Midsize Retailers Expand Their Communities In Response To Crisis

Joerg Koesters

Part of the “Navigating Disruption Today, Planning for Tomorrow” series

Disaster and crisis bring out the best in all of us. Whether we use our talents to help people, applaud the efforts of much-needed heroes, or offer our neighbors a moment of mental relief, we all tend to look inward and tap our hidden talents with ingenuity, resourcefulness, and compassion.

The same could be said for midsize retailers, especially as this pandemic affects categories in different ways. Many owners are buffering the damage of closing their stores for an indefinite amount of time by creating new revenue streams to pay the bills. Others are working hard to fulfill a surge in demand as supply chain capacity remains limited. Some businesses are sharing their talents at a cost to help their communities, neighbors, and customs stay safe and survive until the economy recovers.

Midsize retailers are pivoting their business models to reroute their sales channels, restructure processes, and move forward to stay alive. Whether they choose to reopen their storefront with an e-commerce site, engage consumers with a virtual sales event, or rely on social media posts to promote the brand, owners are finding that their success depends on their community’s strength.

Moving forward through disruption to discover a loyal following

A friend of mine runs a bookstore not far from my hometown that is quite popular among locals. The shop caters to a customer base that prefers to touch and read the first half of a chapter before buying a book. Furthermore, the staff, which is full of avid readers, makes the buying experience even more delightful by providing personalized recommendations based on the customer’s interest in a specific genre, topic, or author.

In many ways, my friend’s shop thrives on a community fueled through small, personal touches, not algorithms. But once the first signs of a COVID-19 outbreak emerged in my town, my friend knew he had to close his store until the virus is officially contained.

The store didn’t have a commerce site to lean back on to move inventory and break even, but it did have an active social media presence. My friend used this social platform to keep his community of customers and employees engaged. Awareness about new offerings is increasing. Sales are still being initiated through social media and processed through a mobile payment application. And the conversations that his customers enjoy are still being supported – from book recommendations to virtual book group chats.

My friend’s approach may be simple and will not resolve the revenue shortfall he is experiencing. But it speaks to the power of knowing how to reach, engage, and build a community.

By letting people find his virtual storefront on social media and provide the personal touches they expect, my friend offers a sense of normalcy and closeness that is sorely needed. And his customers will certainly remember this experience when they are finally able to safely leave their homes and ready to discover their next favorite book.

Turning a short-term solution into a strategic move toward the future

The current crisis is unquestionably overwhelming, confusing, and unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. But I am also witnessing tremendous resiliency from midsize businesses as they strategically use tools, such as Customer Confidence Pulse by Qualtrics, that can help carry them through this current disruption and build a foundation for the future.

Eventually, this moment will pass. The day will come when stay-at-home orders become a memory, stores can reopen, and people can freely move from place to place. And when this happens, businesses that have established and engaged a customer community early will be on a much faster trajectory toward sustainable recovery and growth.

For further exploration of how financial managers can navigate disruption today while planning for tomorrow, we invite you to join our webinar “Evolve Your Customer Engagement for Business Continuity and Future Growth.” 

 This blog is part of a series offering suggestions to help small and midsize companies weather the challenges related to the pandemic.  You might also be interested in this blog:  “What Midsize Companies Should Know About The Customer Experience in Times of Change.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAP BrandVoice

About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a technology marketing executive with 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products, having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.