The Music & Sound Retailer has been very proactive in talking to people across the industry via Zoom chat to discuss everything that’s going on and has been publishing videos of these chats on its website and social media. About two weeks ago, I took part in one of these with editor in chief Brian Berk, discussing some things retailers can be doing right now. I waited a little while before finishing this column to go over that video to see how things played out and see what more retailers were doing, and to better form my thoughts. I’m glad I did. Here are five things should do to help your business right now.
- Livestreaming is quickly ramping up as a fast and easy way of delivering content to your customers. I’ve been asked to take part in various livestreams and have even been consulting with a few retailers about ideas for livestreams, equipment, and best practices. There is so much you can do creatively with livestreaming. Here are two good ways to use it now. The first is product-based knowledge. I’ve seen product showcases, such as doing a virtual walkthrough and comparison of various models across a brand; a virtual roadshow for lack of better term. You could also teach people things like restringing their guitar or how to clean and sanitize their trumpet at home.
- The second is interactive sessions. I participated in an “Ask The Expert” question-ans-answer session with Empire Music storeowner Joe Ravita and his Taylor Guitars district sales manager Mike Venezia during which people could post questions and get answers live. In fact, I love the idea of brand reps getting involved and talking directly to consumers on behalf of their local store. Getting band instrument reps and band directors on your livestream could be a great way to reach out to your band parents and students while they’re at home. The same goes for choir teachers, piano and guitar instructors, and repair technicians.
- Posting user-generated content is always a great idea. Sourcing performances from customers on instruments bought at your store and sharing those on your social channels is a great way to build interaction from consumers. So many people are using this time at home to create music. It’s inspiring and helps relieve the pressure of being cooped up and facing such a serious situation. Your lesson instructors, students, local music teachers, and musicians are all great resources to draw from. Highlight the people who have been supporting your business in a big way by getting them to share their content with you, so that you may then share it with your audience. This not only creates some feel good content to share with your audience, but it connects you more to people you aren’t currently able to see face to face.
- List everything online. If you haven’t been actively updating your online webstore, Reverb store, eBay store, and any other channels you use to move product you should be doing that right now. Cash flow is extremely important and moving existing inventory online will help mitigate your losses. This is also a great opportunity to clear out aging inventory to help your bottom line. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an ecommerce presence. Hopefully you’ve been all-in on these for the last few years, because the stores I’m talking to across the country say it’s making a huge difference for them right now. For those who aren’t I hope you’re able to weather this storm and take this as a hard lesson as to why you need this.
- Use this time to experiment with content creation. If you’ve been struggling to find the time, now you have it. Yes, some folks may not have access to their storefronts, though many still do. You can go in alone and set up a single camera and a light and create product demos. You can experiment and figure out which store angles and lighting works best. You can learn how to take better pictures of products to post on your ecommerce site and third-party platforms and you can use that knowledge to help build your online sales.
So much of my career has been fueled by and attached to a love of small independent retailers. It’s difficult to see so many struggle and flounder during this massive hit to our economy caused by the COVID-19 virus that’s caused so much chaos, both on a personal level for many and professionally for all. I know so many great people in MI retail and know what not being open is doing to businesses across the country, and around the world. While the future remains uncertain, we know eventually stores will reopen. The question now is simply how long it’ll take and what condition the retail world and the economy will be in. There has never been a more important time to have a good online presence, both for ecommerce and social media, or at least not in recent memory.
I wish you all well. If I can be of any help to you, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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