Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Post-pandemic retailers are competing with a shift to online sales. The transition toward a prevalence in online sales was already well underway, but the Coronavirus kicked the trend into overdrive. As the global lockdown forced people to order everything — even their groceries — online, what they first begrudged as an inconvenience, soon became a way of life. The lockdown is over, but wide-scale online shopping is here to stay.
I advise retailers to keep current with online marketing trends to avoid being left behind. Many retailers are implementing augmented reality (AR). For example, clothing retailers have apps and websites that allow you to view yourself wearing their clothing. Furniture retailers permit you to see their products in your home simply by opening your phone’s camera. By uploading a picture and measuring your face, eyewear retailers let you glimpse how their glasses will look.
Retail companies who adjust to the shifting market may be surprised to see a bright side to the transition. After all, they will gain new online consumers and find they still are needed by their local customers.
Retailers pivoting to survive supply chain bottlenecks
Supply chain issues may be decreasing in 2022, but they are not going away. I am noticing more and more savvy retailers purchasing product ahead of time and stashing it until needed. Companies are learning they need to prepare in advance to keep operations and sales running smoothly.
In my opinion, two primary issues are gumming up the supply chain — shipping and distribution. As retailers, we need to become better at anticipating our inventory needs and communicating that information to suppliers. If all levels of the supply chain are on the same page concerning upcoming needs, then everyone will know how to prepare and adjust.
I believe the cure for distribution bottlenecks lies in automation and streamlining. Consider Amazon‘s innovative means of sorting, organizing and shipping packages. We need to replicate Amazon’s example and focus on implementing technology that cuts time in the supply chain process.
Brick-and-mortar businesses in the post-pandemic market
Despite the current preference for online shopping, local stores still have a place in today’s market. Humans are social creatures. They continue to need experiences outside their homes. Expedited shipping can be quick, but it’s never as fast as a trip to the store. Also, customers will always want physical interaction with certain products before committing to a purchase.
Shoppers actually spend more in person than on apps or websites. They make impulse purchases in stores, because they find products they weren’t even looking for. The key is getting the customers into your shop.
More than ever, today’s brick-and-mortar retailers must focus on enhancing the shopping experience they provide. Enticing customers out of their homes is possible, but only through a unique atmosphere, quality products and stellar customer service.
To prove my point, I’ll use the experience I create for customers at my company, Ricoma, as an example. People might be able to order slightly more affordable products straight from China, but we outsell these competitors by far. We are able to surpass them because of the value we offer. With every purchase, we give customers lifetime technical support and professional training. To remain competitive, focus on the value and experience you provide.
The keys to attracting post-pandemic customers
Encouraging transactions in the post-pandemic market is not as easy as it once was. I believe the only way to survive today’s trends is to provide reliable products, impeccable customer service, excellent customer experience and a one-stop-shop.
Ricoma attempts to provide a memorable experience to each and every customer. When customers purchase an embroidery machine or other equipment, I connect them with a professional trainer. Customers are not only taught how to use the products, but podcasts, videos and blogs packed with custom apparel tips are posted regularly. My business model is built on empowering clients with the entrepreneurial training they need to begin their custom apparel side hustle.
In addition, I recently unveiled Ricoma’s sister company called Garmeo. This new website receives custom apparel requests and routes the jobs right to Ricoma’s new entrepreneurs. We provide every client with quality equipment, but we don’t stop there. We offer them the training, support and assistance they’ll need as new business owners.
Ricoma is expanding to become a one-stop shop for anyone in the custom apparel market. In my opinion, this move keeps current customers engaged and attracts new consumers. In addition to embroidery products, Ricoma stocks garment printers, heat presses and vinyl cutters. At Ricoma, I want to empower anyone starting a side hustle in apparel decorating with all the equipment, training and resources they need. My mission is to offer the tools that will enable them to personalize anything, beyond even apparel.
As entrepreneurs rebuild amidst the rubble of the Retail Apocalypse, thought leaders lead the way. For more tips, readers can check out the Apparel Academy, a podcast and YouTube channel focusing on the business savvy needed to launch a side hustle in today’s shifting market.