Many businesses have suffered the wrath of the Covid-19.
People are panicking. Sales have dropped and some businesses even had to lay off their staff.
What can businesses do to stay ahead of this predicament and continue to rake in revenue? We ask Savill’s Associate Director of Retail – Mr. Murlidhar Menon.
Mr. Murli has been working with renowned retail brands for at least twenty years.
His expertise include retail services, consulting, planning, leasing, research, tenant rep, and much more.
As part of the Savills team, he has serviced clients like Sephora, lululemon, Under Armour, Santan/Tea & Co, Four Fingers, L’oreal, and Avon, and many more.
How has the virus changed things for the retail business landscape?
As someone who works closely with retail brands and constantly monitoring their trends, Murli says there’s definitely been a noticeable difference in the sales trend since Covid-19 emerged.
Murli says there’s definitely a noticeable difference among the retail brands. First of all, sales have dropped between 30 to 50%. There’s definitely a sense of panic there.
“Many retail stores are also revising their expansion plans for the year. They need to strategize to make sure they can cover their daily operating costs.”
However, retail brands can minimise the damage by taking some measures, says Murli.
He reiterates that in business, it’s all about the customers.
This is the time to show customers that you care
Now – when things are tough – would be the best time for retail brands to show customers that they care and deliver beyond expectation.
“Retail brands can send customers a care package – like a Covid Care Kit with hand sanitisers, antiseptic wipes, and masks,” says Murli.
“Imagine customers receiving a free care package from your brand in this time of difficulty. You’ve just made an emotional connection with a customer and they will remember you forever,” he adds.
It’s basic psychology, just like how we humans will always remember those who were there for us in the most difficult times.
If retail stores haven’t got a loyalty program, now is the best time to get one
According to Murli, now is also the best time for retail brands to make the most of any loyalty program they have.
“At this point of time, you probably cannot afford to spend more money on acquiring new customers. Your focus should be on your regular and loyal customers.”
If stores have a loyalty program, explains Murli, they will have access to customers’ contact information and can reach out to them with personalised ‘take care’ messages.
Business owners can also send customers a care package to their home address.
“Another benefit of having a loyalty program is that you don’t have to play the guessing game – you can use solid data to make decisions.”
For example, as a business owner, you realise that the number of customers have been fluctuating.
But do you have numbers from before to compare it with the numbers now? How many percent of your customers have stopped coming to the store? Are these regular or one-off customers?
“With a proper loyalty program, you will be able to identify frequent customers who have been inactive and direct them to your online store – if you have one. Throw in some extra points too,”
Loyalty programs can also help identify what products your customers like.
Use this information to give them discounts on their favourite items or throw in the deal. Offer free shipping. Double their membership and loyalty points.
There are so many ways to be creative and make sales happen.
Covid 19 or not, not having a loyalty program is foolish
“Even without the Covid-19, I think it is foolish to not have a loyalty program. There’s no way you can lose out by getting to know your customers or rewarding them”Murlidhar Menon, Savills Malaysia
“All the points that you issue go back into your business. All the rewards you give bring customers back to you – and encourages them to spend more.
They will tell all their friends about it. So there shouldn’t be any question about ‘do I need a loyalty program’ but only ‘what kind of loyalty program do I need.’”
Use technology to help you with personalisation
Do you remember how we used to go to a neighbourhood store and the uncle will not only check on you, but also ask you how your parents are doing?
That’s what brands should try to replicate, according to Murli.
“Of course I’m not saying you should be asking your customers about their parents.
These days, especially with online stores, it’s hard to have that kind of personalised conversations with your customers. That’s where loyalty programs come in handy,” Murli says.
“Use technology to help you with that. Check in customers when they haven’t visited your store in a while. Ask them if everything is fine. Wish them happy birthday or happy anniversary,”
“For example, if you’re running an optical store, you can gauge and remind customers to replenish their contact lens supply. My optical store does that for me, and I love it. They also have it ready by the desk so I can swing by and pick up anytime. That’s what customers want. Ease, convenience, and personalisation,”
The best part is you don’t even have to do all these manually.
“These days, a lot of loyalty programs have AI, machine learning, and automation. Use that to your advantage.”
Do I need a loyalty program if I’m running just a small business?
You need to make sure to engage with all your customers and nurture them.
It’s actually easier for smaller businesses to achieve that.
“Remember this if you’re a small business and think you don’t need a loyalty program: the big boys have visibility by presence, smaller brands gain visibility by personalizing experience,”