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Business Beat: How do you Create Sales When Customers are not in the Store?

COVID-19 or "the Covid" (reference Newman from Seinfeld), as I am now referring to it, has wreaked havoc on our independent business owners. First, they had to close their businesses (unless they were an essential service). Then when they could open, it was under a very strict set of guidelines established by the Government of Alberta.

There were hazard assessments to complete, sanitation stations required at the entry point of every store, physical distancing constraints, barriers between staff and customers, new stricter cleaning systems to follow, and rules on how many people could be in the store at a time.

Not to mention the fact that customers were anxious about venturing out (after three months of self-isolation and a continuing pandemic with no cure or vaccine), disposable income had declined as people hadn't been working, there was little warning that opening would occur and owners had to find people willing to come back to work, those willing to put themselves in harm's way.

With all the pressures causing customers to not be in the store, business started asking, how do I create sales if my customers are not in the store? Answer, e-commerce.

According to Statistics Canada, online sales more than doubled in April 2020 while brick and mortar store sales decreased by 26 percent. The combined data for March and April saw Canadian retailers down by more than 33 percent while online shopping saw an increase of 120 percent during the same time period. The COVID has highlighted the importance of having online presence to sell goods and services.

Need more evidence, and Angus Reid survey was conducted at the beginning of July 2020 and a whopping 81 percent of Canadians said they will continue to shop online the smae amount or more in the coming months. One of the most interesting takeaways for me, was a comment stating the convenience of having the product delivered or being able to pick up without leaving the comfort (or safety) of your home or car.

We, public sector support agencies, are running Local First, MyMHSummer, and shopHERE campaigns (to name a few), to encourage our residents to purchase and vacation locally. And our residents are stepping up to the plate in a big way. They may not want to venture out and browse in our local brick and mortar stones, but if they are provided the opportunity to shop local stores online, they are engaged! If you aren't online, in the process of getting online or haven't signed up for the shopHERE program, you are doing yourself and your customers a disservice.

Do yourself and your customers a solid, get signed up, get an e-commerce site and join the new abnormal.

Don't let "the COVID" make you a statistic.

Sandra Milne is the Regional Innovation Network Coordinator at APEX Alberta.

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