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15 Things US Retailers Must Do Now

15 Things US Retailers Must Do Now
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Our inaugural post runs down our 15 “must dos” for retailers in the US and other Western markets—and these include learnings from our coverage of the China market and how we saw retailers there responded to the coronavirus shutdown. Here are our 15 things that US retailers must do now:

  1. Over-communicate with customers and employees. Across all available channels, keep customers and staff informed, show empathy and be as responsive as demand allows.
  2. Figure out innovative approaches to product delivery. Online demand for groceries and other essentials is surging, and retailers can serve this with curbside pickup, pre-selected product bundles (e.g., of groceries) or other innovations.
  3. Rethink shipping/returns. In the immediate term, many online retailers are prioritizing staples over discretionary items and informing customers of potential delivery delays on discretionary items. Extend return periods until the crisis is over.
  4. Where employees are at risk, look at co-employing with other retailers and restaurants. In China, we saw staff from the foodservice industry redeployed to grocery retailers under partnerships between firms in these sectors.
  5. Renegotiate store leases to cut expenses. We expect stores to remain closed for several weeks—possibly months. For many impacted retailers, slashing fixed costs will be essential for survival.
  6. Think gross margin dollars not gross margin percentage: You count dollars and take them to the bank; you don’t take basis points to the bank. For discretionary products experiencing reduced interest, lower prices to move inventory and improve liquidity.
  7. Use the time as an opportunity to rethink marketing messages and channels. Retailers can segment and personalize messages, and test and learn digitally.
  8. Communicate (more) and sell via social media. Particularly for retailers whose stores are shuttered, social commerce offers opportunities to re-engage shoppers and maximize sales retention rates online.
  9. Livestream to drive sales online—this is particularly important for those retailers impacted by store closures. In China, we saw livestreaming become a more important sales channel during the shutdown. In the US, multichannel retailers must grasp opportunities such as this, so they are not left behind by digital-first rivals.
  10. Reconsider promotions and think about limited-time or limited-quantity offers to drive excitement and impulse sales.
  11. Focus on liquidity: Nobody yet knows how long this shutdown will last.
  12. Cut open orders and look at what really sells. Retailers must also remember the 80/20 rule, where 20% of SKUs can account for 80% (or at least a disproportionate share) of sales.
  13. Figure out how to capitalize on calendar events online, with Easter coming up in April and Mother’s Day in May (in the US). In China, we saw retailers leverage International Women’s Day on March 8 to increase their exposure and drive sales, with some beauty retailers experiencing sales growth of 200%.
  14. Flex your tech muscle: Integrate tech throughout your organization, to help action the items noted above.
  15. Finally: Be positive!  Collaborate!