Lockdown has seen retailers pivot in new ways. Silently back in March and April, high spenders were able to shop via their SA's (sales associates) via Zoom and WhatsApp (which also helped to reduce returns).
However, for the regular person on the street, it was all very one dimensional via standard online websites.
What has evolved through lockdown 2 is the opening up of a more interactive virtual service.
Take Bicester village in the UK (their sister sites in other counties did a similar initiative). You could contact certain brands and shop in a variety of ways. For some stores, you had to book a zoom call. For others far more casually, but just as effective, they would send pictures and you then asked about prices/sizes and could pay over the phone or via a secure link.
Therefore, with us coming out of lockdown next week should that end? Hell no! Consumers have been craving innovation in the shopping experience for years. Who wants to deal with crowds. Travel to a store to be disappointed that an item is out of stock (despite it showing as available online, grrrr:)).
I am not saying it is the end of instore shopping, but Pandora's box has been opened. For smaller boutiques, they have opened up new channels to customers in other countries even from other towns. But also have found a way to reduce returns. If you can verbally and visually show an item the risk of return is greatly reduced.
Appling to SMEs
Opening stores on slow footfall days like Mondays could be changing. Instead have virtual calls with people who are unable to get to your store, even in 'normal times'. For your loyal customers, you could even do a few slots on a Sunday when you would be traditionally closed.
Even if open, why not send a few snaps of an item to customers. They might actually pop if they can see what they want.
A truly omnichannel experience is not always possible for SME retailers. But by opening a way for customers to shop via the power of their mobile devises no matter where they are is an exciting opportunity.
As an SME you can set the terms for how you want to offer this service. The technology was simply not available a few years ago. However, now we have loads of free tools. You can limit Zooms to 30 mins, go with Google Hang or Skype.
Don't be afraid to re-draw the box as to how you find and sell to customers. Having spoken to some retail staff about their experience offering a virtual service, they have found it has been enjoyable. Plus they have found customers were less stressed.
It may seem onerous for you to manage multiple conversations at one, but don't forget Gen Y and Millennials are used to multiple group chats. They have these skills already. So don't ignore the evolving skillset of younger retail staff to help you.