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Impulsive Shopping and Post-Pandemic Consumer Behavior

shopping

Impulsive Shopping and Post-Pandemic Consumer Behavior

Picture this. You are in the supermarket in your neighborhood queuing to pay and see some delicious and totally irresistible chocolates that you did not even think about buying but that now are something that has become essential. That is what in marketing is called “impulsive buying” and, for example in the case of supermarkets, it is their main source of benefits.

Let’s take it up a notch. Have you thought about how you can translate an Instagram or Facebook like into a sale? That’s called Influencer Marketing, and I’ll show you how to unleash this online technique by starting a conversation and ultimately driving sales and establishing impulsive shopping, whether this was your initial objective or not. Remember, one like, share or comment, might equal one sale.

The Internet and mobile devices, as instant tools, favor impulsive purchases. Different promotions present on your website can trigger unplanned purchases by Internet users. Imagine being able to have those displays that are in the boxes of the supermarkets integrated into the design and shopping experience of your online store… How much extra income could they bring you? The experience may surprise you.

Flash sales (Time-limited): Flash sales are time-limited sales that are very often used in e-commerce to encourage impulsive buying. Generated by an attractive offer but limited in time, the user has to make a quick decision if he does not want to miss this opportunity. It works very well, especially in specific seasons where people are willing to spend more money (Christmas, back to school, Halloween).

Free shipping: The hook is to set a minimum purchase price so that the shipping costs are free and, if the customer does not yet have that amount, offer low-cost products in the checkout process that achieve the minimum required quantity. If we use products that far exceed the minimum amount, it will not work, but if they are inexpensive and related to the purchase that has been made, success is practically guaranteed.

Stock level: Showing available stocks can, to some extent, favor impulsive buying. If the number of products in stock is low, the interested visitor will tend to buy their product for fear of not finding it again at the price proposed in your online store.

Give away discount coupons or free products (gift): On condition of making a purchase, of course. This type of tactic has been shown to also boost sales since the customer must buy in order to receive their gift.

Expiration date:  Discounts on these types of items range between 20 percent and 50 percent of their initial price. For example, if they are products that expire the next day, the price is usually cut in half, but if we talk about products that have weeks to expire, the discount stays between 20 percent and 30 percent. Stores free themselves of products that would end up in the garbage and without any benefit if not bought, while customers get a good deal for a product that they would either buy or just purchase to take advantage of that specific occasion.

After the pandemic

From toilet paper in the early pandemic to bleach and flour, during this crisis consumers have modified its consumption and its way of making the purchase. But what will the consumer be like after pandemic? It is evident that many consumers have had to test the online channel as a result of this crisis, and they have realized how comfortable and safe it is for them.

The confinement has made the segment of the population that least bought online, those over 55-60 years old, now the group that needs it the most, especially those over 70, who are the most vulnerable to the disease and those who, therefore, should be more confined and without the help of their families. Although the consumer preferred to buy some specific products in person; if consumers verify that the product they receive at home meets their expectations, it is very likely that after the crisis it will continue to do so.

On the same line of shifting consumer behavior, for instance, some of the most popular products today are related to protecting employees and separating consumers with employees, like speak-thru devices, trays and shelves, and sliding service windows.

Where do impulsive purchases predominate: in physical stores or on the internet?

Physical stores are the main claim to get a customer to buy without having thought about it before. This fact is partly logical because most impulsive products are food, clothing, drinks, and personal care products. If discounts and promotions are added to that, the mix is ​​perfect. Supermarkets, shopping malls, and convenience stores are the central places for this type of sales.

Furthermore, some stores go the extra mile by using techniques that play with your senses, by releasing exquisite coffee and fresh cookie smell to get you in, even if they’re not in the food business.

Online advertising is the least appreciated to generate buying impulses, but that does not mean that their tactics are useless: Brands that use digital platforms as the first approach and establish the first connection have the potential to reap the benefits when the time comes to make the final purchase in the store, according to a study by Geoblink. 69 percent of those surveyed stated having bought between one and five products spontaneously in the last week, while 26 percent admitted having made between six and ten purchases of this type.

The millennial generation is the one that buys the most on impulse: a small group of 7 percent have bought up to 11 items without foresight in the last week. The previous facts serve as a great opening remark of the aforementioned Influencer Marketing technique. If you got until this part of the story, it means that there’s impulsive buyer material within you.

