Surviving Retail in the Age of COVID-19

Surviving Retail in the Age of COVID-19

20th March 2020, 3:03am in Business by Cassie Puah

In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Interparcel team has been working around the clock to support our small business clients. We want to ensure that you keep delivering, so we’re working both remotely and on-site to make that happen.

With many people confined to their homes, and talk about the economic implications of the pandemic, many consumers are in fear of the magnitude of the financial impact of COVID-19. In response to this isolation, 25% of respondents in Hong Kong have increased their online shopping activities by 35%. The number of orders Interparcel has shipped to Hong Kong has more than doubled in just the last two weeks of March.

To prepare for this situation, our team has prepared a few tips on how to survive COVID-19 as a small business. It’s clear that businesses should be focusing on continuing business as usual, however best they can and surviving this 6-8 month period of uncertainty. They should then look to drive structural changes in the long-term to prepare for the economic downturn.

Don’t get physical, get online

Given that most of us are isolated, the amount of shopping being done in person has drastically slowed while the amount of shopping done online has increased. Interparcel has seen more and more parcels being shipped to affected countries like Hong Kong. The fact of the matter is, people are reluctant to go outside because of COVID-19. And therefore, the clear option is to bring your business online. There are plenty out-of-the-box solutions like Shopify, WooCommerce and Etsy that will allow you to start selling almost immediately. Interparcel has also worked to bring their Shipping Manager integration to multiple eCommerce platforms so that you can start shipping products by installing the shipping plugin.

Talk to your customers, they don’t bite

Chances are the COVID-19 situation has affected your business in some way. At Interparcel, we’ve seen our domestic and international support requests increase over the past few weeks. We’re working with our courier partners to make sure that deliveries will not be affected, and above all to enforce safety procedures for drivers and receivers. As we’re sure your business is going through the same changes, it’s important to communicate openly and quickly with your customers, to keep them abreast of the situation. You’ve probably been inundated with emails from businesses about changes to their operating procedures. If you haven’t already, send out an email to all your customers. Here’s the one we sent:

Save time and overheads

We’re about to hit an economic recession, some think could be worse than any previous recession we’ve faced. This is the time to hunker down and look to work efficiently and save costs at any point in your business. Interparcel has been working (tirelessly) over the last few weeks to release our Shipping Manager to all major eCommerce platforms. We now have Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Etsy and more. With this free tool, you can import and fulfil orders in just a click of a button. We’ve ensured that our courier partners are still operating as usual, so delivery will not be impacted. This service is a plug-and-play situation so you’ll be up and running in no time.

What's your continuity plan?

So now that we’ve dealt with surviving the short-term impacts of COVID-19, what about the long-term after effects? Your business continuity plan is a plan on how your business should operate in the midst of an incident or crisis. This is usually an afterthought for small businesses, and for good reason, you’re occupied handling the day to day of running a business. But now that we’re facing at least 6-8 months of downturn, now is the perfect time to put together a long-term continuity plan for your business. It should include information on:

  1. Human resource, customer and supplier management: Review any health travel declarations from infected countries, review policies regarding sick leave and overseas travel, and plan for a continuity of leadership
  2. Processes and business functions: Educate employees on good personal hygiene and infection prevention and control, develop proper screenings, monitor developments and directives from the government
  3. Internal and external communications: Prepare a communications strategy in case your store is impacted by COVID-19, ensure that employees know their roles and responsibilities during an outbreak.

Level up your social media game

If you thought people spent all their time on social media…consumers are now spending up to 50% more time on social media. And it makes sense, what else are they going to do in isolation. This means, your customers are spending their time scrolling on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they’re not only window shopping they’re purchasing too. This is your golden opportunity to start:

  • Selling on Instagram and Facebook
  • A loyalty program with your customers
  • Keep your customers informed on your COVID-19 policies and make sure they are aware that you’re still operating as usual
  • Exploring new avenues to bring new traffic to your business (this last one is kind of a biggie).

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