The lost vouchers – how lockdown left consumers out of pocket

£100 million. It’s a lot of money, but the figure sounds all the more extreme when you put it into context as the amount UK shoppers lost in unused vouchers during the coronavirus lockdown. According to research conducted by the consumer group Which?, some 25% of UK adults had a shopping voucher that expired after strict COVID-19 related measures came into effect across the UK.

Unfortunately this is not just a story of lost gift vouchers, however. Whilst the COVID-19 measures that shut down physical retail venues were outside of any business’s control, the fact that consumers were unable to continue spending with the outlets for which they held vouchers shows a widespread failure to adapt to the modern world and make it possible to place orders with vouchers via the internet.

Whether you’re involved in a retail business that saw many of its customers lose out over lockdown, or if you simply want to learn how to attract the interest of perturbed consumers, there’s no escaping the fact that retail needs to modernise to survive.

Why multiple sales channels are a must-have vouchers

It’s easy to dismiss the revelation that would-be shoppers lost out on gift vouchers during lockdown as bad luck. Doing so, however, would be a real snub to the British public in addition to the business opportunities that have been lost too.

The truth of the matter is that vouchers are good for business, and by letting them lapse and fall by the wayside, businesses serve to lose a lot more than they might expect. Whilst gift vouchers are generally paid for upfront, their use often leads to spending that exceeds the pre-paid amount meaning that vouchers are a golden ticket to better business figures as holders are unable to spend their money (both pre-paid and otherwise) elsewhere. In a roundabout way, it’s best to think of voucher holders as a captive audience who just might spend a little extra whilst they’re browsing your wares.

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The kicker comes when you realise that over £97.7 million worth of vouchers expired. Even worse, 36% of those vouchers weren’t extended by retailers, representing over £35 million in lost sales that could have been the catalyst for further spending. Even for those businesses who have good reason for not extending the use-by date of their promotional and gift vouchers, not having an online retail presence is totally counterproductive when you consider that the voucher money and more could have been spent at a time when businesses needed custom the most.

If only those businesses had invested in an internet retail presence in time for the lockdown, they could have seen a slice of the online shopping action. With figures from the Office for National Statistics suggesting that “non-store purchases” now account for £3 out of every £10 spent by UK consumers, the time of reckoning really has come for UK retailers who are yet to come online.

Taking action to secure future trading

Vouchers or no vouchers, it’s clear that setting up shop online is non-negotiable for businesses that want to compete with larger retailers. This might sound like an incredibly challenging endeavour, and business owners should be under no illusion that eCommerce is hard work – but it can pay real dividends if it’s done properly.

By following these steps, you can set your business up for success online:

  • Make sure your website looks smart and works well

There’s nothing worse than a buggy, hard to navigate website that doesn’t clearly set out the products it’s trying to sell. Make sure that your online shop is well-designed and easy to use. You wouldn’t let your physical premises fall into disarray, and there’s no reason to lapse in your space on the internet.

  • Make sure that shoppers can find your store
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It sounds obvious, but one of the major benefits of online retail is that shoppers you might not have necessarily served in the past can access and engage with your offering. Even if they live thousands of miles away, the power of the internet brings the world to your doorstep, and more importantly to your till. Make sure that your website can be found by engaging in Search Engine Optimization (commonly known as S.E.O.). This is the practice of raising your profile on search engine sites such as Google, and there are plenty of ways to go about it. Think of S.E.O. as a shop sign or a listing in the local paper – just without any limitation on the number of potential customers that could be reached.

  • Use a robust and reliable payments solution

Just as you need to invest in quality infrastructure in store, it’s essential to use reputable vendors for online operations such as taking payment. Little could be more frustrating than an eCommerce store that makes it hard for its customers to pay when ordering, and it really isn’t all that difficult to get it right. By using a dependable and secure eCommerce Payment Gateway from merchant services provider UTP Group, you could be taking payments for your goods and services 24/7, from all over the world. There’s no reason not to try it when you stand to maximise your customer base with minimal effort. And make sure that you have enough card machine paper supplies for your existent payment solution, so that you are well prepared for customers.

Bringing your business into the 21st century with vouchers

It’s a fairly whimsical example, but the voucher fiasco highlighted by Which? illustrates just how far the UK’s retailers have to go in terms of bringing their businesses up to modern standards. Now is the time to act to ensure your venture is up-to-speed, and nobody wants to be the last to come online.

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