Influencer Marketing is nothing more than getting the right people to talk about you, firstly triggering your target audience to talk about you, secondly prompting that audience talking to each other about you, and finally you and the audience listening to each other. When this two-way conversation is in place, it is very probable that some of your social media likes, whether on Instagram or Facebook, are in fact translating into sales in your physical or online store.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule on digital impulsive buying: the first, that those who already have a subscription to a platform like Amazon, which avoids having to go through several stages before buying, are better able to combat the impulsive factor. The second: when the object to buy is an electronic item. 55 percent of the participants chose the Internet as the preferred medium for the impulsive purchase of these items.

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Featured in the Best Online Shops 2020 – Newsweek, DK Hardware is one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada.

supply

E-Commerce Logistics and Supply Chains: Journey to the Future

The transition of commerce to an electronic format is a well-established and economically sound process which is in its prime. Shopping and paying online has already become an integral part of modern life. Conversion of e-commerce platforms is more than 7% versus just 3% in the retail sector. But how has the transformation of e-commerce affected logistics?

The transportation of products remains a physical process that cannot be realized through the Internet. However, electronic administration of logistics processes is available now, and advanced technologies help optimize the product movement along the supply chain. How does this all happen and what are the current trends – let’s understand.

Why Classic Logistics Has Become Obsolete

The answer is simple: needs are growing.

If we immediately exclude the possibility that a business delivers goods on its own without involving third parties, then, in any case, there is some company in the chain between the brand and the consumer. With its help, goods get into the hands of buyers from different cities and countries.

But if earlier, in most cases, it was a matter of delivering the product to stores and other retail structures, now everything is much more sophisticated. Buyers may request delivery to their nearest post office, special pick-up point, or even directly to their home. This required a qualitative change in storage conditions and technologies used.

Reasons for the Rapid Development of Logistics

In order to take their place under the sun in a trading niche, brands choose the most effective methods. This is what is most appreciated by any buyer – a wide range of products and short delivery time: who would want to wait for their goods for several months? The same goes for digital commerce. Therefore, you should not be fooled, for example, a case of Photza digital photo retouching service, when they reduced the delivery time from 3 days to 2 and began to send ready-made photos not only through your personal account on the website, but also duplicated by email link to Dropbox, increased conversion by 17.3%.

A good example of successful adapting to new realities is Amazon. By activating 50 picking warehouses throughout the United States, this giant got the opportunity to promise customers next-day delivery. With the help of a special code (SKU), each item was designated, then it arrived at the distribution center, and was ready to be further piece-picked for individual orders.

The closer the inventory to the buyer, the faster the delivery. Other retailers and businesses quickly realized this and began to deploy new capacities, using both internal departments and shared resources managed by third-party partners.

New Trends and Their Impact on Logistics

Implementation of Digitalization

This is a crucial thing that makes sense to mention. Advanced technologies, the ability to create and use customized software adapted for each business and its logistic model, electronic databases and much more allowed many brands to reach a new level.

Digitalization not only accelerates work, but it also provides greater stability and sustainability in the implementation of supply chains. With its help, brands can check the availability of products in any storehouse at any time, request information on the latest deliveries as well as the status of different orders, manage inventory and pre-compile optimal routes.

The Same-Day Delivery

The question of how to speed up the process of getting the product into the hands of the buyer continues to occupy the minds of brands. The most relevant category of goods for delivery on the same day is, of course, food. One can also include consumables here. Short-lived commodities do not stand the test of time, therefore, special conditions must be provided for them. And this is not a whim of the client or the quirk of the manufacturer, but an urgent need.

Moreover, there is a certain relationship between service and money, which people consider appropriate to pay for it. This balance should be carefully calculated and taken into account. It is also interesting that more than 60% of clients are willing to pay more in order to receive the goods on the same day or at least the next day. If the brand has the opportunity to fulfill this desire, then we can say that it is already one step ahead of its other less savvy competitors.

To reduce the cost of delivery and ensure its optimization, platforms such as Uber implement market models that analyze and compare supply and demand. For example, they select available couriers and orders received in real time and, by appointing a courier to deliver a product, seek to minimize the average travel time. The whole system is fully automated: large amounts of money were invested to ensure its correct functioning. Notably, they fully paid off, because as a result, the organization has received a platform that provides stable and trouble-free operation.

The scheme of working with local couriers is gaining momentum, and in the near future, many large retailers are expected to switch to it. This is convenient and, as indicated above, requires the greatest cost only at the initial stage of implementation. With the correct formulation of the problem and the determination of the goals pursued, success will not be long in coming: it remains only to maintain the system and periodically update it. No one wants to be left overboard as an outdated option.

