Unless you own a farm stand, bike shop or coffee shop in Washington, your store is closed. You’ve probably lost 80-90% of your regular sales because of it. If you’re like most small to medium-sized businesses, you may only have about a month’s worth of operating expenses on hand. And since Safer-At-Home orders have been in place for at least a month, you’re probably running out of cash.
So how do you start to solve some of your cash flow problems while still staying compliant with state requests to keep your store closed?
You get creative with the ways you make sales.
Post A Sign About Modified Hours
While this may sound simple, as people venture out for necessary errands and tasks, they are passing your store. Putting a sign in your window lets them know you are open and how they can buy from you. If you don’t have a website, direct them to your Instagram or Facebook account to get in contact with you.
Email Your Customers
Your POP system most likely contains the emails of your customers (especially the customers that buy the most). Send out an email to your customers letting them know what’s happening with your store. Let them know that you’re there to help them. Remember, they want to support you too, so let them know how they can do that.
Leverage Social Media
Social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, are about to become your customer connection community and sales channels overnight. You need to make sure you have a local presence on both platforms. Facebook and Instagram offer free and paid ways for you to stay connected with customers and to also help sell to them. Posting inventory on your page, to your feed or even to Facebook Marketplace can go a long way in driving local sales since it takes days or weeks to get something shipped right now.
Virtual Shopping & Advice
You can use Facebook and Instagram to allow customers to virtually shop your store. You can have employees post merchandise that your customers can buy online and/or pick-up. Encourage customers to post their product questions and give them answers to them right on the post. You can also use Facebook Messenger or FaceTime to answer questions they may have about size or fit. You can even offer virtual styling services (especially if you sell home decor). This is a great opportunity to get creative!
Teach Them Something
If you have an Instagram business account, Instagram offers a lot of free and low cost ways to sell products. If you have the ability, you can even sell your products via live video. The way to sell with video is to create a topic and build a tutorial around it. It could be anything from creating an indoor garden to cooking to showing them how to master spring cleaning. Things they can do at home would work wonderfully! If you have products that can be used in the tutorials, you can sell those too. Best of all, your customers can buy products without leaving the app.
If you don’t have an e-commerce website, now is the time to develop one. You can use Shopify (a general favorite), GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace. Having a website where you can show the inventory you have will help generate local sales and also open you up to new customers who find you online via search. If you sell new or used products, or both, this is the way most small retailers are making money that they need.
If you need more short-term e-commerce revenue ideas, check out this list. You can and should also consider exploring how to expand your online sales and distributions by looking at these ten online marketplaces for retailers.
Reinvest Your Online Ad Dollars Wisely
If you use social and/or search ads, and are continuing to utilize paid advertising, you may want to look at how your dollars are being spent. If you use Facebook Ads, now is the time to double down on your retargeting strategy. Retargeting known customers and website visitors is going to lead to lower cost and more immediate sales as these people are already familiar with your store. If you use Google My Business, once you create a website you’ll want to set up Google Shopping Campaigns. Having products featured in Google will expand your ability to generate new sales.
Shop By Appointment, Back-Door Pickup or Curbside Delivery
The simplest thing you can do is offer to let customers pick up orders. You can offer back-door pickup and curbside delivery. Some shops (especially those in smaller towns) are allowing customers to make appointments to shop while following safe-distancing protocols. If you want to open your store by appointment for individual customers, let them know.
Oh! And if you can deliver (especially larger items) purchases, make the offer to do so!
Partner With An Open Business
In Washington, drive-thru coffee kiosks are open. The locally-owned kiosks have started to offer simple gifts and merchandise in addition to coffee and food. For example, Snohomish-based Grounds Coffee Co. started carrying candles from Snohomish candle maker The Little Barn Candle Co. to help generate incremental sales for drive-thru customers.
Find Creative Ways To Cut Your Costs
Several retailers I’ve spoken to are encouraging the use of checks, Venmo, Cash App and good old fashioned cash in order to avoid processing credit card fees. Don’t feel bad about asking your customers to pay this way, just make sure you keep accurate sales records for tax time.
Remember, Customers Are Shopping
It’s important that you remember that your customers are shopping. They still need and want things beyond toilet paper, canned goods and everyday household items. As long as you find a relevant way to speak to them, then it’s okay to let them know you are happy to sell to them. Think about it:
How could shipping a gift to a relative on behalf of your customer in another state to help them connect with that family member?
How can the candle purchased at the coffee kiosk help that customer forget the craziness our world is experiencing right now?
People everywhere are craving the ability to do things we used to do. We all want to shop and connect. It’s time to do it in a different way until we can re-establish normalcy.