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5 steps retailers can take to ensure business continuity

By Demi Edmunds, from TextAnywhere 

Every industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with governments implementing various measures in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. This means consumers have had to adapt their behaviour, which in turn is reflected within the economy. As many people are furloughed and many stores have had to implement temporary closures, data shows that people are buying less, which has had a direct impact on the retail industry.

As retailers work hard to implement protocols which maintain staff and customer safety, it’s fair to say, some have struggled to scale up their supply chain to deal with the increased demand. For example, many have had to drastically increase their delivery capabilities, and being able to ensure they are doing so in a way which upholds new health and safety procedures, has been a challenge for many. But as with all successful businesses, the ability to adapt to external circumstances and customer behaviour is vital. So retailers wanting to maintain business continuity, must continue to respond to the waves of change caused by the pandemic.

  1. Prioritise staff

The first priority for any business is the people. Retailers need to ensure that they are looking after their staff and building their skill sets to ensure business critical teams can be properly supported. For example, staff who lead production processes or manage clients are vital in ensuring business as usual, and can lead training to others in these areas. Although this will likely depend on the situation, it makes sense to consider moving less business critical staff to support areas more in need. For instance, adapting the skills of the sales members to sit in the customer service team whilst additional support in this area is required.

  1. Prepare for more disruption

Although the economy is suffering at the moment, and there is huge uncertainty on what will come next, retailers must prepare for further changes ahead. Even when business returns to normal, as there have been significant changes during the pandemic, companies will need time to adapt to business as usual. For example, re-implementing activities associated with store openings and following any procedures required to safely return staff to offices. Consequently, these processes may also face disruptions, and it’s important to plan responses to minimise the impact these could have. By defining various test events covering multiple scenarios, retailers can plan responses proportionate to the scale and intricacy of the risks associated with that change. After all, disruption to business after a crisis may be more detrimental than usual, and even a positive surge in demand may prove challenging. What’s more, many brands will be keen to implement lessons they’ve learnt from this time, so there are likely to be various changes introduced and / or kept, to enhance flexibility and efficiency moving forward. 

  1. Respond quickly

The speed in which retailers deal with potential threats to business, is never more crucial than when a business is already changing. Whether a minor disturbance or something much larger, ensuring you have a crisis communication plan is essential, as it enables your business to respond in swift and professional manner. Without a plan, your business risks losing valuable time and if the messages are rushed and thus not fully considered, there is also the potential they will damage your brand.

Many advanced technologies can support this activity, allowing communication at the earliest opportunity, in a bid to remediate any confusion or uncertainty. Furthermore, responding to the situation at hand can be almost immediate when working with crisis communication templates.

  1. Choose the right communication channel

Choosing the right channel or platform to communicate to customers and staff is just as important as the message itself. This is because we have to consider how the message will be received, or even read. As communication is key to effective crisis management, two important features of your chosen channel should be considered – speed and reach. With SMS, your messages benefit from an open rate of 95% and the fact that 90% of messages are read within 3 minutes.

Therefore, you can be confident your business updates are both received and read within minutes, making it a great choice for business critical updates and service interruption notifications. Furthermore, SMS can be used to effectively streamline communication around store closures, revised opening hours, stock availability updates, and changes to delivery times. 

  1. Be adaptable

As with any strategy, it’s important to remember that a BCP and crisis communication plan are simply there as guidelines. They are in place to help your business respond better and faster, they do not mean that retailers should be any less adaptable. Given the changes in shopping trends and consumer attitudes over the past 10 years, it’s fair to say, adaptability is a strength of the retail industry as a whole, and this should not be undervalued.