Couriers Robots

Delivery of goods by robots is also not as far away as it might seem. Starship Technologies is already launching its standalone food delivery robots in Tempe. Self-guided robotic vehicles can carry orders weighing up to 40 pounds over a distance of 3 miles. Autonomous navigation is provided by a 360-degree camera, which makes a robot an absolutely independent counterpart to couriers, reducing labor costs by more than 70%. Bots work best in urban centers.

There is no information about possible obstacles to their movement yet. In addition, such machines encounter far fewer legal barriers than their unlucky colleagues – drones.

The Power of Social Media

While marketing and link building strategies allow the brand to improve its online visibility, social networks dominate in matters of instant communication with customers. Clarification of address details, obtaining prompt feedback and providing the information requested by customers optimize logistics processes from a coordinating point of view.

SaaS Options to Streamline Supply Chains

Manual supply chain management with modern production volumes nowadays seems almost impossible; to say the least, then certainly both an outdated and inefficient method. Therefore, many businesses resort to various software-as-a-service supply management options.

This process became especially popular after the entry of cloud computing into the game. It made available timely informational and structural updates and created easy ways to manage infrastructure costs.

Advanced Product Tracking Scheme

The use of GPS has become another milestone in the history of an e-commercial boom. With its help, it became possible to track the location of the goods at any stage of their journey, whether it be moving to a regional storehouse or last-mile delivery. Moreover, tracking is a useful option for customers: they can clearly imagine and assume how much they have left to wait for their goods.

In the event of an unforeseen situation, brands can immediately detect problems and take all necessary measures to restore the procedure for transporting products to the buyer.

In the End

Modern problems require modern solutions. Therefore, in parallel with the new e-commerce opportunities, up-to-date options appear that handle the transportation of small and large goods equally well. Digitalization has given a significant impetus to the growth of new capabilities. Timely delivery at a price that satisfies the customer is what businesses strive for by updating their logistics models.

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Marie Barnes is a Marketing Communication Manager at LinksManagement, where you can buy real backlinks, and is a writer for gearyoda. She is an enthusiastic blogger interested in writing about technology, social media, work, travel, lifestyle, and current affairs.

boohoo

The Boohoo’s Trade Ascendency – What Can we Learn?

The Coronavirus crisis has taken it’s fair share of victims in the world of retail, tolling the death knell for a whole slew of companies including Debenhams, Long Tall Sally, Cath Kidson, Warehouse and Oasis. And yet, recent news tells us all is not lost – Boohoo has stepped in and bought the online businesses of both Warehouse and Oasis for a bargain £5.25m. It’s no surprise that e-commerce based retailers have been less hard-hit than their high-street counterparts, but even so, the majority of e-tailers have reported losses during the crisis. Not so Boohoo. Despite a slight downturn when the crisis hit, sales shot back up in May and they closed the first quarter with a 45% sales increase on the previous year. So what is it that makes Boohoo so special?

Their secret it seems is in their provisioning – the “Test and Repeat” model. Rather than making major forward orders and holding large amounts of stock in their warehouse, they instead purchase small product runs, test them on the site, and then restock quickly the products that work well, discarding those that don’t. This has been vital during the COVID-19 crisis as it allowed Boohoo to switch their product range from party and club styles to loungewear and athleisure within a matter of days, adapting to their audience’s requirements without missing a beat. As the retail sector faces an uncertain future it’s worth considering whether this business model may be the solution for retailers everywhere, whatever their size.

The difficulty is sourcing products quickly enough to make it work. There’s no point in having a successful test-run of a certain product if, when the first batch sells out, your restock order from suppliers in China or India can take up to 2 months to arrive – by this point the bird will have well and truly flown. Boohoo combats this by stocking mainly UK based suppliers, and with imports affected by travel restrictions and breaks in the supply chain, sourcing products locally is, without doubt, the obvious solution (particularly with Brexit on the horizon). Some retailers may balk at the higher prices, but with lower risks and less deadstock, the benefits do seem to outweigh the increased costs.

The Coronavirus crisis has forced an entire industry to stop and think, literally. How can we change the way we work to face the challenges that have taken us all by surprise? Short-order provisioning may be a way for businesses to adapt to this new situation and respond to the rapid changes in consumer demand that are sure to continue over the coming months, however, this is likely to be a step outside of the comfort zone for many retailers who are used to ordering for season months in advance.

