Business

Ways COVID-19 Changed the Industry and How to Adapt Moving Forward

COVID-19 rocked the world and created some post-pandemic habits that will change the way customers, manufacturers and retail shops operate.
Photo Credit: Celerant

Author: Jackie Holbrook

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns shifted the way the world operated. After two years, the U.S. is returning to normal, or what’s considered the “new normal.” When people were sent home from school and work, they changed their consumer habits. At the time, it was because of health precautions and government regulations. Today, some of these routines have become habits consumers expect and enjoy.

The rumor that the pandemic killed brick-and-mortar stores is just that, a false rumor. Many retail operations did suffer, and challenges have persisted. However, foot traffic to retail operations has sharply increased in recent months. Customers are happy to be back inside stores to get the retail experience. According to The Wall Street Journal, Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. saw online sales fall 11% in its most recent quarter, while sales at its stores went up 14%. But just because customers are back doesn’t mean they don’t expect some changes.

Increased Contactless Payment Options

A trip to the archery shop pre-pandemic was a very hands-on experience. Testing products is important in archery shops. Most customers are thankful to be back in stores swapping stories and trying out products, but they also got used to some contactless conveniences. Contactless payment, also called tap-and-go, is an option that boomed in popularity during the pandemic. It makes it easier for consumers to avoid shared surfaces.

Retailers are adopting ways for customers to pay with contactless cards or mobile wallets. Contactless payments are categorized in two ways. First, a digital wallet is an option such as Google Pay or Apple Pay. Second, radio-frequency identification is technology embedded in some credit or debit cards. More than 50% of credit card holders have RFID technology, and that number is rising fast.

Contactless options are great for retailers and customers. According to research, contactless payments are much faster. They take an average of 12.5 seconds compared with 26.7 seconds for card transactions and 33.7 seconds for cash. They work the same way that chip cards do at the point of sale. Many card readers and terminals have built-in tap technology, and they vary in price.

 

Curbside Pickup

Curbside pickup started as a safety measure, but it’s now a convenient solution many consumers expect when shopping. While this wouldn’t seem to be a widely used service across archery stores, customers nonetheless appreciate the option. Curbside pickup combines the convenience of delivery with the opportunity to shop locally. Customers choose this option for many reasons. Some have continued health concerns. For parents running errands with kids, it saves the time of loading and unloading children for a simple pickup.

There are a lot of ways to offer curbside pickup. First, it’s important to create a visible pickup station in your parking lot. Create a curbside pickup procedure that is understood by staff and customers. Some shops allow customers to pay online and then select the curbside pickup option. Many small businesses find the easiest way to handle pickups is to hang a highly visible sign on the front door with the store’s number, and to clearly state that the customer should call for curbside pickup.

About half of outdoor consumers are women. Photo Credit: ATA

A Rise in Hunters

March 2020 headlines splashed stories about grocery store shelves being bare. Items like toilet paper, milk and meat became a hot commodity. In some people, this triggered a need to become more self-sufficient. For hundreds of Americans, that desire turned into a hunting license in their pocket.

The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports initiated a study with Southwick Associates to analyze how hunters’ rates of purchasing licenses changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They worked with more than 40 state wildlife agencies to quantify and compare 2020 trends with 2019 hunting license sales. The study found that overall hunting license sales were up.

This new group of hunters is an opportunity for archery shops to help educate and create lifelong hunters. But becoming a proficient bowhunter involves more than heading into the woods with a tag and the right gear. Consider offering lessons or introductory bowhunting classes. Host a specialized clinic about a timely topic like choosing the right camouflage clothing, what to carry in your daypack or tactics for deer season. 

Women are the fastest-growing demographic of hunters. Archery shops need to make sure they understand how to serve this rising market share. The purchasing power of women in the U.S. ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. About 51% of outdoor consumers are women. Women are a vital market in the outdoor industry. For more information on how to target females, read “Does Your Archery Shop Target Females? It Should.”

 

Supply Chain Issues

Hunters have been complaining about ammo shortages for what seems like years. But now consumers are also faced with supply chain issues for archery equipment. Some materials are in short supply, and employee shortages are also creating problems. Unfortunately, the rise in inflation and gas prices is further complicating issues.

For manufacturers and retail shop owners, the best way to address any lack of inventory or delays is through honest communication with customers. A study by Edelman showed that 81% of consumers say they need to trust a brand to buy from them. Whether you’re facing a backlog on getting a product or slow shipping times, communicate the facts with your customers. Customers are smart. They’ll know if you’re telling the truth. And if you don’t have an answer, that’s exactly what you should tell them.

There are a few ways to communicate supply chain issues. Communication is important when customers ask questions while they’re in the shop. If they are inquiring about when a certain product will be back in stock, tell them everything you know. If you find yourself fielding multiple questions about the same product and when it will be available, consider adding a banner to your website or sending out a message on social media with the latest information on when it’s expected to arrive. When the product does arrive notify customers using the same method.

If you have questions about how to adjust operations to meet the changing economic climate, contact Nicole Nash, senior manager of outreach, at (507) 233-8146 or nicolenash@archerytrade.org.

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