Without a doubt these are trying times. For most, if not all of us, the developments over the past few weeks around the global coronavirus pandemic are something that we have never seen in our lifetimes, and hopefully will never see again. The health and wellbeing of the population of the world is paramount; however, the economic engine that supports all of us must also continue to churn. The world economy, and especially the economy in the United States, needs to continue to operate to ensure that together we all get through this and come out stronger on the other side.
In San Francisco we have been asked to shelter in place for the next three weeks. This means only leaving the house for essential items, and making sure that we are at least six feet away from non-household persons at all times. We are allowed to pick up food from local restaurants as well as order in delivery. Making sure that we do this is important because we need to support our local businesses to make sure the women and men who depend on them for their earnings continue to be able to support their families.
Establishing Loyalty Through Transparent Communication
In addition to consumers supporting local and small businesses, large retailers and brands with physical locations are under immense strain from needing to shut their doors. It is increasingly important to have clear communication with customers during the coronavirus pandemic, because accuracy will ultimately trump speed in the long run. Retailers must also make sure that customers are paying a fair price for goods, and that they are not taking advantage of consumers’ fear and need to buy. Finally, merchants should be cognizant of the stress on consumers today and make sure that they offer them other ways to give their customers peace of mind when transacting.
Every day the news shows huge lines in front of grocery stores where people are looking to stock up on basic needs for the next two to three weeks. Many stores have empty shelves and simply cannot keep up with demand. Supply chains are drying up and many products are not able to be imported from overseas at this time. The supply chain issues have grown beyond our normal consumables, and include consumer electronics, clothing, and more. Merchants need to let their customers know if there will be delays in delivery, and implement quantity limits on certain items to minimize the impact. Amazon, Costco and others already have begun this practice, while also making sure their communication to consumers is clear, so that they can serve as many people as possible.
Another issue that is worrisome to consumers is price gouging. With so much demand for certain products and limited supply we are seeing individuals, and some merchants, try to take advantage of consumer fear. On Amazon’s marketplace multiple sellers have been suspended for charging egregious prices for hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other cleaning products. As a merchant you can gain trust and the lifelong patronage of your customers by not charging more, but by charging less during these stressful times. Be a trusted partner to your customers, and look out for them. The relationship and goodwill you build will pay you back for years to come.
Giving Consumers Flexibility And Peace Of Mind
Merchants and retailers, now more than ever, need to be flexible with consumers and give them options. There are multiple way to do this, but two common ways that stand out include adding consumer point of sale financing, and providing customers with additional peace of mind by offering extended warranty and protection plan coverage. Now more than ever cash is king, and consumers are mindful of the dollars they are spending.
Allowing people to pay over time gives them the flexibility they need to keep more cash on hand and have increased buying power. When a consumer buys an extended warranty and protection plan along with their product they can rest assured that their purchase will be repaired or replaced if something happens to it. This gives customers the comfort and security they need in order to make smart spending decisions for themselves and their household.
This too will pass, and we will come out more educated and stronger as a society. How merchants act and treat their customers will ultimately determine who falters, and who survives and thrives, after the coronavirus threat has passed. Take care, be safe, and remember to treat others how you would like to be treated.
Woodrow Levin is the Founder and CEO of Extend, an extended warranty company that works with online retailers responsible for more than $12B in gross annual sales. He oversees the development of all strategic decisions for the company while guiding day-to-day operations, working with investors, and developing strategic and lasting partnerships. In addition to being a member of DraftKings’s Board of Directors, Levin is a serial entrepreneur who started five successful companies. He is a graduate of Chicago-Kent School of Law and is admitted to practice in Illinois. He holds a BA in Business from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.