The good news is that there are simple options to help with the switch to the “Test and Repeat” model. TradeGala offers ready-to-ship stock from over 50 independent fashion brands covering womenswear, menswear, childrenswear, accessories, gifts and shoes. It’s simple to register and you can go from initial order to receipt of goods in just a few days. Whether or not the recent changes signal the future of the fashion retail industry, as with any business, adaptation is survival. Is your retail business ready for the “new normal”?

ecommerce

What are Common Mistakes Ecommerce Newbies Make?

Ecommerce businesses have recently seen a growth in their sales, and many business people have decided to start their own ecommerce business to capitalize on how well ecommerce has performed during COVID. However, newbies tend to make common mistakes that could easily be avoided if they caught them on time. These mistakes do not happen due to a lack of interest or knowledge, but probably due to the speed in which people are trying to jump into business. Once you realize the errors, you can easily correct them with a little more research.

The most common mistake newbies make is starting out with a new product. They try to create their own new product, instead of offering a product that is already trending. It would be better to start by following a trend to get people interested in the brand. This way, your business will attract more customers who want to purchase a product they have already seen others use and know it works, or it will fulfill their needs. By starting out with a new product, something people do not know nor trust, can set you back and lead to failure.

Some also choose to sell a high-ticket product. This means it will be a much higher cost per purchase, and you will need to have a set budget separated for advertising costs. Starting with high-cost products can be too big of a step to launch your business. You should focus on starting with a product within your budget to guarantee that you will not be losing money and your revenue will meet your goals.

Another common mistake is people not understanding their metrics correctly. There are several metrics to keep in mind.  Some of the most important ones are:

-Email click-through-rate.

-Cost per acquisition.

-Organic acquisition traffic.

-Social media engagement.

-Micro to Macro Conversion Rates.

-Average order value.

-Sales Conversion Rates.

-Customer retention rate.

-Customer lifetime value.

-Repeat customer rate.

-Refund and return rate.

-Ecommerce churn rate.

-Net promote score.

-Subscription rate.

The key metrics–the ones you really need to know and understand–to start your ecommerce are advertising cost, cost of goods, and revenue. It is particularly important to understand them before you go into business because the lack of knowledge can easily mean loss of money when you start advertising. Make sure you understand the cost per purchase and know how to make it work according to your budget.

One common mistake newbies tend to make is not setting up the right payment processors to accept the purchases. An example of that could be PayPal putting your money on hold for the next 30 to 60 days. To avoid situations like this, you need to find processors that were specifically created for ecommerce businesses and can make this transaction easier for you and for your customers.

Luckily, these mistakes are avoidable. The most important step is to do thorough research and understand your return on ads spent. You need to have an advertisement budget set aside; to spend and to have in case you lose money. Create a spreadsheet with your cost of goods and your revenue. Find merchant processors that are experts on ecommerce and suppliers who can provide the best prices to lower your cost of goods.

Starting an ecommerce business is like starting any other business. You need to be prepared to do it, understand what it takes to start a business and have the knowledge of what steps you need to be taking. If you do your research and know your key elements, you will be able to avoid all the common mistakes newbies make.

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Steven Ridzyowski has been a leader in the eCommerce/digital media buying space for over ten years. Ridzyowski takes pride in being self-taught in all aspects of his career. It’s probably why he is such a driven entrepreneur today! He started out of high school, deciding to never go to college and learning advertising blogs with Google AdSense and taking on what would soon become his career and passion.

After a couple of years doing that, Ridzyowski was introduced to affiliate marketing. During that time (2008-2010), cellphones and ringtones were becoming popular, and Ridzyowski became an affiliate in the ringtone niche for a few years. Little did he know, he was paying “influencers” on YouTube to have links for ringtone offers in the music video description, before “influencers” became the sensation they are now.

As he grew and became a successful affiliate marketer, he worked alongside many advertisers and colleagues. Ridzyowski then went on to create his own white label skincare brand, which became one of his pivotal successes.

Between the moment of changing from affiliate marketing to owning and running digital media buying for his own skincare brand, he started to follow trends, learning the ins and outs of digital marketing, spending over $30m in paid digital ads across the entirety of his career. Ridzyowski mastered different advertising platforms, generating income across many businesses in various niches and verticals.

