By Stuart Tickle, MD at AWE Europe
During the original lockdown in April & May 2020, many retailers with a good online presence saw a massive spike in business. Shops reopened and customers returned to high-streets, but ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and a change in consumer behaviour means that many have gone from a 70 per cent in-store versus 30 per cent online sales split, to a complete reverse of these figures.
Now that non-essential retail has closed again (Jan 2021) this lends further weight to online retail again. Wherever that online/in-store sales split settles – once the vaccines kick in and we come out the other side of the pandemic – online sales will have received a real uptick in an already steady trend in their favour.
But even if you are a retailer doing well , the problem is that even those bricks and mortar electrical retailers that have a strong online presence and seeing a spike in business are not likely to see a long term overall increase in turnover, once the market returns to normal. In fact, there could even be a dip when people switch their money to long awaited holidays and socialising.
So, for many, if you want to stay in business, new business is needed…
The upside is that lockdown has shown beyond all doubt that bricks and mortar stores add value in terms of good quality demos and sales staff skills, no question, and this is more important than ever, but I also believe that many still need to diversify to survive, let alone thrive. So what changes are needed?
Omni-channel selling is not a new concept, but I don’t just mean online and in-store. Neither do I mean brown and white goods sales, or even furniture and kitchens. The thing that is in massive demand right now and can often be done within existing resource is in-home and online consultations, backed up by fast, efficient installation.
The same core skills that many of your staff already have are needed, but with some additional product or technology-specific training to brush up on skills where needed.
Some might may say about 10 years ago, but RIGHT NOW is still a great time! There is a huge growth in demand for technology that keeps people safe and in-touch with family, and there are new ranges of products optimised for the simple installation market, like Ring X Line. The lockdown has broken down barriers of previous technophobes who now think nothing of Zoom conference calls or chatting on FaceTime with their friends and family. There is also a wealth of online courses available, including from CEDIA and our own Smart Home Academy.
The do-it-for-me (DIFM) customer WANTS someone to come to them. They have money previously reserved for holidays and meals out sitting in their accounts and can see a long winter ahead and want to speak to someone who is trusted. It could be their local electrician, but in the words of Ant and Dec in the jungle, it could be you.
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