In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and with the on-going pandemic, one thing was abundantly clear. There is a dire need to extend financial services to our Out Islands. Answering that call and leading the charge in financial and tech innovation is the Central Bank of The Bahamas. In October 2020, CBOB announced their Sand Dollar's introduction - a blockchain-backed digital token pegged one-to-one to our Bahamian dollar and available to Bahamian individuals and businesses alike. This new currency is regulated and issued by the Central Bank of The Bahamas and allows us to buy and sell our goods and services and send money to one another digitally.
Read more about this fascinating Bahamian initiative in the International Monetary Fund's Finance & Development publication here:
The holidays are here, as difficult as that may be to believe. For those of us with retail or service businesses, we know without a doubt that this Christmas season will be far different. You may be wondering how you can make the most of this busy shopping period. Our Morley commercial agents, Chris Sands and Kayleigh Dickson, put together some thoughts on how you can best reach your potential clients and customers.
As we've seen throughout the year, our circumstances are constantly changing. Flexibility has proven to be key. Being prepared to make adjustments to your operations can only help now. Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients to maximize your sales potential this holiday season. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Start with your floor plan and work from there. Reconfigure your store space where possible. Widen the aisles and remove anything that may potentially take up space unnecessarily. Ensure there is enough space around the cashier's counter. Create marked social distancing points for your clients and customers standing in line. Where possible, aim for contactless payment options.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Signage for safety measures throughout your store space is crucial. Let your customers know upfront what they can expect when they shop in-store with you. Ensure that guidelines and procedures are clearly outlined.
"You want to make your customers feel as comfortable as possible during their shopping experience," note Chris and Kayleigh. "Encourage your sales staff to be vigilant about your store's safety measures. But also ensure they're creating a welcoming and helpful environment. Customer empathy is key."
The Bahamas Federation of Retailers released this Sunday a comprehensive list of suggested health and safety protocols. You can view these here.
This Sunday brought incredibly welcome news for us all – retail business owners, employees and patrons alike! We can't wait to get back to in-store shopping! As you open your doors to your customers again, take another look at your in-store operations plan. Does it need to be adjusted at all? Run a thorough review of your procedures ahead of the Christmas rush, so that you're ready if things change. Do you have a plan in place for outdoor seating or shade in anticipation of potential long lines? Do you offer curbside service by appointment? Reduce customer frustration by ensuring your operations are able to run as smoothly as possible. "If a customer is leaving their home and coming to your business in a mask, they are likely motivated to buy. Make sure you have a 'free and clear' operation with no hold ups during this purchasing cycle."
Another key consideration? While many of us are chomping at the bit to get back to in-store shopping, there are still some who are not quite comfortable with this yet, and who, despite things opening back up, may still prefer to avoid the crowds. How can they support their local retailers and community? How can they support you?
Take a look at this great incentive offered by John Bull. Now open for in-store shopping, they are continuing to promote their Curbside Service for their clients who are more comfortable with this approach. Their service is inviting, their instructions are clear, and their efforts are undoubtedly appreciated!
Check in with your staff and your customers and adjust where necessary. Knowledge is power, as they say!
Find New Opportunities and Brush Up on the Old
For retailers and service providers, these last two months of the year are often the busiest. Take the extra steps now, if you can, to find new opportunities for growth and ways to reach your customers. Don't wait for them to come to you. Consider new incentives. How can you make purchasing your products easier for your customers? Today's buying habits focus mainly on convenience and instant gratification. The easier and faster you can make a purchase for a potential buyer, the better. Make sure you have the fundamentals down, and stay open to new opportunities:
A website is a great sales tool, but it's not the only one available. There are still tools you can use to reach your potential client base. The easiest and most immediate way to do this is through social media.
Make sure you have a Facebook page and an Instagram account, at the very least. YouTube and Vimeo are also great options for video sharing. Use these tools to share your products and to let your followers know why they need to have your products. Think about the what, how, why, when and where. Be sure to communicate these points when promoting your goods and services. Photographs and video are key.
Many business owners are also utilizing live video as a way to reach their client base. One such company is Biggity Candles. Over the last several weeks, they've used the lockdown weekends productively. Through live video sessions, they've shared information about new holiday products and promotions.
When you want to really make the most of these tools, use them together. Use your social media to drive your traffic to your website. Add pricing to your products on your site, if you can. This way, you have the potential to generate sales seven days a week, 24 hours a day. CBS Bahamas has done an incredible job with maintaining an online presence throughout this pandemic. Their social media is strong, and they were able to maximize their sales potential by incorporating an online sales platform with their website. In a recent social media post, they listed the various ways their shoppers can make purchases:
"We agree. #Curbside is no fun. But, we're making retail easy thanks to the #Bahamas' largest online catalog. With guaranteed 2hr (or less) in-store pickup, $5 island-wide delivery, and 24/7 live agent chat; COVID-19 shopping has never been easier. Check us out today; our online store is #alwaysopen."
Another way to reach your customers? Email. Create attractive email flyers to send out to your clients and customers. Let them know ahead of time about new products and promotions you have slated for the holidays, as well as any changes to your operations. Keeping your customers informed is a must, and with so many different programs available, there's no reason you can't incorporate this into your marketing. Check out MailChimp, iContact or Constant Contact for a few options. They each offer pre-designed templates, taking the hard work out of the equation.
Consider using WhatsApp as a way to share information about your products as well. Check in with your regular clients and ask them if they'd like to be added to your messaging group. This is an easy, fast and effective way to share information with them. Whether it's a change in your store hours, or even a special holiday menu you're wanting to share!
Another option? Virtual Shopping appointments. Paper Clutch Giftsdoes a great job with this. They offer (and advertise) their virtual shopping appointments on social media. Incorporating tools like these lets people 'browse' your store without leaving their homes. They'll have the help of a personal shopper who can show them the products and offer great advice. It's a special touch that will leave a lasting impression. John Bull offers the service of a Personal Shopper and invites their customers to Whatsapp them for access!
It's not enough to speak to your customers. You need to be open to speaking with them. Be sure you respond to all online inquiries as quickly as possible. This will go a long way in building trust with your clients. Messaging on Facebook. DM on Instagram. Emails. Messaging apps through your website. WhatsApp. Find as many ways as possible to stay in touch.
Go the extra mile, if you can. Meet your customers where they are instead of waiting for them to come to you, and consider delivery. While this may not be an option for all retailers, for most it is. If you can't offer your own in-house delivery, find someone who can. A simple online search will give you a host of options to consider reaching out to.
Kraven offers everything from casual to fine dining, alcohol, grocery, pharmacy, and retail deliveries. Bahama Eats does as well. Mutru is another option. They partner with major local retailers to deliver goods to their consumers. Whatsmore, with support like this, you're not just adding another service to offer to your clients. You're gaining exposure and marketing support as a vendor of these programs. Lowe's Pharmacy recently added this service for their client base. Any customer can have their products delivered to their door using either the Kraven or Bahama Eats apps!
Put your business in front of your 'target market' at a low cost. Target customers through digital marketing, social media, online advertising, and Google SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Be sure to consider all available online options to maximize your reach!
A Helping Hand
These days, we could all use a hand. As a business owner, you know. Every bit helps. While you're working on making the most of potential profits for your own business this holiday season, don't forget to support those around you. Find ways to share the love – partner, collaborate, refer, encourage and support small businesses wherever you can. A little time, care and consideration goes a long way. It's the holidays, after all. A time for giving.
If you're a retailer and you're looking for online local resources and communities that you can follow and join, here are some great options to get you started: