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As consumer shopping patterns have changed in recent months, many brick-and-mortar stores are pivoting to delivery to keep their team members employed and customers supplied. While you might think of restaurants or groceries when you consider delivery, this channel can open doors for all types of retail establishments; for example, an independent toy store could deliver puzzles and games to provide family entertainment.
Here’s how to seamlessly make the shift to delivery.
Announce your updated business operations
Now is the time to activate all your communication channels, like email and social media, to communicate with customers. Assure them that after health and safety, your next priority is continuing to serve them with a delivery option.
Determine your delivery plan
To make delivery feasible and profitable, consider what goods should be delivered and how often. For example, you might benefit from limiting your delivery inventory to select items that you have an extensive stock of, which is relatively easy to deliver from a size and logistics standpoint.
To conserve resources, consider limiting delivery service to a few days a week, or only delivering specific menu items on a rotating schedule. A clothing store might cover one side of town Monday and Wednesday and the other side Tuesday and Thursday. If you have a full-service restaurant, try dinner entrees on the weekends and lunch items during the week to keep food ingredients and prep costs at a manageable level.
Offering free delivery sounds appealing, but it might not be financially feasible, depending on the extent of your delivery area and how many staff you’ll need to employ. Calculate whether you want to charge a distance fee or a per-delivery charge. Don’t hesitate to be transparent with your customers about why you’re charging; consumers today understand the challenges small businesses are facing to stay afloat. Talk to your drivers about how you will compensate them for deliveries — per mile, per shift, or per visit.
If you believe discounts will spur orders, think through a plan to encourage a trial without blowing all your profit. For example, you can offer the first delivery (or even better, the second or third delivery) free, or reduce the regular price for all delivered items by 10%. Another option is to bundle items so you can give a small price break without sacrificing profit; offer a dessert with two entrees at a reduced price, or have a “buy three games, get one free” special. You can also offer daily promotions to encourage repeat business.
Update your website
Even if you don’t regularly leverage eCommerce, you likely have a website that you can update with your delivery details. You should include:
Messaging on why you are pivoting to delivery
First, communicate any health and safety reasons for the change, as mentioned above. Then remember that consumers are eager to help cherished businesses, so share your story and explain that their support will allow you to keep your business running and your staff employed.
Details on your new online offerings
If you’re a restaurant, this might be a menu. If you’re another type of retailer, compile a list of products you can deliver. Include product photos and detailed descriptions (size, color, and styling information for clothing, or a list of ingredients for food items) to help customers feel more confident in their ordering and minimize the potential for returns or wasted products.
Highlight any discounts for certain products during specific time periods.
Let customers know where you deliver, the hours you’ll be delivering if they are limited, and how much advance notice you will need.
Communicate regularly through social media
Spread the word far and wide; use your personal platforms, but also search your town for Facebook pages that tout local businesses that are open for delivery, or websites that are aggregating small business options.
If you normally partner with community groups like local schools or the Chamber of Commerce, ask if they can share your news on their social media channels.
Post regularly, and include everything from daily specials to customer appreciation. Show videos of your employees prepping deliveries and an inside look at your current hygiene procedures to help assuage any worries consumers might have.
Let customers know how to reach you to place orders — whether it’s by landline, cellphone, email, or your website. Then make sure to check these channels regularly to ensure you haven’t missed an order. Follow up with customers to let them know their order was received, answer any questions they have, and keep them informed of delivery logistics.
Ensure employee safety for newbie delivery drivers
If your team doesn’t normally deliver, you’ll want to acclimate your drivers.
- Ensure employees have reliable transportation and that you and your team members are all adequately insured. Your business insurance provider can give you advice about how to determine if you are covered in case of a driver mishap and what you need to do to verify the insurance and driving records of anyone who will be delivering on your behalf.
- Talk to your team about safety measures, such as obeying all applicable driving laws, avoiding distracted driving, and parking in well-lit areas.
- Encourage contactless deliveries.
- Let customers know if you are a cash-free business to speed transactions and keep drivers safer.
- Remind drivers of proper hygiene requirements, such as washing hands before and after deliveries, using a disinfecting wipe on car surfaces, and using alcohol-based sanitizer as needed. Encourage them to wear latex gloves when making deliveries. Check local requirements surrounding current hygiene best practices to keep your team informed; for example, in most areas, masks are required.
During uncertain times, one ray of light is a strengthened sense of community. We are all in this together. Your customers will appreciate your efforts to continue to provide them with goods and services, and you can feel confident that the loyalty you’ve built will pay dividends for both the short- and long-term.
Your shift to delivery might allow you to engage with new customers who hadn’t considered you before, opening up new avenues for growth even after the current crisis subsides.