Bricks-and-mortar retailers have been hit hard in 2020; first by the government-enforced closure, and even after re-opening, by dwindling footfall as many city centres experience under a quarter of pre lockdown traffic. With much of their marketing strategy devoted to the in-store customer experience and product positioning, the abrupt shift to online shopping by many consumers has presented a significant challenge. But when faced with the alternative, the prospect of suspended trading and an uncertain future, can any “traditional” retailer afford not to have an online strategy? Let’s take a look at what steps retailers can take to maintain their business…

Harness the growing retail app market

Retail application downloads hit their second-highest ever level in the weekend of 27th-28th of March 2020, almost reaching the heights of the record set on Black Friday 2019. People are using them to buy items as well, with conversion (app sessions which feature a purchase) levels up by 11% over the week.

It may not be feasible for a retailer to rush an app to market if they don’t have one already, but for established retailers, it’s obvious where their marketing focus should be during this time. For smaller retailers, it’s worth investigating the possibility of entering an established online marketplace like eBay, Amazon, Etsy… or niche marketplaces like Wayfair (homewares) and Zalando (clothing and fashion), which also have their own apps.

Using online marketplaces to capitalise on eCommerce boom

Established online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are traditionally among the first port of call for shoppers due to their brand strength and the choice of items they offer. Retailers can harness the high daily traffic of these sites, as well as those more targeted to a particular niche that they operate in, to mitigate the loss of footfall from their physical stores – either in lieu of, or alongside, an existing online presence.

If you’re a seller of branded or unique goods, there’s a good chance that your item listings will receive a good level of views on these marketplaces, provided they’re properly keyword-optimised, accompanied by high-quality product photography, and boast compelling product descriptions.

While there are selling fees associated with these platforms, the opportunity to trade on a trusted and reputable platform can be worth the outlay, and can even be seen as a marketing exercise to develop new awareness of your brand and products, in order to direct customers back to your own selling channels, where the cost of doing business is lower.

Get savvy with eCommerce

Many ‘traditional’ retailers will be in the position of not being technically savvy. This can result in them being reliant on a third-party to support them with their online endeavours. Often, their online presences are seen as a secondary focus to their physical store – if they even exist at all.

There’s no better time to learn a new skill than when you absolutely must do it!

The motivation should be there, and thankfully there are plenty of online resources to take absolute beginners through the process of getting an online shop up and running, attracting customers and fulfilling orders, as well as service providers offering generous discounts to ease retailers through the crisis.

Platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, EKM and BigCommerce are all set up to enable entrepreneurs to get their products online, without any prior coding or development experience, and include various templates, customisation options and marketing tools to enable users to make a store their own.

The Collect Group have supported thousands of small businesses across the UK as they’ve transitioned to online operations, providing them with low-cost collection and delivery services to assist order fulfilment – so getting your items to your customers is one item off your list!