Today, Steven Ridzyowski is focused heavily on e-commerce and marketing, especially with his new agency, which offers a turnkey solution for e-Commerce.  Ridzyowski has mastered everything from product research, to product trends, to marketing in all kinds of niches. In the past three years, he has created converting funnels to growing multiple 6 to 7-figure stores with his agency. He has helped hundreds of companies, both large and small, reach their full potential and created an online presence for them. Ridzyowski is also a member of the Forbes Business Council and the Young Entrepreneur Council.

Connect with Steve Ridzyowski on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenridzyowski/

Follow Steve Ridzyowski on Instagram @ StevenRidzyowski

“Like” Steve Ridzyowski on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StevenRidzyowskiOfficial/

Follow Steve Ridzyowski on Twitter @ SteveRidzyowski

Watch Steve Ridzyowski on YouTube at

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf-IaxhjT9vKP_P-bkmam8Q

delivery

Is your Ecommerce Caught Between Delivery Delays and Voided Service Guarantees? Strategies to Survive this Situation.

The pandemic has disrupted ecommerce businesses in unique ways. While a few ecommerce stores went bust, others doubled their revenue overnight. Regardless the parcel volumes continue to soar. The parcel volumes are so high that even major shipping carriers like FedEx and UPS are overwhelmed. For example, FedEx alone saw a 35%-40% increase in B2C deliveries. An unprecedented rise in shipments has forced both the carriers to resort to undertaking stringent actions.

Carriers Suspend Service Guarantees

FedEx and UPS have suspended money-back guarantee for ground and priority services. Let’s take a minute to understand what this means for merchants. An escalation in order volumes directly impacts the carrier’s on-time delivery performance. It is almost a given that merchants will experience a minimum of 20% increase in delays. An explosion in sales, impatient customers, and shoddy delivery experience. Add to it, COVID uncertainty and unaccountability resulting from voided service guarantees. Sounds like a disaster in the making?

When delays are imminent

With the growing volume of residential deliveries clogging their network, carriers may redirect traffic to relieve congestion. Suspension of guarantees also means that FedEx or UPS can switch your priority shipments to lower-cost ground mode without notice. Expect more delays for overnight and priority shipments. While you pay for a premium service there is no way you can hold carriers accountable.

Watch out for COVID-19 Surcharges

In order to mitigate the strain on their delivery network, UPS followed by FedEx has come up with peak volume surcharges. A $30 surcharge as additional handling charges and $0.40 for services like FedEx SmartPost or UPS surepost. But the surcharge that retailers must be most concerned about is the residential area surcharge. A surcharge of $0.30 will be levied on all orders that are to be delivered to residences.

Strategies to survive

The disastrous combination of delivery delays and rising shipping costs can ruin your sales revenue. It is crucial to take steps to mitigate the impact of COVID on your shipping costs as well as customer experience.

Here are a few strategies to follow:

1. Re-negotiate your shipping contract: UPS or FedEx can’t spring a surprise charge. Especially during these trying times. Work through your shipping profile to figure out the impact of these charges on your costs. Negotiate with your FedEx or UPS rep and draw up a special contract for the COVID situation.

2. Consider charging for order delivery: Free and fast delivery has been your brand’s USP. However, if including a shipping fee helps your business stay afloat, don’t shy away. Don’t let the additional surcharge eat into your profit margin.

3. Delays should not deter you: Factor in for delays while revisiting the estimated date of shipments on your shipping page.  Communicate well in advance to your customer support team. Mention the changes to delivery times due to COVID On your home page.

4. Over-communicate with your customers: Let your customers know at all times where their package is. Stay on top of your orders at all times. Act quickly in case of a delivery exception.

5. Audit your invoices: Businesses are slashing all the excess spending. As for ecommerce, you should start by auditing your shipping invoice. It is more critical than ever to examine each and every line item on your invoice. This can help you save 10%-12% of your shipping costs.

The peak volume surcharges and service guarantee suspension are supposedly temporary. When things go back to normal, FedEx and UPS are likely to reinstate these service guarantees. However, with no clear timeline in businesses must prepare to navigate the status-quo as long as it lasts.

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Simon Perkins is a Shipping Cost Management expert at AuditShipment.com, a real-time parcel monitoring and AI-powered audit service that provides businesses with deep shipping intelligence and actionable cost recovery insights.

layout

How to Optimize Your Warehouse Layout

The design of your warehouse can either expedite or hinder your entire operations. It’s why it’s important to update your warehouse layout to best optimize your work area. However, it’s not just enough to rearrange a few aisles and place a few stickers.

