Do you rely on physical stores or salons as primary or key distribution channels? Our CEO & Founder Luigi Matrone explores how digital activations could play a key role in helping such businesses generate demand and kick-start sales again when the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end.
Retail stores have been massively impacted by the ‘stay at home’ measures used to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that rely on physical distribution of their products through single or multiple small stores or locations have seen sales plummet over the past weeks.
Yet, with encouraging data coming out of countries like Italy and Austria , it’s time to look ahead to what needs to be done to help businesses like these resume their operations – and kick-start their sales and yours.
With China being one step ahead of the Western world in more ways than one, we can look east to see how retail stores could use digital channels to restart and generate demand once people are allowed to walk the streets again.
Livestreaming – a huge phenomenon in China
China is renowned for being miles ahead when it comes to digital adoption. But leveraging the global crisis to do business differently is an opportunity that many should grasp.
We have seen in some of our other articles how big a phenomenon livestreaming has become in China, with influencers assuming a central role in communication and, more specifically, in generating demand for retail products. 
It should come as no surprise that livestreaming has been used to an even greater extent to drive demand in China lately , with examples rolling in from every possible industry – including the automotive sector. 
Livestreaming is much less developed in the Western world, where ‘teleshopping’ – its venerable precursor – is still alive and kicking. However, leveraging ‘stories’ and ‘live videos’ might – when combined with influencer activations – prove equally effective when it comes to driving demand. 
Physical stores successfully using livestreaming
While this might seem like an unexpected means of supporting local physical stores, its potential is clear to see in examples like the following.
In China, a car dealer has turned to livestreaming to promote new post- COVID-19 offers to its customers, like free warranty extension, free disinfection of vehicles and more.
Each video generated a small number of views (200-300) compared with the numbers a big brand would be likely to achieve, but every view drove local demand.
Digital activations for supporting physical businesses
What can we take away from this? And what can companies that rely on physical stores as primary distribution channels do?
Local store owners and their directors or managers will not have the time or knowledge to properly activate their digital channels, as they will be focusing on resuming basic store operations, starting with cleaning and disinfecting their facilities.
Big corporations supplying them with their products or leveraging them as sales channels can step up and do the job for them by preparing post COVID-19 digital toolkits. These toolkits could include:
- Promotional guidance for the first six months after confinement
- In-store materials for such promotions carrying highly sensitive messages (in other words, be careful about how consumers will perceive each business)
- Conduct quick audits of the local store online presence and recommendations on how to adapt or change approaches; and ideally, if you have a strong enough influence, propose to cover costs as part of your commercial deal
- Clear guidance and digital assets or tools on how to activate Instagram, Facebook, Email Marketing activities and campaigns
- Clear guidance on what type of alternative services and opportunities can be proposed to consumers
We’re seeing exciting and innovative digital activities being used to safeguard physical businesses across a wide range of industries, from car dealers – as illustrated in the example from China above – to beauty and hair salons, opticians, cosmetic stores and more.
Necessity is the mother of all invention, as they say.
But there’s an important lesson to be learnt overall from this crisis that I and the eBusiness Institute team have pointed out on a number of occasions – namely that businesses need to embrace the omnichannel and eCommerce. And do so very quickly before another debilitating crisis rears its head.
Capability Building is one of the core services we offer at eBusiness Institute. We’ve recently launched a range of H.O.W. Capability Building programs designed to equip each function of your organisation with the skills to fly solo through the digital transformation.
Among these is our ‘Mastering Online Retailing’ webinar series, which both equips organisations with the skills to successfully sell their products online and prepares them to thrive in this era of digital transformation.
If you would like to learn more about how we could help your business prepare itself for the next decade or develop, set up and deliver ideas like the ones I’ve outlined above, please contact us so that we can share our knowledge and expertise with you.
This article was created and written by Luigi Matrone – CEO & Founder of the eBusiness Institute.
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eBusiness Institute focuses on the integration between marketing and sales to drive business results online and offline.
Our team has considerable experience and expertise in successfully developing strategies, capabilities training and creative assets for brands that understand the importance of Digital Transformation, Product eContent, Data & Analytics, Retail Search and Retail Digital Media (RDM) to eCommerce sales success.
Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how the eBusiness Institute could help your organisation gain a competitive edge through these activities.