The coronavirus crisis has affected us all in numerous ways, from incorporating social distancing into our daily routines, to many companies putting employees on furlough as a means of minimising financial loss. Whilst the government, local authorities and various funding bodies have put in place support packages, such as interest-free loans and business rates relief, many retailers are reporting that the future is looking bleak for their brick-and-mortar stores. The question is, are all businesses struggling, and if not, what are the successful ones doing differently?
A sharp and widespread impact
It’s easy to think that only small independent stores are affected by the safety measures, yet mighty brands that have been household names for decades are also reporting an inability to cope with this uniquely debilitating situation. Ranging from Topshop owner Arcadia consulting with restructuring specialists, to Debenhams, Oasis, Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston going into administration, it’s difficult to imagine what our high streets will look like once the lockdown is fully lifted.
The effect on commercial property
It’s not just individual stores that are feeling the sting of deserted city centres, as the temporary or potentially permanent closure of retail, dining and entertainment units inside shopping centres is greatly affecting rent payments for landlords. Even once the lockdown has ended, the absence of some popular brands combined with the public’s hesitant return to fully normal life could result in significantly reduced footfall in previously bustling commercial hubs.
Not all retailers are experiencing a slump
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as many e-commerce businesses are seeing quite the opposite outcome. IMRG, the UK’s industry association for online retail, has reported that sales figures rose by 22% in the first week of April compared to the same period in 2019.
This increase isn’t consistent across the entire retail sector but the pattern is clear. For instance, sales in the home and garden category climbed 70%, electrical products by 90%, and beauty by a whopping 140%, reflecting the nation’s focus on DIY, home entertainment and self-care, whereas clothing dropped by 20% due to a universal lack of social engagements. However, it’s a safe bet that the fashion sector will enjoy its own flood of orders when restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and entertainment venues reopen, meaning that their sales peak is yet to come.
Whilst some of these businesses are based entirely online already, others have further embraced the power of e-commerce to compensate for the heavy drop in foot traffic to physical stores. With the government encouraging online retail and all couriers strictly adopting contactless delivery, the sudden rise in e-commerce has been a smooth transition for the vast majority of consumers.
How should a business evolve in response?
Most modern brands and retail businesses already have a digital presence, ranging from a limited online range to a comprehensive e-commerce strategy. The key to a business not only surviving but thriving in these changing times is to capitalise on new buying behaviours. More than ever, it’s crucial that companies combine development, optimisation and maximisation across their marketing activity – polish your content, ensure that it’s suitable for different types of online visitors, and achieve a strong return on investment from all digital communications.
A prime example is a brand that currently has an online hub but lacks eye-catching content, posts inconsistently to its social media and doesn’t personalise the user experience. By strengthening all online channels so that they deliver clear messages to a targeted audience, a business will instantly begin to receive a higher volume of traffic from people who are actively interested in its product range.
Insight from the specialists
The team at sobananapenguin works with innovative businesses across the UK, helping them to further engage their audiences through digital content that attracts, converts, and encourages new customers to develop into long-term brand advocates. To find out how we can help you grow your brand online, give Rich a call on 07723 787577.