On Saturday the PM announced that England would be going back into another national lockdown from this Thursday. Everyone across England will be asked again to “stay at home”, with us all only being allowed to leave our homes for a series of specified reasons, including “essential” shopping.

When looking at the latest government guidance, the list of those having to close their doors is extensive. Published on the 1st November the guidance reads as follows:

“To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. These include:

  • all non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops.
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks,
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens;
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons.

Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services can remain open. Essential retail should follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers.

Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect.

Playgrounds can remain open.

Hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery services. However, takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed.

Hotels, hostels and other accommodation should only open for those who have to travel for work purposes and for a limited number of other exemptions which will be set out in law.

A full list of the business closures will be published and set out in law.”

Looking through the guidance you can see the level of interruptions these changes are going to have to retail through November.

 

The Busiest Time of The Year

Shoppers usually spend around £50bn on goods other than food in the weeks leading up to Christmas as they gift clothes, toys and the latest technology to friends and family.

Not only does November signal the beginning of the Christmas shopping season but for those who love a bargain, the last week of November brings with it Black Friday.

For many retailers, they had built up their plans and hopes that November and December would boost the recent recovery that retail has seen but this new challenge will force many to have to rethink plans.

A much stronger reliance is going to be put onto your online operations, pushing it to its limits. We had been expecting that Black Friday was going to create have a huge increase in online demand but with the newest restrictions, there is no overflow into stores themselves.

 

So Now What?

For those of you who have an online store, you are going to need to make sure it is going to stand up to the renewed increase in traffic. Making sure your hosting is up to scratch at that you’re going to be able to scale to demand is vital.

If you’re on a cloud hosting service like Magento Cloud or SAP Commerce Cloud this, for the most part, is going to be taken care of. For those still using On-Premise, you may want to start planning a migration. It may not give you a direct benefit as you may not be able to implement it in time, but it’ll prepare you for the next unplanned situation we might find ourselves in.

Another thing you may have seen in the guidance that might be an opportunity is this little line “Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect.”

Both of these things are very real options that will allow you and your business to remain active locally, outside of just offering your standard delivery options. Forming a partnership with or offering a restricted delivery service to your local area will help keep you front of mind with your customers.

Click and collect has become an ever more popular option when people are shopping and being able to offer it, even for a few select products could help you stay competitive with the bigger businesses. Depending on the platform you are using for your website, the possibility of a plugin that can unlock these features may exist and a business like us at Eclipse could help you implement it and get it going in a short time.

Beyond just implementing features and adding new services there is going to be a need to look at your offers. Free delivery, discounts and gifts with purchase can all help you stand out in the crowd.

 

Experience is What People Want

Another lever that is available for you is the experience your customers are having on your website. Making it as easy to shop as possible is important. Having a range of payment options and optimising the checkout experience can have a huge effect on your conversion rate.

Our team of experts in our experience team work with businesses every day to help them continually optimise their offering. There is almost no end to the list of things that can be done to make an online store more shoppable and better at converting. Little changes to layout and colour, product order and recommendations are all tangible things that can be implemented in a short time and could result in an uplift for your business.

 

So, Is It Really A Nightmare?

There is little doubt that this lockdown is going to have an effect on retail through to Christmas and that the damage it will cause will be noticeable but for those businesses eager to try and keep things going, not all needs to be lost.

Sure, it is going to be difficult but getting a store running, optimising an existing store or adding more services to take advantage of the limits of the restrictions are all options that exist. You just need to be willing to take them.

 

We’re Here to Help However We Can

We’ve been building digital experiences for a long time and we pride ourselves on making them beautifully simple. We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

Our Experience team works with clients every day to test their sites and work to create a better conversion rate for them.

We’ve got specialist teams that advise and then action Design, UX & UI for your digital storefront. We’ve also got geniuses to work with you on how to drive brand engagement, solicit positive sentiment, strengthen your content marketing, SEO & PPC.

And when it comes to Augmented Reality, Our Augmented Reality E-commerce Solution, Ares, changes the game and is all about enhancing the online shopping experience for the end-user. It is about lifting product images from standard 2D into something experiential and visually impactful, that truly brings product shopping online to life.

Ares is dedicated to leveraging the power of AR and 3D for so much more than entertainment – it exists as your next step for achieving peak eCommerce performance.

And the reason it is changing the game is that it works straight from the web browser or mobile device, no apps or downloads required. It can be plugged into any website or e-commerce platform and Ares works on the latest Android and iOS devices.

Ares is a full end-to-end AR service for retailers. You don’t need to be an AR expert to get the best out of Ares.

Reach out to us and we can discuss how we can help you in these trying times, let us help you maximise the opportunity, support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.