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Retailers Make the Shift to Digital as Foot Traffic Slows and States Close, According to Latest Survey

Written by Rob Stott

April 9, 2020

On Monday, Nationwide Marketing Group released the results of its third quick-turn member survey. In the latest round, 580 retailers provided insights into how they’ve been impacted by, and are responding to, the spread of the novel coronavirus. Over the course of these first three surveys, the impact of government issued stay-at-home orders has become abundantly clear both on the number of stores that have closed their doors, and the amount of foot traffic in stores that remain open. But this shift in shopping habits has provided retailers a new opportunity to make good on their digital investments.

From a retail operations perspective, 29% of dealers report that they’ve closed their business — up from 5% in the first survey just two weeks ago. Of those who have closed, 90% were ordered to do so by their state or local government because of a stay-at-home order. Just 36% of dealers report maintaining normal operating hours, which is down from 67% in the first survey; another 30% have moved to reduced hours, which is up from 20%.

For the stores that have remained open, the foot traffic data suggests that the American public is taking social distancing rather seriously. Only 14% of retailers surveyed said they saw an increase or similar foot traffic in their stores. The remaining 86% of dealers saw a decline in foot traffic, with 67% of those reporting that decline as “significant.” All categories of retail reported significant decreases in foot traffic, but diving deeper into the in-store numbers, dealers that offer primarily home furniture were hit particularly hard. Over 92% of furniture dealers reported a decrease in foot traffic with over 75% saying that decrease was “significant.”

If there is a glimmer of hope and positivity for the independent retail channel, it can be found in the form of online shopping. Once thought to be the straw that would eventually break this industry’s back, independent retailers who’ve spent the time and dollars to build out a virtual presence are primed to reap the rewards during this challenging time. In Nationwide’s first quick-turn survey, just over 22% of dealers reported an increase in their website traffic. In the latest survey, that figure jumped to 42%. Of those who saw website traffic increase, nearly 13% said that increase was significant, up from 6% in the first survey.

Dealers’ response rates in this survey are backed up by Nationwide’s own data around our members’ website traffic and usage. In fact, Nationwide dealers with functioning websites saw their traffic increase 20% during the month of March, compared to last year. That traffic has converted into revenue, with ecommerce sales more than doubling during the same time period. And as for integrated chat functionality, since March 16 — right around the time communities started issuing stay-at-home orders — Nationwide saw over 60 new signups for on-site chat services.

In the latest survey, 14% of dealers said they’ve begun using collaborative video technology solutions to engage with their customers, up from 7% in the first survey. Furniture dealers lead the way in that regard, with 17% saying they’re using video technology to engage with their customers.

The full results of the survey are available on the Nationwide Marketing Group website and on the regularly updated Coronavirus Resources page.

 

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