Tips for Retailers and Restaurants Offering Delivery During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many thousands of retailers and restaurants are offering delivery for the first time. It’s become a lifeline not only for homebound people, but also for the businesses themselves and their workers. However, delivery can often seem complex and overwhelming, especially if this is your first time. Here’s some advice for retailers and small businesses across all industries on what to focus on when it comes to their delivery strategies during this fluid time:
Leverage Your Existing Workforce
Small business owners want to keep their existing workforce busy, and many people are willing to take on temporary roles, such as delivery drivers. Consider temporarily offering store employees (store associates, waitresses, hosts, shopkeepers, bar staff and others) delivery roles to meet the new demands. If you keep your staff engaged, they’ll stick with you when all of this is over. Be generous with paid sick leave and equip your workforce with the right tools and sanitation processes to keep them safe and healthy, and limit the spread of the virus.
Follow CDC Guidelines With Respect to Sanitation and Contactless Delivery
Follow CDC guidelines with respect to sanitation and contactless delivery. Offer your customers a no-contact delivery option. If you require signatures, consider waiving this requirement for now. Some delivery software platforms are starting to offer the ability for the signature to be completed on the recipient’s device.
Invest in an Inexpensive Infrastructure
Invest in an inexpensive infrastructure, including last-mile delivery software to help manage the process. There are software-as-a-service (SaaS) options that are inexpensive and easy to set up. Google Maps, spreadsheets, and chat apps may work when you have a few deliveries a day, but that approach doesn’t scale — and you may be surprised at your delivery volume in this environment. Route planning software can help you optimize your delivery routes by factoring in traffic, as well as constraints like vehicle capacity, delivery windows and driver schedules. This is essential for cannabis retailers. If you are ever audited by the state, you’ll need records for every facet of your delivery operation, including chain of custody. Last-mile delivery software can fulfill this need. Furthermore, cannabis operators might find other software tools useful that include background check (Checkr), applicant tracking (Fountain), and menu/point-of-sale software (Meadow).
Overcommunicate With Customers
Clearly communicate the steps you’re taking in light of the ongoing pandemic. Set up text or email alerts to let customers know when their orders are on the way and when they’ve been delivered to a porch or door. If you’re operating a delivery service on behalf of other merchants and retailers, consider waiving or at least deferring delivery fees, and offer discounts if you can afford them, to support local businesses during the ongoing crisis. Increase your communication on social media during this time to publicize daily deals and updates to your services, making it clear what you’re doing to ensure the health and safety of your customers and workforce.
Cannabis is Considered an 'Essential'
Cannabis is considered an “essential” item in many U.S. cities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and cannabis retailers are especially scrambling to set up delivery for the very first time. Before you start, first check with your state and municipality on delivery rules. This is always the first step, as rules vary by state and even by city. Make sure delivery is legal in your area, and make sure it’s legal in each individual county and city you plan to deliver to. Then study the rules and restrictions. Next, consider working with a third-party marketplace that can bring customers to you. Customers can also go to marketplaces to find local dispensaries. Listing your business there can help people find you. Some examples include dutchie, Weedmaps, and Jane.
During these uncertain times, it’s important to take all necessary steps to ensure reliable service and support to your customers. Running your delivery services reliably and efficiently has never been more important to your business and your customers. If done right, delivery can be a great opportunity to connect with customers in a different way, to maintain your revenues, and retain your employees during these challenging times.
Khaled Naim is co-founder and CEO of Onfleet, the fastest-growing provider of last-mile delivery management software.