Munich Long lines in the discounters, crowds in front of the drugstores – and yawning emptiness in all other shops in this country. The corona pandemic is a disaster for many retailers in this country. The trade association HDE is already raising the alarm that its consumption barometer has dropped to its lowest level since the start of the surveys in October 2016, the industry association announced shortly before Easter.
But that’s not all: the outlook is bleak. Even in the coming months, a significant decline in purchases can be expected, the crisis has reached consumers: “Many companies have closed or are stopping production, more and more employees are already on short-time work or will be in the coming weeks, the number of unemployed is increasing. “
However, there is no reason for traders to resign. There are opportunities to do business even in times of crisis. Here are seven approaches:
1. Daily contact with customers
The 150 branches are closed, but the bookstore chain Hugendubel does not want to lose contact with customers. And so the Munich-based family business sends emails with reading tips to its customers several times a week. Consumers can order the titles in the online shop. But that’s not all: The Munich company with its 1700 employees entertains the buyers: “We approached many authors to organize their readings live from Instagram from home,” says owner Nina Hugendubel. The readings are actually there to liven up the branches. Now they are used more to initiate business in the internet store.
“A newsletter is an enormously effective tool for establishing a personal relationship with customers and keeping them long-term,” says Christian Rechmann, managing director of the Munich agency For Sale. These days, newsletters could contain essential information for customers. For example, that DIY stores that individual federal states had to close to the public are still open to professionals. This would preserve at least part of the business.
2. Coupons for better times
For Martin Kerner from the outdoor store base camp, vouchers are a blessing. The Karlsruhe merchant asked his 24,000 regular customers online to support him in the crisis. Customers also do this with orders placed online and by buying vouchers. “Doesn’t save normal sales, but is more than a drop in the bucket,” says the boss of more than 40 employees.
Vouchers are now supposed to flush money into the till to get through the tough weeks of exit restrictions. Clever dealers would promise their customers a “small thank-you discount” in the shop with the vouchers, agency boss Rechmann recommends. “This allows customers to show solidarity with their favorite shops and also be happy that they shot a bargain right away.”
Hugendubel also offers vouchers for Easter that can be sent to loved ones by email. And if you still needed a game for the holidays: In the week before Good Friday there was the starter pack of the modern Gravitrax marble run from Ravensburger with a 40 percent discount.
In addition to the dealers, the restaurateurs are also hard hit. There is also a solution for them: The “Paynoweatlater” initiative enables vouchers for restaurants, bars and cafés to be purchased online all over the country.
3. Local initiatives
In many cities, retailers have come together to still sell their goods. Kauflokal.com, for example, emerged from a Munich initiative by city center retailers who wanted to give local manufacturers a shop window. The association is now trying to act as an Internet portal to draw customers ‘attention to retailers’ online shops.
“Einzelheld” is similar, an initiative by two software companies from Stuttgart who want to offer regional retailers a platform on the net to offer their goods outside of their business. There are also delivery services in numerous other cities organized by local authorities or groups of dealers.
4. Virtual advice
Check it out, try it on, pack it up: that’s normally how it works in the Schöffel Lowa stores. The two Bavarian outdoor brands have invested in joint stores across the country in order to get closer to customers. Of course, that doesn’t work at the moment. That is why consumers are now being advised by telephone. If you order, the nearest shop will send you the new hiking boots or rain jacket. And not only that: from a purchase of 100 euros, there is a 15 euro discount.
Accessible via all channels, but not face to face: that is Tobias Schonebeck’s motto. The boss of the traditional Schäffer department store in Osnabrück is there for customers by phone, has his people answer e-mails and of course accepts orders in the web shop.
With outstanding success: In the days before Easter, sales had almost reached the normal level. That is certainly also due to the fact that Schonebeck delivers the goods in the region every day. Other retailers also offer online chats with consumers, giving them a feeling of being close to the people.
5. Awaken longing
No travel, no trips, no change: people in Europe have to stay at home. Many retailers and manufacturers have therefore started to arouse people’s longing for their products with beautiful pictures – or with useful tips. This can be done via Instagram, where products can also be sold directly. Or about films on the Internet.
Alpine brand Salewa, for example, is showing a streak of two-time bouldering world champion Anna Stöhr on YouTube from next week. Like Salewa, the Bavarian Bergzeit outdoor shop is part of the South Tyrolean family company Oberalp. Bergzeit explains online how climbers can train at home and offers yoga exercises for mountain athletes.
“Service providers in particular, but not just such providers, can often also help customers digitally with their offers,” says agency boss Rechmann. “Be it the online yoga class, digital learning or an original recipe for cooking and cooking. They share their knowledge and stay in touch with customers. “
6. Sell online – even without your own internet shop
If you still have to do without your own internet store, you will hardly be able to build it during the crisis. But there are alternatives for traders. The start-up Sportmarken24, for example, enables stationary sports retailers to offer their goods on the large internet marketplaces. The small company collects a fee for this, but saves the merchants from investing in their own online shop.
The online marketplace Ebay offers special advice for stationary retailers these days, waives sales commissions in the next few weeks and wants to enable merchants to enter the Internet business. The Internet fashion retailer Zalando also tries to attract shopkeepers to their own platform. “Connected Retail” is the name of the program that is intended to make it as easy as possible for merchants to use Zalando as a digital store.
Special conditions apply until the end of May: “We completely waive our commission and pay the sales to partners on a weekly basis,” says Zalando manager Carsten Keller. Shops could easily connect their inventory. Zalando takes care of the online content, payment processing, customer care and supports the partners with a personal contact.
Some brands have closely integrated their retailers into online sales. For example, consumers can shop directly from the bike bag manufacturer Ortlieb in their web shop. The Franconian producer strikes a local dealer. It is the same with the fashion retailer Funky Staff: “All end-user orders always go directly to our retailers,” says CEO Uwe Bernecker.
7. Smart advertising
In times of crisis, many companies stop advertising to save. If you advertise smartly, you can stand out. An example of this is Schöffel. The sports brand has quickly converted its advertising slogan “I’m out” into “I stay in”.
Or the Intersport dealer association, which uses “Buy Online = Buy Local” to reach consumers on social media and thus establish a relationship with local shop owners. This could pay off, says advertising expert Rechmann: “Advertising that deals with the current Corona topic is even perceived extremely positively.”
More: How sports brands try to save their dealers.