Pretty much everyone. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, all physical stores in the UK must close until further notice, unless it falls into one of the “essential” exceptions.
However, it’s not just physical retailers who are affected by the UK’s lockdown. Online-only stores and brands who don’t sell direct to consumer will all face supply, demand and shipping issues over the coming weeks. Coupled with economic uncertainty and reduced consumer spending, now is the time to take action to protect your business.
How to continue your retail business during the lockdown
While the UK Government has introduced an attractive furlough pay scheme for companies, it’s far more preferable to keep your retail business operating during these tough times – keeping your brand active and maintaining your market position.
Furthermore, the government is actively encouraging online retailers to stay open and help to service a nation who can now only shop online.
To help you to continue running your retail business during the UK’s lockdown, we’ve put together six essential tips for maintaining services, protecting your health and help the nation.
1. Communicate with your customers
With life-changing daily at the moment, it’s essential to keep your customers updated on what you’re doing and how it might affect them.
Send your existing customers an email that outlines your continued operation, detail how you’re protecting customers and staff from infection, and sets out any disruption to product availability or shipping.
Include this information on your website and social media accounts too.
2. Step up your eCommerce operations
The volume of online orders is already increasing and you can expect this to continue throughout the lockdown. Ensure that your eCommerce operations are equipped to handle an increase in order volume with:
Sales channel integration
Integrating all of your sales channels together, to quickly add products and create live listings from a single dashboard.
Real-time inventory updates
Switching on live inventory to auto-sync stock levels across sales channels – ensuring that quantities are accurate and you never oversell.
Creating order rules to automatically allocate orders to the correct picking lists, shipping services and 3PL.
Offering expedited shipping services where possible to get products delivered quicker.
3. Minimise contact
You still have your part to play in reducing the spread of coronavirus, and this means limiting human contact where possible. Aside from handwashing and deep cleaning, you can also do the following:
-Using your Expandly user logins to enable office staff to work from home and allow your 3PL and accountant to access your order information.
–Bulk printing shipping labels and address labels – enabling you to use parcel drop-off points and postboxes where available.
-Operating rotating shifts where employees cannot work from home.
4. Maximise efficiency
If you’re not operating with a reduced workforce just yet, chances are you will be. However, a reduced workforce doesn’t have to mean reduced service.
Ways to keep your retail business operating at maximum efficiency with a reduced workforce include:
Integrating your ERP, WMS, accounting software and CRM systems
Use Expandly to integrate your key systems and reduce the time and effort it takes to switch and copy information over.
Using an eCommerce listing tool
Use Expandly to push listings to multiple sales channels, reducing the need to log into each channel and duplicate work.
Using eCommerce order rules
Set up eCommerce order rules to automate tasks when an order meets specific criteria. For example, sending orders to different picking lists or 3PLs, generating the right shipping service label or updating order status.
Performing bulk actions
Perform tasks in bulk to save time, such as shipping label printing, tracking number uploading or order status updating.
5. Diversify your channels or business model
While now isn’t the best time to think about business growth, it’s a crucial time to think about business sustainability. You want to maximise your chances of survival over the lockdown period, and this means reaching as many customers as possible.
Consider expanding your business to different sales channels or going direct to consumer and taking advantage of offers such as eBay’s waiver of fees until 31 May 2020. The more places your business appears, the more likely potential customers will find you.
6. Plan ahead
The end of the UK’s lockdown won’t spell the end of the coronavirus impact. The year ahead will be challenging – prepare now by:
Diversifying your supply chain
Some business won’t survive the pandemic and others will have restrictions in place for a long time. Begin spreading your risk and maximising your operational effectiveness by diversifying your supply chain now.
Ordering stock in advance
We don’t know when normal service will resume for any industry so prepare for longer lead times by ordering seasonal and replenishment stock now.
Keeping on top of your finances
Whether you’re seeking government aid or merely trying to protect your cash flow, keep an active eye on your finances by automatically sending sales invoices into Xero and regularly reconciling your accounts.
You’ve got this. This might be one of the most challenging times that your business faces, but with challenge comes significant opportunity.
If you’ve only been using Expandly to perform a few tasks here and there, now’s the time to use it to its full potential and keep your retail business trading through the lockdown and handling a significant increase in order volume.
If you’ve only been selling online as a side features, now’s the time to fully commit to selling direct to consumer and give your business the best chance of survival.
And, if you’ve only been thinking about selling online, now’s the time to take the jump and use your lockdown time to start selling online.