Every warehouse is different from the other, but there are some universal tips anyone can use. One of the biggest warehouse layout tips would be to map out the entire layout on paper before anything, that way you can measure your needs and figure out what can fit where.

There’s a lot that goes into designing a new warehouse layout, such as which equipment to use and how much space should be dedicated to storage.

BigRentz took note and created a helpful infographic (below) for anyone looking to set up a new warehouse layout.

 

BigRentz Warehouse Layouts

 

retailers

Fashion Retailers & Brands will need to Adapt As the Industry Emerges from the Pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the entire industry into crisis. Beyond its tragic human cost, the disruption inflicted on businesses has been unprecedented. Footfall has disappeared from the high street as people practice social distancing, while demand for non-essential products such as fashion has dwindled.

With international flights grounded and much of Europe and the United States on lockdown, boutiques are concerned about how they will shift this season’s summer dresses and beachwear. Likewise, small independent fashion brands are apprehensive about retail sell-through and how their stockist partners will be able to pay their invoices.

For many businesses, innovation will be key to getting through this extremely challenging time. The government has laid out plans to help businesses with schemes such as loans and grants. However, this type of aid will only stretch so far.

Some boutiques are taking drastic measures to reach their customers. Several closed their bricks-and-mortar stores early on, deciding to concentrate on their online offering to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, those retailers without an online presence have been thinking outside of the box. Some have locked their doors for one-to-one appointments while others are conducting telephone consultations on FaceTime and personal shopping sessions via WhatsApp.

But selling to customers is just one part of retailing. Buying for the store and its shoppers is just as critical for sustaining a profitable business. Trade shows, buying trips and fashion shows are a fundamental part of the chain – and we have already seen many cancellations since the outbreak began to take hold. Will the pandemic be over when brands re-open their order books for SS21?

Forward ordering is another concern for many small independent retailers right now. With sales of SS20 season stock now under threat, many are worried about AW20 orders written just weeks ago arriving in July and August. If they decide to cancel now, what happens if sales begin to pick up and they’re left with empty rails? Likewise, if they don’t cancel, will they end up with surplus stock that they can’t pay for?

For many, using budgets to buy in-season offers a straightforward solution. Because when the panic subsides and sales begin to pick up – which they inevitably will – ensuring that stores have the right stock in place for shoppers will once again be paramount.

B2B fashion marketplaces such as TradeGala will become increasingly important for retailers. Effectively removing the need to travel or visit trade shows and showrooms, buyers can browse multiple brands online and place orders directly. The brands on the site offer in-season delivery, meaning retailers can order what they need as and when they need it. Plus, it’s easy to check live stock at a glance so buyers can see exactly what’s available with just a few clicks – minimizing any concern surrounding supply chains.

For brands, TradeGala is offering free registration during this crisis period to offer time to prepare for when the market revives. The marketplace is also building its international following of buyers, allowing labels to reach buyers in markets that are less affected by the crisis to help minimize the drop in sales.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and the retail sector needs to adapt in order to survive. There is a challenging time ahead, but retailers and brands are working together in new and effective ways. More than ever before, it’s time to support each other. And if there’s one thing this industry is good at it’s triumphing over adversity.

small businesses

U.S. Metros With the Most Small Businesses Per Capita

Small businesses across the United States face dire circumstances following the COVID-19 outbreak. While each individual small business might seem inconsequential to the broader economy, in aggregate, these firms are critical to the country’s financial well-being.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees makeup approximately 95 percent of American business establishments and employ 40 percent of private sector workers. These 7.4 million small businesses (or 2.27 per 100 residents) also account for roughly a third of total private sector payroll.

Unfortunately, research shows that small businesses and their workers are particularly vulnerable during recessions and other periods of economic hardship. A recent survey conducted by the New York Fed found that even prior to the pandemic, 64 percent of small businesses faced financial challenges in the preceding 12 months. The same survey reported that a two-month loss of revenue would cause 86 percent of firms to take a serious financial action, such as using the owner’s personal savings, taking out a loan, or cutting staff salaries.

Moreover, small businesses in some industries have a larger economic impact than others. Among small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, those in accommodation, food services, and retail trade—coincidentally, the sectors hit hardest by COVID-19—employ the most workers. These industries, combined, account for more than 16 million employees and $362 billion in annual payroll.

Like the businesses themselves, small business employees are also more financially vulnerable than their large-firm counterparts. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that fewer small business employees have access to retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, life insurance, or disability insurance. Troublingly, only half of employees in small businesses have health insurance through their company and only two-thirds have paid sick leave.

