Foot traffic is a lifeline for brick-and-mortars, especially small businesses. However, leisurely trips down Main Street are dwindling as consumers lean into e-commerce to minimize their trips out during the pandemic. McKinsey & Co found that 25 to 36 percent of small businesses could close permanently as a result of the change in shopping behavior and disruption from just the first four months of the COVID-19 outbreak. And now that peak season is upon us, competing with retail giants for holiday shopping dollars is going to be an uphill battle.
So, what can you do right now to be successful in the holiday rush?
3 Ways to Help Maximize Peak Season Shopping
Here are a few ways small business leaders can pivot operations, drive customer experience and leverage current technology to help maximize peak season shopping – even without the regular foot traffic.
1. Focus on Seamless Service
While most SMBs cannot guarantee 2-day shipping through Christmas Eve, there are other ways to stand out from the crowd and draw customer loyalty.
One of the biggest differentiators this year will be ease of service. Explore new ways to enhance your offerings – can you create an efficient curbside system that allows shoppers to stay in their car? Could you meet consumers where they are on social media and try leveraging new avenues for sales, like Instagram Shop? Are there larger or more trafficked stores locally with whom you could partner to include your products on their shelves?
One of the biggest differentiators this year will be ease of service.
Thinking outside the box to get your goods or services in the hands of consumers while minimizing the need to go in-store will make you top-of-mind as they build out their holiday gift lists.
2. Get Your In-Store Experience on ‘The Nice List’
The cardinal rule of this holiday season is: if you are bringing consumers in-store, specific safety procedures must be clearly in place and operating smoothly. Invest in proper signage and sanitizing measures. Think through the setup and flow of your store and how you can make it easy to navigate while socially distanced.
Combine related items that are often purchased together on a display so that consumers can grab-and-go. Even consider offering personalized experiences, such as custom gift curation that can be ready for quick pick-up. All of these efforts will set your store apart from competitors big and small.
And, lastly, don’t skimp on the cheer. If it’s authentic to your brand, decorate store windows and in-store to make the atmosphere festive and inviting. After all, while foot traffic may be down this year, a little festivity can go a long way when attracting shoppers that are driving by.
3. Leverage the Tech You Have and Train Your Team
Peak season can be uniquely stressful and often isn’t the best time to try your hand at new in-store technology.
To maximize what you already have, evaluate what technology is at your disposal now. For example, look at your payment systems and e-commerce solutions. Create specific protocols to how they will be used to drive customer experience and sales this holiday season. Make sure all of your associates understand the tech mix. If you plan to bring on new associates to help with the holiday rush, ensure they receive proper training on all technology before assisting customers.
This peak season aim to deliver a customer experience that addresses consumer’s top concerns and needs. Also, make a trip to your small business a worthwhile venture. Consider expanding your pick-up and sales methods for those that are not yet ready for in-store shopping.
Ensure your in-store strategy evokes feelings of both security and festivity. And lastly, don’t throw a wrench into your tech mix ahead of busy season – maximize what you have and take notes for what you need.
Most of all, acknowledge that this season is different than any other before. You can use these learnings to inform your business resolutions in the New Year.
David Wilkinson is the President and General Manager for Retail at NCR Corp., where he is responsible for creating and executing NCR’s overall vision and strategy for the Retail industry.
He is focused on helping retailers thrive and deliver on their brand promise in a digital-first world by leveraging NCR’s unique software, hardware and services capabilities.