How Brick and Mortar Retailers can Adapt During COVID-19

By: Pointy by Google

COVID-19 has swept across the globe, swiftly shuttering businesses everywhere. While pharmacies and grocery stores are flourishing, many brick and mortar retailers are required to close due to shelter at home regulations, leaving their incomes to dry up.

As regulations slowly lift and businesses establish a new normal, what should retailers do to ensure they stay afloat while keeping staff and shoppers safe?

Turning online for maximum effect
Many retailers have been turning to e-commerce, or strong-arming solutions as effectively as their resources allow.

Pointy from Google retailer Dawn Manwaring runs Beehive Designer Collective, a boutique store of handcrafted design, out of Mt Kisco, New York.

“We are in Westchester County, just outside of NYC,” Dawn explains. “We had one of the hotspots in our county plus a significant number of our population commutes to Manhattan.” Dawn’s shop is considered non-essential, and its physical store is temporarily closed. 

“This has been the most challenging time for me as a business owner but I’m not alone in this. There isn’t anything we did wrong; it’s just rotten luck,” says Dawn. “How does one plan for a pandemic? It’s funny because I plan for snowstorms, power outages, road closures, construction…but a pandemic?”

With her physical store closed, Dawn has turned to digital and e-commerce in particular, working on her website and adding more products to her online store. She closes the loop with curbside pickup or shipping.

“It’s been gratifying to be getting web orders, repeat orders and finding new customers, and just having a daily goal,” Dawn says. “I have a brand and I am focusing on growing it, even in this craziness.”

As Dawn sees orders coming in online, she is determined to make it work. “I’m not going down without a fight,” she concludes.

Essential information in essential times
While retailers are in agreement around safety measures (many shoppers are familiar with tape set six feet apart for social distancing, gloves, hand sanitizer and safety shields at registers), retailers have been struggling to quickly relay accurate and important information to shoppers.

Stores have been met with an influx of phone calls and queries as shoppers seek stock information before leaving the house. Tools like Pointy from Google gives retailers an easy way to show shoppers searching online their in-store inventory.

Shoppers can check if a product is available and call ahead to order it, or get the store’s contact details to visit them.

Likewise, many retailers have been turning to their social media channels to communicate with shoppers. However, a trend is emerging where shoppers prefer calling ahead, so retailers must brace for an uptick in phone calls and allow for contactless shopping as much as possible.

As regulations and rules shift, retailers are facing a constant drive to update their information. For stores with a Business Profile on Google, keeping their Google My Business hours and contact details updated is important – though many consumers still consider retailers to be the one source of truth.

Retailers should be updating their websites and social channels often, and should consider implementing a simple chatbot to automatically answer frequent queries around opening hours and popular products.

Click/call and collect, delivery/shipment and curbside/store pickup are also all part of the new normal as retailers look towards creating ecosystems that connect the channels they have – for example pairing WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger for requests while taking payment details over the phone and then offering curbside pickup a safe distance from the store.

In some cases, retailers are even offering innovative ‘taxi services’. For example, a pet store could offer a pet taxi service where staff pick up a pet to bring it to the store for grooming and then drop it home afterwards.

It’s novel solutions like these that are low impact but sensible. They will see brick and mortar retailers through Covid-19 and the trying months ahead.

A mix of digital solutions and real-life ‘hacks’ will give customers the means to find the information they need while allowing them the functionality to see through a sale – all crucial tenets to the survival of vibrant brick and mortar stores in these uncertain times.

About Pointy from Google
Pointy from Google helps shoppers find up-to-date product information before they visit a physical store. Easily add your products to your own online product catalog and your Business Profile on Google.

Shoppers can then see the products you have in-store and get stock estimates – which will help to limit the number of phone calls you get, time spent browsing in-store and unnecessary journeys.

For more information, contact