for your staff to meet “insert dogs name here”, to relook at the nutritional needs of your pet. You could arrange for a sample bag for the dog at the meeting – to make sure the dog likes the chosen food BEFORE the client buys a 20KG bag.

This way, with email campaigns targeted at your client’s specific needs – you can focus on yes keeping your client information up to date – but actively having connections with these owners and their pets. If we haven’t learnt anything so far from this COVID-19 pandemic, is the need to stay connected. It’s good for the heart, it’s also good for your business.

If your business is looking for ideas on how technology solutions like Facebook Business and Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help you through this time, reach out to Mibusoft and one of our retail business professionals will be happy to do a FREE 30 minute Remote Video call with you today. It’s what we do.

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