While small businesses are a critical component of the national economy, some parts of the country depend more on small businesses than others. To find the metropolitan areas with the most small businesses, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review website for workers’ compensation insurance and construction software, analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked each location according to the number of small businesses per 100 residents. Researchers also included statistics on the total number of small businesses, the number of retail, accommodation, and food service businesses, and the share of workers who are self-employed. For the analysis, small businesses were defined as those employing fewer than 50 workers.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, locations were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: large metros (1,000,000 residents or more), midsize metros (350,000-999,999 residents), and small metros (less than 350,000 residents).

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the most small businesses per capita:

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.com/research/cities-with-the-most-small-businesses

retail

The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Retail

Online supply store DK Hardware examines how the pandemic is changing the habits and overall consumer behavior of online shoppers.

After more than a month of confinement, we all dream of the day when everything returns to how it was before, and we can resume our not so old habits. However, it is more realistic to think that COVID-19 has come to stay and that, after this first devastating wave, the entire population will have to remain extremely responsible and we will suffer the consequences of this pandemic for longer than we would like. We do not stop living one of those moments in history in which the foundations of our society are shaken and we experience profound changes that will prevent us from returning to the point where we were a few weeks ago.

This first month of confinement is forcing us to adopt new habits and customs that we will maintain once the state of alarm is lifted, customs that will leave consequences in multiple aspects of our lives. In this post we are going to focus on everything related to new buying habits, otherwise, it would be too long.

Change of Habits

One of the first pieces of news that hit us all hard was knowing that we could only step on the street to buy basic necessities. When we found out, we all ran to loot the supermarkets as if we had seen the four horsemen of the apocalypse arrive. Once the first moment of panic was over (fear is very powerful and completely irrational), we gradually adapted to the new situation and discovered that these small forays into the streets in search of food, medicine, within others, it was anything but pleasant: lines surrounding the supermarkets with people more than 1.5 meters dressed from top to bottom with gloves and masks, security measures to access the premises, lonely buyers fleeing from anyone who invades their personal space … measures completely justified and that we must respect, but that makes it almost traumatic to go shopping.

But this change does not stop here: during the last month, we did not know very well if the rest of online retailers dedicated to the sale of products that are not essential items would continue to operate normally. This uncertainty took its toll on this ecommerce, but once the doubt was cleared and, seeing that the orders were made and arrived relatively normally, we found the second great change in habits: buying everything that we need or want in online stores. Yes, even supplies for your home.

Has your bathroom shower window broken, and you cannot go to your usual store? You can buy it online. Have you been thinking about changing your kitchen’s plumbing system now that you’re spending more time at home? Well, you can buy it online. Companies like DK Hardware, one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada, have your back.

Think Global, Act Local

Online retail is there to satisfy your needs and now it has more prominence than ever. This situation is causing many SMEs and local businesses that saw that the online channel was only a complement or did not even consider working on that channel, have woken up from one day to the next and now consider it their priority (and if not I don’t know what they are waiting for). While many companies, both large and small, keep their productivity levels in check thanks to the option of telecommuting, many businesses are going digital so as not to be left behind and remain part of the game.

And After This, What?

The post-coronavirus world will be an even more digitized world in which the battle to get users to choose us will be even fiercer: let’s not forget that a large part of the population does not have the purchasing power it had before the pandemic and that the longer the confinement lengthens, the longer and more severe will be the economic crisis that the country is facing. In these circumstances, these factors will be key:

Price: The price war will continue to be something that online retail has to live with. The excessive stock in the warehouses together with a society that is going to look at the price with a magnifying glass, will force the stores to have competitive and attractive products.

Loyalty: With so many new players on the board, it will be more difficult to get your buyers to be loyal and make recurring purchases in the same store. Therefore, establishing a good loyalty strategy is going to be mandatory.

Omnichannel: It is more important than ever to attract and retain users, so we cannot forget the power of working multiple channels at the same time, building a powerful brand image and with the aim of being more in contact with our users: social networks, email marketing, SEO, SEM are some of the examples of channels that must be perfectly coordinated and that will work as one.

