3 Strategies to Tackle the Current Economic Environment
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March 2022, the Consumer Price Index rose 8.5 percent over the previous year — the largest increase in over 40 years. This jump has hit consumers’ wallets hard. What’s more, research from The Conference Board shows that consumer confidence is down again after rebounding from COVID-driven lows in 2020. So, consumers now have less disposable income available and are more wary to spend it — not a good combination for retailers!
These yo-yoing market conditions are challenging across the board, especially for small retailers for whom even modest changes can have a significant impact. But as the adage goes, the best defense is a good offense. Those retailers that implement proactive strategies now to address the current economic trends may well fare better than those that wait for things to get worse.
Strategy 1: Make Technology Your Star Employee
There are myriad tech tools on the market today that exist solely to make it easier for customers to do business with retailers. And if consumers have less disposable income to spend, making it easy to get those dollars in the door is critical.
For example, research from Cloudli Communications shows that seven out of 10 consumers think the ability to text with businesses makes shopping more convenient. Small retailers can leverage that convenience factor at scale, stay top of mind, and deliver the always-on responsiveness that consumers are looking for with the help of business texting features like SMS broadcast, auto-replies and keywords.
Strategy 2: Optimize Your Time
Or worded another way — eliminate time wasted.
Think about all the manual tasks that fill up a day and the unnecessary distractions that disrupt time spent serving customers. An operational audit can help identify any cumbersome manual tasks currently in place (think: inventory management, sales metrics and analytics, scheduling). The audit will also provide a road map to possible solutions. For example, a new point-of-sale (POS) system that automatically assists with sales reporting and reveals busy hours for scheduling purposes; communications solutions that automate responses to FAQs like business hours and store locations, and screen out non-urgent calls to keep the focus on the customer during business hours.
Once time is optimized, retailers then have the flexibility to reduce resources should inflationary pressures and sluggish sales start to put a strain on operations, or use freed up staff capacity to focus on driving business growth.
Strategy 3: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Thinking about technology, operations and the current state of the economy can take attention away from the ultimate prize: happy, loyal customers.
Last year, Talkdesk Research shared that 58 percent of retail customers now have higher expectations for their interactions with businesses. Furthermore, a whopping 68 percent state that their loyalty to a brand is impacted by only a single negative customer service experience. Now, more than ever, the customer must be at the center of the retail experience.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools help retailers streamline the customer experience. Often, when the notion of a CRM is discussed, large enterprise-grade software platforms come to mind — something many small retailers don't have the bandwidth (or budget) to implement.
Instead, think of CRM as a concept, rather than software. What’s important is to understand who the customer is, know their preferences, and make sure that anyone on the team can access that information as needed. Shared contact lists that show recent communications and allow for notetaking can satisfy the need for many small retailers — with a lighter lift and a smaller price tag.
Higher prices and wary consumers are a challenging combination in the world of retail. Proactively implementing strategies to streamline workflows, save time and money, and enhance the customer experience can help small retailers prepare for what lies ahead and position themselves for a strong recovery.
Elinor Johansen is senior vice president, chief marketing officer and head of sales at Cloudli Communications, a leading provider of voice, data and messaging solutions.
Related story: Building Lasting Customer Loyalty Amid Inflation
Elinor Johansen is senior vice president, chief marketing officer and head of sales at Cloudli Communications. With more than a decade of experience in marketing leadership, telecommunications and SaaS, Elinor ensures businesses discover their potential with Cloudli’s future-focused solutions. She passionately advocates for how modern technology tools can help businesses better communicate with their customers — how, where and when they want — without compromising security, reliability and efficiency.