THE retail industry has been seriously impacted by the Pandemic, with nonessential retail being closed for 18 weeks in 2020, and all of 2021 so far. A grim start to the new year. Miriam Simon, founder of retail strategy website pto.ie, has made it her mission during Covid to ensure that small to medium retailers flourish during these challenging times with the creation of The Retail Powerhouse, a subscription based forum that gives smaller and independent retailers access to retail supports, and expert trading advice, for a nominal monthly cost.
This trading focused group includes a weekly live session covering retail topics that the members determine, nimble focused business and strategic advice as the Pandemic evolves, retail experts as guest contributors and speakers, as well as access to relevant retail content, IP documents and tools to help retailers plan and build for their businesses.
Miriam has been consistently working with CEO’s and Business Owners prior to and during the pandemic as a mentor and strategic support, delivering external trends, advantageous information or introductions, and inspiration and advice to help them future proof and grow their businesses.
Miriam Simon said: “To ensure small to medium retail survives and thrives during these challenging times, they must use this opportunity to really connect with their customers, have clear consistent business as usual messaging, whilst ramping up on social media and use video to bring their brand and products to life.
"Remembering that whilst retailers doors may be closed they are still able, and can recalibrate – so that they end this pandemic in a stronger market position.”
Miriam's usual focus is on commercial strategy alongside organisational structure and operations. Her extensive experience includes senior roles within brands such as TKMaxx, Monsoon Accessorize, LifeStyle Sports, and B&Q amongst others. Currently with all nonessential retail closed and click and collect not permitted, this means that unless retailers have a fulfilment system - It is now extremely difficult to trade.
This has particularly impacted SME and local retail that are either new to E-Commerce, or don't yet have an E-Commerce offer. Miriam wanted to support smaller retail business by guiding them through these unprecedented times with her years of knowledge.
Across the arteries of the Ireland - there has been opportunity for the smaller retailers to be more agile and realise a new market of 'no longer' commuting customers. More support is required to help SME retail to realise and make more of this opportunity.
Seven key pieces of advice from Miriam to ensure local retail survives these times are:
1. Have clear, consistent ‘business as usual’ messaging.
Ensure customers have clarity on how they can get in touch with you. Including;
- Clear window signage (well sized so that it is visible from across the street) - Regular reminders via email and digital channels that you are still there and can be contacted / “And this is how…”
2. Use this opportunity to really connect with your customer base.
Emotionally connect and be on the lockdown journey with them. Think about how they are feeling. Are they juggling work and home schooling for example? Are they feeling scared, or bored etc. Some awareness and empathy within your messaging will go a long way to build loyalty.
3. Adapt your offer to the evolving situation.
- Think about what goods you can offer that will support your customers and fulfil a need they have now. And be agile with this!
- Great recent examples of this within the hospitality sector around care packages and meal kits etc I expect we will see family picnic boxes and afternoon tea deliveries as the weather improves.
4. Ramp up your Social Media.
As customers are spending more time scrolling - social commerce is on a massive growth trajectory. Remember to approach this from a customer centric point of view - Not just the repetitive hard sell. As per #2 - Know who you are talking to! Sprinkle the product sell posts with additional value-add content that makes life better for your customer. They will remember you for it.
5. Video works!
- Video on social brings your brand, your business, your product to life.
- If you want to sell effectively - use video. Better still - use LIVE video.
- We all love LIVE video because it is true and it is real. LIVE Video sessions you’re your store can be a great cash driver if planned and activated effectively.
6. Remember that whilst your doors may be closed, you are still able!
Decide how else you can engage with your customers - Can you do concierge video appointment shopping via WhatsApp or Zoom?
- What about a weekly three minute video featuring new product drop options?
There are so many creative ways to reach, to support, and to sell to your customer.
7. Recalibrate! So that you end the Pandemic in a stronger market position.
- Refine your e-commerce offering / If you are not online - Get online. Enterprise Ireland offer trading online vouchers to give you the tools to get online - Grow your customer base. Reach out to new customers both locally and further afield. You have time to focus on all this stuff now!
- Plan now! We will be emerging from the Pandemic hopefully in the coming months This yields huge opportunity for those that are ready.