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Featured in the Best Online Shops 2020 – Newsweek, DK Hardware is one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada.

supermarkets

From Physical Retail to Online Business: Marketing and Logistics Principles for Supermarkets

Supermarkets and retailers around the world began distributing goods via order channels over a decade ago, often as a future-oriented addition to a minor business segment, complementing standard services. As such, ordering online and receiving groceries via delivery is nothing new. Caught off-guard by the COVID-19 outbreak, however, supermarkets and food-retailers today are facing the challenge of switching their business model from physical retail to online order and delivery with unprecedented urgency. With physical distancing measures in place across entire countries, people increasingly prefer to avoid purchasing their groceries as walk-in customers to safeguard their health and well-being.

In this situation, the supermarket industry finds itself in a fundamentally altered market environment. The changes required from them are profound. Their typical infrastructure, such as buildings and storage centers, was strategically designed to walk customers through a supermarket, positioning products on shelves as per marketing and product placement logic, factors that become obsolete in an online retail world. What matters now is safe, reliable, and fast supply of customers’ online orders via dedicated distribution services. Logistics is at the core of addressing these challenges and the interface between marketing and logistics indeed becomes vital for fast implementation in the current scenario.

For a swift short-term switch, the prerequisites are two-fold: On the one hand, the supply of selected products needs to be covered either through local production or through available imports. On the other, a functioning online ordering front-end needs to be made available to customers. Yet, especially for supermarkets, it is the seamless and efficient operation of the “pick and packing” functionality that has now become the bottleneck.

This has several consequences that can be addressed: First, online supermarkets cannot provide the full portfolio of goods to their customers, at least for the time being. Sales analysis is required to meaningfully reduce the portfolio of products available online, and hence decrease the complexity of assembling orders later on. Amid the current circumstances, food and canned products will have higher importance than non-food items, and any of the latter to be upheld would need to be chosen sensibly. While customers may have less choice, portfolio reduction will help significantly in maintaining capacity for faster, more reliable physical delivery.

Second, shortened product portfolios can be divided into two categories: High runners and low runners. High runners are regularly purchased in high volumes, and their turnaround is quick. Low runners might be appealing in the physical retail world, but have less meaning in the current landscape. Third, high-running products within a simplified offering need to be stored differently for now. Usually, they would be placed decentralized along strategic points throughout the supermarket to attract attention. In a recalibrated setup, identified high runners need to be stored centrally in a dedicated area of the market where employees have unhindered access for fast “pick and packing”. Fourth, the commissioning time needed for workers to assemble an incoming order, needs to be kept as low as possible by minimizing physical distances required to walk.

Fifth, in packing the online orders received and getting them ready for dispatch, standardized package box sizes can be used to further reduce complexity. Just like in a game of “Tetris”, utilizing uniform cubic sizes will allow for packages to be stored in delivery vehicles in the most effective fashion. This is particularly relevant for food retailers that do not rely on third-party logistics providers for reasons of quality and food safety assurance.

Sixth, physical delivery of the commissioned orders should be prioritized and planned in a calculated way. Typical linear concepts such as “first order in, first delivery out,” will not be efficient under the current circumstances. Seventh, because of the reduced product portfolio, the products offered should not be static, but optimized on a regular basis. In other words, the now required short-term shift should not limit the industry to short-term thinking. Requiring customers to order in excess of minimum order amounts, imposing high delivery charges, expecting customers to accept long delivery times, accepting the jamming of orders, amongst others pitfalls – all of which we are currently witnessing internationally, can be avoided by emphasizing the outlined marketing and logistics principles.

While it is clear that supermarkets are at the heart of consumer goods supply during the current pandemic, it would not be reasonable to compare them with established online giants such as Amazon and others. Their business model and logistical setups are different, from the outset. This naturally calls for customers to exercise patience and good-will with their supermarkets for a while. Supermarkets are logistical hubs, run by people, for people, through people, even if for the time being, they may appear as an anonymous online screen only.

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Frank Himpel is a faculty member of the Engineering Management and Decision Sciences division at College of Science and Engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar. Prior to moving to Qatar with his family in 2018, Frank served as a professor of business administration and logistics in Germany, where he also received his academic degrees. His research into aviation and air transportation management has taken him to several countries around the world.

 About Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Innovating Today, Shaping Tomorrow

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF), was founded in 2010 as a research-intensive university that acts as a catalyst for transformative change in Qatar and the region while having global impact. Located in Education City, HBKU is committed to building and cultivating human capacity through an enriching academic experience, innovative ecosystem, and unique partnerships. HBKU delivers multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate degrees through its colleges, and provides opportunities for research and scholarship through its institutes and centers. For more information about HBKU, visit www.hbku.edu.qa.