Just as major weather events can affect foot traffic on Mainstreet, health crises—such as the current COVID-19 pandemic—can throw a wrench in store sales.
That’s why the importance of flexibility in business simply can’t be overstated. It may mean making a change to your business model, leveraging innovative, value-added pricing strategies, or finding more creative uses for your website.
Regardless, being able to pivot in a different direction when something’s affecting your currrent way of doing business, just might help you survive—and thrive—during unusual events.
What You Can Do When Your Foot Traffic Decides to Stay Home
Destination business expert, Jon Schallert, share’s an example of what can happen when unusual events affect store traffic.
During the 2012 – 2013 winter season (November through February), Colorado experienced some of the lowest snow months in the state’s history.
Now imagine being a tire retailer that sells snow tires in Colorado during that time. Since people don’t typically rush in to buy snow tires in March—especially with spring just around the corner—many consumers didn’t purchase snow tires at all that winter. Needless to say, tire retailers lost a lot of sales.
During nasty weather, consumers must decide how important it is to leave their homes. Their need for your product must be greater than the discomfort and risk of braving the snow and slick roads. Some of the things consumers might venture outside for include the need for water, propane, firewood, and toilet paper.
If you’re unable to shift your product focus to carry these necessary products, how do you go about attracting customers to your store?
Similarly, if everyone’s shutting themselves away for fear of contracting COVID-19, what do you have to offer them if you don’t sell water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, or masks?
How about using your website to play off the 3 core drivers of a consumer’s emotional spending habits?
1. Generate Excitement
Anyone who’s stuck inside their house for days—or weeks—on end will eventually start going a little stir crazy. What can you provide to the consumer who’s experiencing cabin fever?
Excitement! Offer event-oriented activities on your website, like online classes that use a combination of videos, activities, audio content, reading material, visuals and community learning areas.
With the right balance of visual, audio and other interactive methodologies, you’ll ensure that consumers are engaged and provided with a fun and memorable learning experience that takes their minds off being stuck in the house.
Be sure to use an integrated class management system that lets people easily view your course offerings and register online—from anywhere—to increase enrollments.
2. Relieve Boredom
Whether it’s a new product unveiling that’s too exciting to miss, or a custom game that entertains and/or offers a reward (like a digital coupon), you need to make your website the oasis of stimulation that makes people grab a snack and stick around for a while.
With foot traffic down, you also have a good opportunity to invite your customers to submit ideas for an upcoming class, a product of the month, or your next charity drive. Reward customers who participate with a product discount, gift card, or voucher to attend a class for free.
Not only will you keep your customers engaged, but you’ll also engender goodwill by asking for their feedback. Plus, they’ll probably spread the word to their friends and family, which will both attract more users to and keep them hooked on your website.
3. Create urgency
Just because your customers are holing up at home, doesn’t mean you can’t appeal to their sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Amazon does it all the time. You’ll probably recognize the brand’s familiar tactic in the screenshot below:
Regardless of the offer you present to your consumers, you’ll want to establish limited windows of opportunity for them to take advantage of it.
“The longer someone deliberates over whether to buy your product or service, the more likely it is that they’ll talk themselves out of it,” warns Search Engine Journal. “But if you can create anxiety in your audience with the idea that your product or service might not be available in the future, people will be much more likely to take quick action and make a purchase.”
To create a sense of urgency, use phrases like the ones below:
- “One-time only”
- “Get it here today”
- “Only available between 2:00 and 6:00 today”
Creating a sense of urgency in your website’s product content is one of the best ways to make more conversions and sales.
The Benefit of Flexibility During a Crisis
During the 2008 recession, it was anybody’s guess which businesses would make it out of the economic crisis with their companies intact.
Impressively, many businesses that had the odds stacked against them survived—and even thrived—during the recession, according to Business 2 Community.
At the peak of the recession, for example, Netflix acquired 3 million members by offering their new tv/movie streaming plan, which allowed subscribers to stream unlimited entertainment each month (along with disc-delivery service).
The brand added a variety of price plans and different services, becoming notable not only for what they did, but also for their customer service. Today, Netflix continues to grow, with 167 million subscribers.
Whether it’s due to a product or service you’re offering, a heightened level of customer service, or sheer determination in the face of hardship, you can survive crises in a variety of ways if you’re willing to be flexible.
Should You Drop Your Online Prices to Increase Sales When Business is Slow?
When unusual events such as hazardous weather or health crises occur, you might have the tendency to use discount marketing to bribe the customer to buy, suggests Jon Schallert.
But continuous discounting can actually hurt your business in the long run. Below, you’ll find several ways to use pricing strategically on your website:
- Don’t offer a discount on staple product lines that consumers will buy later after COVID-19 has run it’s course.
- If you’re going to discount, make sure you tie the discount to another purchase. Example: “Get $10 off 2 packs of underwear when you buy 3 pairs of socks.”
- Refrain from discounting products that don’t have a large enough profit margin to make you money.
- If you’ve got products that have a limited window of use—perishable products, for example—it’s good to mark them down so you can try to recoup some of your investment.
- Consider discounting seasonal items that you don’t want to keep in your inventory when a new year rolls around.
American Express points out that pricing can often be a sticky point for small businesses experiencing a decline in sales, but companies can find success with alternative pricing models, rather than simply lowering costs.
SaaS and other software companies, for instance, can leverage a freemium model (basic features are offered for free, with advanced features available on paid tiers). Product-based businesses can enjoy success by bundling products to add value or by pairing products with services (like a free one-year support plan with a particular product purchase).
When small businesses embrace flexibility, it’s possible to flourish during unusual events such as extreme weather or a health crisis event.
With people avoiding physical stores, try shifting your focus to your online store, using it to entice home-bound shoppers to engage with your brand and return to your website over and over.
That doesn’t mean you have to invest thousands of dollars. It just takes is a little elbow grease and a personal touch. Get creative, and think of ways to leverage the 3 core drivers of consumers’ emotional spending habits.
COVID-19 won’t last forever, but until it’s gone, start implementing some of the strategies discussed above to increase value for customers…without sacrificing revenue.
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