How IBDs can remain opportunistic throughout COVID-19

For many years the majority of IBDs have relied upon bricks-and-mortar sales. For retailers to adapt during these strange and unfamiliar times, many will have to acknowledge that there is likely to be a significant shift towards online shopping during the lockdown.

Now is the time to consider creating and/or updating your online marketing efforts. Respecting public safety means adjusting your business to become as accessible as possible for people that are unable to leave their homes.

The ACT has created some guidance for retailers choosing to remain open to help with continuing with day-to-day business and remaining safe at the same time, as well as a range of POS posters for you to display in-store.

Build your online brand
Take this opportunity to tailor your business to the millions of customers that are already shopping online, and the millions more that will be joining them during this isolation period. Appeal to this audience by building a robust online brand using social media platforms and your own website.

Evaluate your website and ensure it’s all up to date. There is a plethora of resources available online to aid you in refreshing your website design and ensuring that it is fully optimised for search engines. The Google webmaster courses are designed to aid you in building a high-quality website and improve your site’s content and user experience.

In addition to refreshing your website, take this time to access all of the social media platforms that can be used as assets to reflect your brand. If you haven’t already created profiles, now is the time to build an online presence.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow you to connect with current and potential customers. These platforms also create a way for you to keep your stakeholders up-do-date with your business- such as what products and services you are offering and how you are catering to customers throughout the current uncertainties. They also provide a way to keep up with the cycling trade and investigate what your customers are looking for right now.

Investing time in building your online presence will help to future-proof your business and help it to flourish without the existence of a physical store.

Adapting your services
Whether you are choosing to remain open or shut up shop, online retail remains a viable and encouraged option. Postal and delivery services are currently still running as normal, which may be an option for sending bicycle accessories to further away locations. Mail order might have seen its heyday but now be the time to resurrect it.

In addition to using delivery services, you may consider providing your own delivery option. If you have a vehicle that fits bicycles in it then this could be a great help for any customers that are self-isolating but would like to service their bicycle to use as a form of transportation or exercise.

However, please ensure that you check your vehicle insurance before committing to this option as standard car insurance policies may not cover the use of vehicle for business purposes. Contact your insurance provider/broker to check if they can extend your business and vehicle insurance to cover
home delivery.

Customers can place orders on the phone, through your own website, or another online platform such as WhatsApp, email, text, a Twitter direct message or a Facebook message. ACT partner NearSt has recently introduced the option to add WhatsApp chat functionality on your NearSt shop page, which is another useful way of keeping in touch with your customers and taking orders.

When carrying out collections and deliveries, ensure you adopt a contactless model by eradicating all forms of contact between yourself and the customer and maintaining a two-metre distance at all times. The ACT has provided a step-by-step process that you can follow to provide home deliveries and collections while still following Government social distancing guidelines.

Payment for services or products can be taken online or over the phone. The most common option is a card-not-present card transaction, whereby the customer’s long card number and security code are manually entered on your terminal. Ensure you read the ACT’s advice on how to avoid card-not-present fraud before taking any payments. Other payment options include using a virtual terminal provider such as PayPal or Worldpay or exchanging cash in a hygienic manner.

Optimistic as well as opportunistic
Weathering the coronavirus crisis as an independent bike shop can seem daunting, however, it is important to identify ways in which you can reach and engage with customers throughout this time, rather than waiting for customers to come to you.

It is still uncertain as to whether the bicycle industry will be positively or negatively affected over the next few weeks, as various European countries are reporting different outcomes of how COVID-19 is affecting bicycle shops so far. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to ensure that your business comes out of this crisis fighting.

Take a step back from the chaos and evaluate all business assets – including your website, social media channels, stock, premises, team and area of expertise. Consider how you can address the current wants and needs of your customers and the general public. You can find opportunities for innovation everywhere that will help your shop to survive, adapt and grow throughout these hard times. Strengthening these assets now will help towards long-term future-proofing your business as we draw closer to the light at the end of the tunnel.

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