Marketing,  Strategy

TAKE A CUE FROM CHURCHES

One way to get ideas for your business when you current lack some is to look at what other creative players in other industries are up to. It may just surprise you the many tips you can borrow and adapt to your situation. I have said this to as many people as possible that care to listen. A “wait and see it out strategy” you can ill-afford. I think this is very clear now even if it seemed like a convenient excuse early April. Retail has not had it this bad and with the pandemic not looking to disappear anytime soon, adopting the adaptive strategy is what I’d advise.

 I call it the adaptive strategy because it entails the ability to acclimatize to the present situation to weather the storm and gain a foothold into the future through speed, agility and flexibility. For an adaptive strategy to work, you must recognize, capture and respond effectively to opportunities in existing markets and unexpected market developments.

Let us look at Lidl, the German international discount supermarket chain that operates over 10,000 stores across Europe and the United States for example. For the first time in its history around April, it launched for the first time ever online shopping options. A major shift from its core budget model; displaying most products in their original delivery cartons, allowing the customers to take the product directly from the carton. This decision was in response to customers that could not visit their stores due to the pandemic and movement restrictions.  If Lidl with operations in as many countries can respond with speed, agility and flexibility you can as well.

Some religious organisations have been very swift in their response to this pandemic and some of these tactics are worth replicating if you are still stuck on the next steps to take.  Perhaps you are into the retail business and nothing is currently working. You may want to tweak things a little bit to adapt to the current situation.

Build presence strategically online: There should have been a foundation already to build on. It is hard for me to imagine a business that has had no presence online. Be it corporate website or social media platforms. Then you can build from there. Although churches have always had the omni-channel approach (holistic user experience from physical to virtual and everything in between), they have been strategic in their thinking; carrying out a thorough situation analysis looking into months of a possible shutdown. That informed their next steps as they generated content to last for the shutdown period, focusing squarely on online platforms should the shutdown extend beyond what they envisaged. Talk about speed, agility and flexibility.

A retail business should have done the same; analysing the impact of an imminent shutdown on its business and then adjusting operations. This could take the form of partnering with a logistics company or an IT enabled partner that could help you in selling your services or products online such as Flutterwave; a payment and online support solution.

While some churches have struggled, others have thrived during the pandemic

Extend touch points: With the shutdown now official, the churches knew they had to extend their touchpoints beyond the popular and regular social media channels like Instagram and Facebook. Some of their target audience were hardly active or even had accounts with any of these platforms. Other traditional channels like TV and radio were included to extend their reach.

They researched and discovered that others had been affected by the pandemic and lost their jobs, means of livelihood or had less disposable income to splurge on data. More affordable channels were included. Ever seen a situation where a company just piles up research and does nothing with it?Some retailers have not even conducted research this year or even had plans to do so.

Why was the Church doing all of this? To reach and connect with followers on touch points people were active on or will jump on for a worship experience. Churches that have adapted fastest have attracted more followers who naturally did not attend a physical service because Sunday was always engaged. Others needed a platform to experience Sunday service as their place of worship were yet to adapt. Does this sound familiar? Yes. That’s how some retailers have lost a chunk of their patrons.

As a retailer, you are either extending the touch points, adding new ones or doing both. Excellent retailers tend to do both very well. I cannot emphasis the need to act swiftly and strategically in the face of uncertainty. Focusing on customers will always provide the answers.

Adapted programs to the digital space: Covid-19 is a threat to anyone until you recognize, capture and respond effectively to opportunities and unexpected circumstances. Most retailers with roots in brick-and-mortar simply try to replicate their in-store experience online, but such efforts are fruitless and misguided. But not the churches. Aware of universal online behaviour such as short concentration span and of course distractions at home, they cut the frills and shortened the entire service focusing on what mattered the most.

Even assimilation tactics has been heightened online. Naming ceremonies, meetings, community initiatives, maturity schools, have also shifted online via video conferencing channels. A retailer into art pieces for example can still carry out an exclusive virtual art tour of their pieces and even conduct sales. Promote the event and get select interested clients to register over a certain period. Plans should be in place for after sales service like delivery.

Empowered staff to the new realities: While retention is very key, acquisition during a pandemic is essential. None should give way for the other. A proper balance must be struck. With depression, fear and anxiety at an all-time high, so many people required answers and church was for many a place to quiet the storm raging in their minds.  People facing church workers needed to learn new skills to engage visitors online and training were conducted to this effect. Customer service and courtesy matters.

Research we conduced suggests that shoppers want to feel appreciated for spending their hard-earned money in your store. A text of appreciation or a branded gift no matter how small can make all the difference. Empowering and developing talent is a waste of money to some retailers and this is quite sad. I once attended a conference in which a fellow speaker asked in response to a question of a frustrated retailer complaining about high turnover of staff. She said “of what good are they to you if you do not train them anyway.”  The talent and effectiveness of your team is what delivers your growth strategy. I will be writing about growth strategies in the coming days.

Retailers need to start directing their thoughts on how to evolve into new positioning and invent entirely new propositions. They must also be eagerly responding to trends and focusing on customer pain points. Retailers reduce their chances of being stranded at this time if these tactics are implemented through and through.

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