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EDITORIAL How smaller retailers are adapting to the new way of selling

Image: Adobe Stock

Image: Adobe Stock

We can all agree that how retailers operate right now has changed significantly from where we were a month ago – but change and adapt many have. So, what have they been doing and what can we learn?

Right now, retailers across the board are in the phase of adapting to a world where stores are closed and, if you can, you sell online. In many cases the past two weeks have been a frenetic blur of rethinking the business model, working out how to sell online most effectively and how to then get the goods to the customer.

There is a lot of really useful advice out there as to how to rejig what you do – here are 10 tips to look at straightaway – and retailers have been busily putting it into practice. So, what has happened so far?

Worldwide, online sales have jumper by 88% in March, compared to the same period in 2019, according to global traffic analysis by Mapp. Food is leading the charge, but health and beauty, DIY, toys and cosmetics are all doing well.

Increasingly, as the lockdown continues, more items are going to be being bought online so there is something for everyone in here.

For example, luxury watch brand The Camden Watch Company, which usually sells it special edition watches to people invited to its store has had to drastically rethink its approach with the launch of its Horse Hospital watch, turning instead to using online invites and trying to recreate the feeling of exclusivity online.

UK homeware brand Cox & Cox is also looking at how it can turn what was already a thriving online business into, for now, a wholly online business. It’s approach has been to look at how best to leverage data to drive growth. Despite the coronavirus, it is looking at achieving a 20% boost to sales across 2020 and sees technology as the way to make this happen.

Hattons Model Railways, a UK-based retailer of miniature train sets, has set up cameras in its now closed store and is allowing people to book appointments and talk by video to staff.

Meanwhile, Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, is encouraging bricks and mortar stores in China to make use of its live-streaming platform Taobao Live.

Other retailers are turning their stores into distribution centres for online shoppers. Ship from store has long been discussed as a fulfilment model but it has yet to gain majority adoption amongst retailers.

Retailers having to make the shift to online are also increasingly being aided by technology companies. We have seen a spate of videoconferencing providers offering more free time than ever to help people home-work and this largesse has spread into ecommerce.

Marketplace Fruugo, for example, has waived its joining fees, opening up the possibility to start selling quickly and economically on the marketplace. Likewise, Amazon marketplace management agency, Brand Monkey, is offering a number of free service packages to help businesses reach the next level in online trading during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marketplaces are an ideal on-ramp for rapid development of ecommerce and provide a much-needed marketing boost for all retailers. At this crazy time, they are starting to be what retailers really need.

These are just some of the ways the retail industry and its attendant suppliers are tactically reacting to the new world order. We have seen much activity to rethink how retail works in the past two weeks: now we have to see how it goes.

Two weeks is now a very long time in retail – and it will be interesting to see how these tactics have worked and how they are adapted between now and mid-April.

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