COVID-19 retailer resources

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is causing unprecedented uncertainty worldwide and has had a major effect on brick-and-mortal retail stores. In North America, spring has historically been prime time for outdoor retailers to start gearing up for the season, and we know this means many businesses have been hit especially hard.

We’ve put together a list of resources to help you save the season by making the most out of all the Ascend products and services available to you, regardless of whether or not your store is staying open.

Get support

The pandemic currently has NO effect on the Ascend Support Team’s availability. We’re thankful to already have the infrastructure ready to allow our employees to work from home with full access to all the tools needed to help you and your employees.

Stay protected

This is difficult time, and it’s extremely tempting to accept any and all sales; unfortunately, scammers are taking full advantage of the situation.

Process credit/debit cards through the Ingenico iSC250.

  • This ensures you’re complying with the security embedded in the EMV chip on the card. While some issues may be caused by the bank/card issuer not implementing EMV standards correctly, it’s also possible the card was tampered with – it’s better to err on the side of caution and ask the customer to use a different card or payment type.
  • If the charge is reported as fraudulent, the “liable party” is considered as whoever has the least amount of security in place (between the customer, retailer, payment processor, and bank/card issuer).

Be wary of shipping, especially if you’ve never met the customer.

  • Never ship large and/or expensive items. If the customer is asking to have them shipped out of state or to a different address than their billing address, be extra cautious.
  • Even if the customer is willing to come into the store to make payment using the Ingenico iSC250, verify they are who they claim to be by checking their driver’s license to verify their identity and address.

 Ensure your entire system is secure and up-to-date.

  • Keep Ascend on the current version on all workstations.
  • Run all Windows updates on all computers on your network (including any that aren’t used for Ascend!) – be sure to restart your computer if prompted to do so.
  • Check that all of your hardware is adequate.
  • Secure your internet connection (including WiFi) and all computers with a strong password.
  • See the Tips to keep my system protected article for additional ways to protect your store from scammers, hackers, and theft.

Sell online

Offering your products for sale online gives your customers the ability to shop from the comfort and safety of their homes. It also allows you to use a card not present account to process payments, which offers you additional protection from fraud claims. Offer “curb-side pickup” so your customers can minimize interaction. 

Perform regular inventory counts to ensure your customers have the best information available. Slow times are a great time to create a cycle count schedule.

If you’re a Trek dealer, customers can purchase directly from the Trek Bikes website, select your store as their local retailer, and have their order shipped to your store for assembly and (if you choose) delivery to their home.

  • Whether you’re closing down temporarily, reducing your hours, or keeping your normal store availability, be sure to edit your store profile to ensure your hours and contact information are up-to-date.
  • Your product availability automatically displays on the Trek Bikes website.
  • Record any bike builds your mechanics work on.
  • Add any returns to your inventory.
  • DO NOT enter any sales or process any refunds (Trek will handle both of these).

If you use SmartEtailing’s POS Sync service, customers can purchase products directly from your store. They can either pick up their order at the store or have it shipped directly to their home.

We’ve worked with Locally to develop a query to schedule to send your pricing and stock information for use in their services. (Other services may be able to utilize this query, too!) 

We’ve also worked with Specialized to develop a query to schedule to send your inventory and sales data to use with their S_Connect service.

Keep in contact

Keep in contact with employees and customers alike.

  • Regardless of how the pandemic is affecting your store hours, post them on all your social media channels, on your website, on your store entrance(s), and throughout the store.
  • Ensure you’ve configured your email address(es) and signature(s).
  • Check for customers with outstanding quotes to entice them to complete their purchase.
  • Check for customers who have upcoming birthdays to send them a greeting.
  • Reach out to your top customers to thank them for their continued support.
  • Use the Customer Query utility to create interest-based customer lists to send educational emails (e.g. women who bought mountain bikes, customers who bought e-bikes).
  • In Reports > Customers, use the Customers on Mail List query to export customers who have agreed to receive mailing from you. This list can be loaded into most common email marketing platforms (e.g. Constant Contact, MailChimp).
  • Including coupons in emails is a great way to get customers back into the store when life is calmer.

Keep in mind – while Ascend automatically adds recipient addresses to the BCC field (so other customers cannot see everyone the email was sent to), many email providers mark messages as junk/spam and/or block it entirely if it’s sent to multiple addresses. Using an email marketing platform is preferred, as these services are designed to send individual emails.

Special promotions

Offering customers a special price can be a great allure to make a purchase.

  • Selling gift cards or gift certificates is a great way to encourage your customers to spend money without spending a lot of time in your store. Deals to give a small extra amount for free (like “$25 for $30”) can be a great incentive to spend more – create a custom payment type to issue the extra amount.
  • Promotions allow you to set a large number of products (or entire categories) to automatically ring up at a discount (so your employees don’t have to remember to do so). A promotion can apply to eCommerce (online/website) sales only, in-store sales only, or both. You can adjust dates as your state’s guidelines evolve.
  • Kits let you sell a small number of products at a discount. These are great for “BOGO” deals.
  • Special orders let the customer get the product they want, even if you don’t have it in your store. Take a downpayment to get some cashflow in, even though the customer isn’t taking anything home yet.
  • Of course, employees can always manually discount a customer’s product(s) at their discretion. The maximum percentage each employee can apply is set in their user record, and you can create a list of Discount Reasons to track why discounts are being applied.

Work from home

While the Ascend client software can only be accessed on your store network, we offer multiple reporting options that can help you do as much of your work as possible from home.

  • Ascend HQ gives you real-time access to sales and inventory information for all your locations. View data for specific locations and/or dates, and compare key metrics to the same timeframe last year. The Sales Team Analysis report allows you to compare your employees’ sales performance.
  • Ascend Analytics gives you business intelligence-level reporting on all your locations’ data. Compare your current results to last year’s and to goals you’ve set for the year.
  • Ascend Online Reports (AOR) gives you near-real-time access to several popular Ascend reports that can be run for all your locations.
  • RetailNext and the Aurora sensor let you track your customer traffic and compare it against your sales data from Ascend.
  • If you’re using our Cisco Meraki system, VPN (virtual private networking) is built-in – this feature lets you connect to your store network from your own computer anywhere you have an existing internet connection, which means you can use your home computer as an Ascend workstation! It’s not quite as fast as if you were physically in the store, so it’s not ideal for large projects like vendor updates, but you’ll still be able to perform most of your day-to-day tasks.
  • If you don’t already have Meraki (or other VPN capabilities), there’s a plethora of remote desktop software apps (e.g. Google Chrome Remote Desktop, LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, RemotePC, AnyDesk) that allow you to directly connect to a computer in the store. It’s a bit different than VPN, as you’ll actually be controlling the “local” computer, so others won’t be able to use it – but if your store is closed, or if there’s a seldom-used computer your employees won’t need, this can be an easy way to work from home.

Hone your skills

Ascend’s email functions are great for contacting your customers…But they can only help if employees are actually collecting their contact information!

  • Ascend HQ’s Analytics Retail Profit Machine (RPM) metric displays your store’s overall Email Capture rate and NPS value. The Sales Team Analysis reports lets you dig into individual employee’s rates so you can effectively coach them.
  • The Listen360 customer engagement platform sends your customers post-purchase surveys so you can get real-time feedback on their experience. Use your downtime to reach out to customers with less-than-stellar experiences so you can start improving your customer service before your store gets busy.

Trek dealers can access tips from the Trek-owned retail stores on their B2B site.

The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) has also put together a resource list for retailers.

And finally, take this time to have all your employees reach Sherpa status on Ascend University. As they say, knowledge is power, and knowing is half the battle!

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