5 Effective Retail Strategies During a Pandemic
by Chris Kolodziejski

As an established brand with a line of cosmetics that are sold both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, sold both online and offline and in spas and salons around the world, I understand first-hand how it feels to lose a part of my business overnight due to COVID-19. I understand and feel the collective pain and financial uncertainty that comes with this pandemic.

Over the last few months, our team has talked with dozens of our customers that have been forced to pivot. Based on what we have seen and heard, we have created some strategies that we feel can be confidently applied to any spa or salon business to help you not only survive, but thrive. For some, this will come as a wake-up call to act in ways you may not have thought about before. I thought it best to share a quote from a recent conversation with one of our customers that summarizes the reality of the environment many may now find themselves in.

“I sat down with my husband,” the customer said, “and realized that if we do not focus a huge part of our time and efforts on retailing, we will not survive.”

This really is a time for transfor-mation and acknowledging a new normal. Here are ?ve things you can do right now to move the needle.

1. Retailing integrations
Consider that, if possible, every product you use in service should be available for purchase within your business and merchandised both in-store and online. If you have the capability to sell in-store and online, great! If you do not have that capability, consider these two options:

A. Dropshipping is where your spa or salon sells products to your customers, but the merchandise moves directly from the brands (vendors) you work with to your customer without being handled or stored by you. Dropshipping is a straightforward business model that requires store owners to work closely with their vendors, ensuring seamless delivery and keeping the logistics out of sight from the customer. There is some setup that may require you to integrate aspects of your webpage and shopping cart with your dropship partners, or you may have to upload orders taken from your website to your dropshipping partners’ website.

B. Affiliate programs are something to consider if you don’t have the capabilities to sell online or drop shop. If your supplier has an affiliate program, this is how it works. You would highlight the affiliate products you sell on any of your preferred platforms (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, blog, newsletter/email campaigns or your website) and introduce your clients to these products. All sales can be tracked by tracking links and coupon codes such that not only is the first order tracked, all subsequent re-orders are tracked, and you can earn commissions on all sales each time your customers complete a purchase. One such platform is called Refersion, which has a marketplace where you can ?nd items to sell if a current partner you work with does not offer those services.

2. Virtual consultations with your customers
I have seen many brands (Marc Jacobs, to name one) that have been offering free makeup and/or skin consults via online software like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. This is a great way to build com-munity and real connectivity with your customers. The offer is simple: a pre-booked 30-minute appointment and a questionnaire sent to the customer that must be filled out to schedule an appointment. From there, you can customize an agenda of what will be covered and use that to ask your customers what their challenges and pain points are and where they need help in their daily routines. Next, it is not really selling, it is just offering real solutions and collaborating directly with your customers to meet their needs. In the process, you will learn invaluable insights about them and all of your customers. Plus, you can give them the option of a discount code to purchase products for a limited time as a ‘thank you.’

3. Increase digital and social media presence to build your community
If you are not involved in any social media, then use this time to pick a platform and get started. You have the choice of Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and others. They all have a different appeal. Probably the easiest place to start is to showcase what you do best by taking pictures and posting this content (ask for permission in advance). Most of your customers are thrilled to be featured. When they post, that is called User Generated Content (UGC) and it is probably the single most influential content you can post. Why? Because it is real customers posting their real experiences. This has the power to turn your customers into a force that significantly increases loyalty, magnifies influence and confidence in the service/product and improves your bottom line. There are dozens of articles online that will teach you how to do this.

4. Physical and Digital Menus
It is time to either create or rework them.
A. Include kits of products bundled together with savings: Customers love to get a bargain. This has the benefit of raising your average order value.
B. Bundling of goods and services together: Again, now you are tying your key services to related products and increasing your average order value.
C. Offer curbside pickup: A great way to interact with your clients, even for a few minutes.

5. Holiday Planning (Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holidays)
This year, due to COVID-19, holiday shopping will be much different. Many retailers may be closed or have limited ability to open and many shoppers are going to simply shop online. That means that many of your customers will be doing the same thing. So, the question is how to prepare?

STEP 1: PLAN. Start by creating your special offers, product bundles and advertising strategies now. And do not forget your marketing to promote all your offers. The time is now, so plan ahead! Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, for example, should be promoted in October leading up to the date of the promotion. You are not the only one that love to plan. Your customers love to as well!

If you can crunch the data, you can find out two things: who are your best customers and what do they buy? Create special offers for them that recognize that status. Customers like to feel special and this shows you care and that they are not just a number. Start by segmenting your email/ customer list now and target them based on their past purchases. Mail Chimp and Constant Contact have great features for this that are simple to use.

best-selling products and create kits, bundles, baskets and best-seller suggestions to help your customers make the “BUY” decision easy. Create a quick landing page that showcases all these offers.

STEP 4: ENCOURAGE IMMEDIATE ACTION. Let your customers know that the holiday specials are limited in numbers and are selling fast. Again, communicate the specials early and often.

STEP 5: FIND OUT IF YOUR VENDORS HAVE ANY HOLIDAY SPECIALS. Take advantage of these existing relationships and see if they have any holiday specials you can use to create customized specials or integrate them into your kits, bundles and other offers. Additionally, ask if they have any marketing assets or images you can use.

The march to online sales has been made very clear where now, almost 50 percent of all Internet sales in the U.S. are conducted through Amazon. The pandemic has compressed what would have taken another 10 years to happen into six months and accelerated the change in shopping patterns at a record pace. Many are fearful of this. The reality is that customers need 7-8 impressions before they make a purchase. Amazon helps build brand awareness so that when the customer is in your business and you present a new product, you can be that lasting impression that gives them confidence to purchase. One of the big differences between this holiday season and last season is the rate of change. Things are always changing, and as owners and operators, we must now adapt to these new real-ities. The good news is that there are shifts and changes that you can start making now to embrace these changes to not only survive, but to thrive!