With provincial restart plans in place, in-store shopping, indoor dining and indoor events are set to resume in the coming months. At last, a sense of normalcy is returning.
Local and small businesses have been disproportionality impacted by the pandemic. In a survey we recently conducted at Interac, we found 75 per cent of Canadians believe local businesses are more important to communities than major online retailers. Moreover, we found that 55 per cent of British Columbians were shifting their spending by shopping closer to home.
The desire to shop local is more than a matter of convenience. We found consumers would be willing to pay more or wait longer if it meant supporting a local business. However, consumers expect to retain the flexibility and seamless payment experiences to which they have become accustomed. In fact, when surveyed, 66 per cent of Canadians said businesses that fail to allow digital payments will struggle.
There is significant opportunity for small businesses to capitalize on this reinvigorated desire to shop local. Here are three ways you can prepare your business for success in the post-pandemic retail environment.
Streamline the customer experience
A streamlined customer experience can act as your competitive advantage. This doesn’t mean making high-tech or expensive investments. Walk through the last mile of your customers’ experience and identify ways to make it more straightforward. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Sixty-six per cent of Canadians and 68 per cent of British Columbians are willing to visit a store to buy from a local business. Is your traffic primarily by foot or car? Consider which of your entrances offers the easiest access for your customers.
- Are you offering your customers a choice of digital payment methods? Seventy-one per cent of British Columbians believe they should have the option to pay with debit when checking out online, making a purchase in-app or paying in store or curbside. A lack of options at your checkout could lead to abandoned carts and lost revenue.
- Would it be easier for you and your customers if you accepted payments on the go? There are solutions that allow you to use your mobile device to complete point-of-sale transactions.
Every business is different, and so every approach is different. But whichever approach businesses take must be aimed at the same goal: reducing obstacles and improving the shopping experience.
Meet customers where they are
Consumers have gotten used to the convenience digital payment options provide. Looking at our own transaction data, we saw a 333 per cent increase in Interac Debit payments made within a merchant app or website and a 43 per cent year-over-year increase in the number of Interac e-Transfer transactions sent since the start of the pandemic in British Columbia.
Reducing friction means making your checkout experience as straightforward as possible – which includes meeting customers where they are and allowing them to pay using the methods they have adopted and want to continue using. We’ve seen a 99 per cent year-over-year increase in the Interac e-Transfer transactions received by businesses in British Columbia, showing businesses continue to embrace the accelerated shift to digital payments.
Focus on omnichannel and beyond
Omnichannel is about meeting your customers where they are by creating a seamless experience across all your channels – this could be your brick-and-mortar location, website, app and social channels. Customers should be able to discover, research, purchase, pay and get support no matter which channel they choose.
With digital payments solutions becoming increasingly popular and accessible, small businesses can easily set up low-cost infrastructure to match the experiences of big box stores. Coupled with consumers’ desire to support the businesses in their own backyards, this could be the fuel British Columbia’s small businesses need for economic recovery post-pandemic.
Shenela Tavarayan is a Retail Commerce, Senior Manager at Interac.