Future-Proofing Your Business Against Uncertain Times

According to Wunderman Thompson Commerce, the closure of in-store operations has already sparked a sudden surge of interest in digital commerce. From the smallest corner shops to the biggest global brands, retailers are looking for ways to keep trading despite their doors being shut.

Tips to maintain customer and website traffic and online conversions:

Communication is key

Get on your comms channels and start talking to people. Think about how you want your brand to be perceived during these times and how you can best get that message across. Utilise all the options available to you – update your website regularly with useful and relevant Covid-19 related information, get active on social media, send texts, push notifications and emails out to your subscriber lists, set up extra phone lines or an IM chat platform so your customers can reach you. Be careful what you say though; emotions are high and consumers are likely to be more sensitive to companies trying to sell or profit from the situation.

Social distance

If you have had to close stores, redeploying staff to be customer care advisors and using your social accounts to assist in managing customer queries or concerns is a good play. Expect a surge in contacts as customers have queries about pending orders and want to understand the situation – so ensure you have a team that can handle the digital dialogue in good time.

Retail therapy

A bit of online retail therapy will add some light relief for your customers, so entice them with promotions on something they are likely to want to buy. Don’t be exploitative as we have suggested – instead, be selective in what you’re promoting; there is very little experience or data to provide insight into what people look for at a time like this, so it really is over to your understanding of your customers. Alternatively, make the discount its own purpose – your gift to your customers to help brighten the mood. This could also be a good way to manage your stock, with sales falling short of targets.

Pivot and flex your spend

Now is the time to look at where you’re investing your money. Are you bidding on the right terms? Are your marketing campaigns still relevant and targeting the right channels? Adapt your spend to ensure your efforts (and money) is focused on the right places.

Stabilise

The worst thing that could happen in times like this is for you to lose control. Make sure your systems are scaled, your teams are well resourced, and processes are adapted to handle the increased volumes.

Manage the volumes

Virtual queues are a great way to govern visits to your website. Try making your landing page queue engaging by adding content or something fun to minimise the disappointment of having to queue. Sound alerts for when access is granted would also be helpful. If your stores are still open for ‘essential’ business, establishing a ticketing or slot system can help in managing the flow of store visitors and adhering to the government’s social distancing guidelines.

Own your Channel

This is an exceptional time when you are likely to experience increased online traffic as never before. Now is the time to demonstrate mastery of your digital channels, for instance, adding new, personalised and shoppable content frequently (but not invasively) across your sites. Do this well, and Amazon and other so-called ‘interface imperialists’ won’t get a look in.

Addressing the drop in online conversions 

Make it relevant

Make sure your digital channels are prioritising what is likely to be most relevant for your customers at this time. You are probably going to need to rethink how you’re ranking products in pages, removing or demoting any out-of-stock products, promoting relevant content and highlighting the right categories within navigation. Homeware, gifting, loungewear, cosmetics and activewear are good examples of the kinds of categories you should be prioritising to help people through isolation. This is an opportunity to do the right thing for your business by doing what’s best for your customers.

Payment options

Financial concerns and uncertainty about what is around the corner could be stopping people from buying. Offering multiple payment options, including a pay-later capability, might make them feel more comfortable about spending.

Upselling

Your customers might still be shopping but buying less. Focus energy on upselling by making timely, relevant product recommendations to raise your volumes back up again. Take a look at adding content into the product details pages on your website (PDP) like product recommendations. Including inspirational and engaging content in product listings/lister pages (PLPs) and search results can offer your customers something they never knew they wanted or needed.

Delivery

Be clear and transparent about delivery options – what is and is not available. Think about extending return periods while people are self-isolating and give them options. What was in place for previous orders might not be possible anymore, so be flexible to their needs. This should include – wherever possible – giving customers the option to tweak arrangements on outstanding orders. Set out clear policies on how packages will be handled and delivered to reassure customers that sanctioned hygiene and distancing protocols will be followed. 

Target and personalise

With so much going on, lines of communication are extremely busy with businesses scrambling to get in front of consumers. Cut through the noise by using your customer data and showing them that you know them best. Send discounts out to shoppers who have abandoned baskets. Remind customers of what is on their wish lists and saved items. Send new personalised product recommendations to previously frequent customers. Remember, there are loads of ways to talk to your customers (push notifications, social comms, email) so have a strategy for each to ensure they’re all fully utilised.

Channel strategy

At a time when customers are unable to spend their money in-store, divert marketing spend to focus on direct-to-consumer and third-party digital channels such as marketplaces where deliveries are still being made. Marketplaces could be a great avenue, and they will support your omnichannel goals if your own D2C network is under strain. Our Future Shopper surveys show that 56% of online shoppers start their product search on Amazon, with 68% of online purchases made on marketplaces, so ask yourself: are you present where your customers want to shop?

Be brave and invest

No one knows how long this situation will last. But out of uncertainty, history tells us that organisations can, and will, make bold decisions which will define their future success. The natural tendency when times are hard is to batten down the hatches, protect your core assets, and prepare for the worst – which in business terms usually means slashing costs. But lessons from the past suggest that counter-intuitive as it may seem, those companies that are brave and resist the urge to shrink their liabilities often come out the other side in the strongest position.

Indeed, targeted investment based on a strategic long-term plan makes better business sense when it comes to future-proofing your business against uncertain times than weakening it with cuts. The companies who will emerge strongest from the current crisis will be those that are committed to innovation, that act agile and diversify their business rapidly, and that focus on moving with demand rather than sticking to their traditional course. None of that is possible without some level of investment.

For more information on customer traffic and website conversions, click here.

WUNDERMAN THOMPSON COMMERCE
wundermanthompsoncommerce.com