In the time of COVID-19, the economy is suffering a major downturn and all businesses in almost all industries are going through a challenging time. We can only hope that this pandemic comes to an end sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, we need to analyze the ways that we run our businesses and serve our customers. The universe threw us an obstacle, so it's time for us to evolve.
Fortunately, no matter what happens in the larger world, people will always love their pets more than anything. As owners and operators of pet stores, we know that there will be an eternal market for the pet supplies and pet services that we offer.
However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, our businesses may see some changes in the ways we serve our customers and their four-legged friends. It's hard to know what changes will be temporary and which ones will be permanent moving forward, so we have to roll with the punches.
You are not the only person thinking about all of these things; our industry as a whole is working on figuring out solutions together. Read on to learn some ideas and strategies to apply to not only help your business survive in this pandemic but also perhaps even thrive in it.
In the Beginning
When COVID-19 first reached American soil, no one knew what to happen or what to do. As a result, many people panic shopped for items they thought they would need in the coming months and stocked up big. This, of course, included pet supplies like food, treats, cat litter, and other items. Many consumers did all of this shopping in person, even if they were usually online shoppers only, because of concerns about delivery delays.
In time, everyone calmed down a bit and realized that our nation's supply chains were at first a bit stressed, but were nowhere near collapsing. This was comforting news for all, of course. However, the spike in purchasing fell quickly as most pet owners realized they bought enough pet food to last many months.
This worked out well for consumers because stay-at-home orders soon followed in most cities and states. Although pet supply stores remained open in the majority of places in the United States after being deemed essential businesses, these orders kept the bulk of people in their homes for safety. Some people still came out to buy pet food and supplies, but business was and still remains slower than usual.
Now, we are trapped in a lull. There are no fewer pets out there; we can assume that at some point, business will return to usual. Unfortunately, it's a waiting game with no end in sight, and for the time being, pet stores all must do what they can to stay afloat.
How Pet Stores Can Survive This Pandemic
Pet stores have been doing business the same way for a long time. Customers come in, they browse, they choose an item, and they check out and go home. Unfortunately, in a world with COVID-19, that chain of events is somewhat broken, and we need to cater to the wants and needs of our customers while keeping employees and those customers feeling safe.
Applying one or more of the following services or strategies to your customers will help your business pull through. And who knows? You may find them even more successful than you ever would have imagined, and you may end up keeping them going even after this is all over and behind us once and for all.
If your store does not already have a website, that should be your first order of business. eCommerce is blowing up right now as more people stay home and shop online for delivery by mail. A website allows your customers to see the products you offer and what is in stock. Then they can order them for delivery or curbside pickup.
One way to serve customers in a conscious way is to offer delivery of the products that they wish to purchase. If your store did not offer this service before, you will have to promote delivery so your customers know that it is available to them. Advertise it everywhere you can, and also encourage your employees to mention it right away when a customer calls for information.
Free delivery will be the most attractive option for your customers, but if that's not feasible for your business, a small fee is not out of the question.
- Curbside Service
Many consumers are still hesitant to walk into retail stores to shop right now, but curbside pickup has become commonplace nationwide for all sorts of stores and restaurants. In April alone, curbside pickup of goods increased by 208%. Offering this service to your customers can help put their minds at ease. This will bring more business your way without costing you a dime.
- Changes to In-Store Shopping
If you want customers to come into your store, then you have to make them feel safe. In order to do so, you must show that your business is taking this pandemic very seriously. Encourage or require your staff to wear masks when serving customers and clean common areas on a very regular basis. Provide antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer and create signage that reminds customers and staff of social distancing recommendations.
Many stores are setting aside certain hours for older or high-risk customers. This too helps to show your customers that you want them to feel safe and secure.
- A Focus on Marketing
When business is slow, it's hard to convince yourself to invest a lot of money in marketing. However, you likely know from past experience that good, focused marketing can make a world of difference. While people are stuck at home, email marketing and general internet marketing might be your best bets.
Reach out to the customers on your mailing list with specials and sales and to let them know about the changes you've made during the pandemic for safety. Consider investing in online advertising that can attract brand new customers to your store. Aggressively promote your sales on your social media accounts and through your website as well.
Pet owners always need pet food, but sales and specials on things like pet toys can help encourage customers to shop with you during this pandemic. Pet apparel is a great thing to promote as well. People want their pets to be happy and entertained during this challenging time.
We Will Survive
Thankfully, pet stores are an industry for which there will always be a need. The American people love their pets and they want to give them everything necessary to keep them happy. None of that has changed during this pandemic; in fact, people are more focused on their pets than ever. Pet store owners simply need to figure out how to best serve customers from a distance and meet them where they are. Through adept marketing and through new ways of providing service, the pet shop industry will survive.
If you are interested in learning more about the wholesale pet products offered by Mirage Pet Products and how you can offer them in your store, please check out the wholesale section of our site. We look forward to doing business with you soon.