COVID-19 Speeds Adoption of Digital Solutions for Independent Retailers

Written by Lee McDonald

August 24, 2020

The continuing and lasting impact the COVID-19 situation has had on families and business across the country cannot be understated. There was no handbook for what we experienced, and the constant change left most having to adapt quickly and pivot in ways we never thought of just to sustain our daily lives. In the first quarter of the year the industry suffered significant drops in demand due to shelter in place and other state mandated closures. In the second quarter and back half of the year we are now facing unprecedented drops in supply across most major manufacturers.

Nevertheless, demand continues to steadily increase, and consumer confidence is approaching pre-COVID-19 levels. As manufacturers slowly begin to catch up, they are increasingly looking to retailers to adapt to the current COVID-19 climate in how to engage customers more effectively with their brands.

By now, we are all familiar with how COVID-19 has forever changed the shopping experience at retail. All retailers still in business have adopted some combination of in-store social distancing, increased digital advertising and aggressive ecommerce expansion.

For the most part, brands have adopted these new measures and, in some cases, are actively driving them. How many of your manufacturers have approached you over the last several months asking you to create, demonstrate, or execute a ‘BOPIS’ (buy online, pick-up in store) strategy? If you are like most Nationwide Marketing Group Members I’ve been talking to the answer is – nearly all of them.

The good news for Nationwide Marketing Group Members is most were already setup to execute BOPIS and other digital-first strategies. With the support of our Members, Nationwide Marketing Group made significant investments into two leading digital service providers several years ago: Retailer Web Services (RWS) and Site on Time. Leaders in their space at the time of our partnership, both companies continue to dominate the digital service space for Independent retailers of all sizes. In fact, during all the trials and tribulations at the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown, Google recommended RWS above all other website development platforms for Independent retailers looking to rapidly setup an online e-commerce solution.

We were humbled to have Google recognize RWS as the only solution within the buying group world they recommended and extended their approval to.

Major brands quickly took notice and RWS was inundated with requests to expand the list of approved dealers able to sell online. This expansion also led to the creation of exclusive Nationwide-only promotions during the back half of the year such as installation rebates up to $250 on top Consumer Electronics brands during key selling periods at no cost to Members.

I am also encouraged to hear from dealers who are creating their own deals with manufacturers – often doubling or tripling their advertising budget through increased focus on digital marketing.

More than ever your digital presence (and partner) is of critical importance.

To learn more about programs, services, and offers unique to Nationwide Marketing Group Members please reach out to me at lee.mcdonald@nationwidegroup.org.

This article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of Retail Observer.

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