TC Running Company is a Minnesota-based specialty running retailer with two brick-and-mortar stores and a very loyal customer base. Road, track, and trail runners, from experts to beginners, come to TC Running to build their knowledge and find the right equipment to reach their goals.
Before the pandemic hit, 98% of the company’s business came through in-person, in-store interactions (with online transactions limited to TCRC swag).
Suddenly faced with closing their stores in March of 2020, the company needed to shift its business online—fast.
TCRC wanted to build omnichannel flexibility for their entire business, so no matter what happened, they’d be able to connect with customers in-store, online, and anywhere in between.
Going omnichannel with Shopify POS allowed TC Running to:
- Quickly make all of their inventory available online
- Launch an instantly popular membership program by integrating a subscriptions app from the Shopify app store
- Keep revenues on track despite the COVID-19 lockdown, and emerge with a growing, national customer base
The company is no stranger to defying the odds.
Before the pandemic, TCRC was doing record sales despite its minimal online presence, thanks to an incredible in-store experience and fantastic staff. Incredulous suppliers asked, “How are you guys doing this?”
But how do you continue defying odds with face-to-face sales when you suddenly have to close your stores?
“We were just trying to get our heads around what this was, how long it was going to last—and how to make it as easy as possible for customers to get products,” says Jeff Bull, Brand Director. “We wanted to salvage at least some of those sales, and figure out how to do it well.”
The owners were especially worried because it was March, traditionally their busiest month of the year.
We were just trying to get our heads around what this was, how long it was going to last—and how to make it as easy as possible for customers to get products.
As Jeff explains, it was a major priority to find ways to retain, through digital interactions, the personal touch the stores were known for.
“We have a super one-to-one experience in-store and people love that, but how could we show people we remembered them, make them feel valued, when they weren’t in the store?”
The biggest challenge with store closures was that their in-store Point of Sale, RICS Retail POS system, was separate from their online store.
“RICS was in a sort-of walled garden, in the store,” says Jeff. “Once you get beyond those walls, there’s just very little access to the system.”
They’d been exploring options for integrating their Shopify online store with in-store sales for the past few years, but they’d been doing so well with their brick-and-mortar focus that it hadn’t been a priority.
Now priorities had changed, overnight. They had to find a way to blend online and in-store sales, and their Point of Sale system didn’t make it very easy.
It became immediately apparent that it made no sense to have two separate systems; integrating their legacy POS system with their online presence would have required an expensive and time-consuming third-party fix.
The company—which prides itself on the kind of culture that can support a quick, all-in pivot—switched from RICS to Shopify POS, and they haven’t looked back.
The first order of business for TCRC was to get their in-store inventory online fast so they could keep sales going despite store closures. The team did a blitz to upload all of their retail inventory to their online store with Shopify.
“It took us just over a week to get our online store and POS up and running,” says Jeff. “We have a lot of SKUs, and Shopify made it really easy to set up products and inventory counts.”
What made that possible was the ability to upload inventory to a single product catalog in Shopify. Instead of managing different groups of inventory for online and in-store, TCRC was able to upload all inventory and select which products and SKUs they wanted to sell from their online store, retail stores, or both.
Once they had all their retail SKUs online, the real magic started happening.
To continue to build on the meaningful connections they had always made in-store, the team knew they had to find a way to replicate that experience digitally.
TC Running started evaluating membership apps from the Shopify app store, which offers plug-and-play apps that integrate seamlessly across in-store and online.
Using the ReCharge app, they launched a membership program called Run Squad that provides incentives, discounts, and advance notice of new-product drops to loyal customers, and they integrated Klaviyo’s email marketing solution to create automated and personalized email touchpoints with Run Squad members.
Membership programs like Run Squad are extremely valuable when it comes to engaging customers and staying top-of-mind, especially when you can’t interact with them in person.
“One of the big, big benefits that we didn’t think about when we started,” says Jeff, “was that we'd be able to plug in these apps and features that we’d thought of as reserved for big online stores, but that we now use seamlessly across online and in-store. The number of times that we're able to reach out and connect with our customers has gone up exponentially as a result of integrating everything with Shopify POS.”
The number of times that we're able to reach out and connect with our customers has gone up exponentially as a result of integrating everything with Shopify POS.
Another added bonus to having their in-store inventory online is that TC Running could now seamlessly offer customers a local pickup option when they check out online.
Especially with the running season at its peak, being able to offer their loyal local community an easy option to get their orders safely and efficiently was a big perk.
TC Running Company is defying the odds, once again.
The highly versatile Shopify POS unifies online and in-store sales like no other platform, making it easy for TCRC to create a seamless omnichannel experience for customers and employees alike.
Throughout the pandemic, customers have flocked to the company’s newly expanded online store, ordering products online for shipping or curbside pickup, and online sales have grown by 110% every month since the launch.
The Run Squad membership program, which wasn’t easy to launch before switching to Shopify POS, has developed a rapidly growing following.
Jeff says a loyalty program had never even been on their radar before. “It’s something we thought was reserved for the big corporate retailers. We’re really excited about where that could lead.”
TC Running’s customer base, which had been limited to local shoppers, has exploded nationally. They now ship far and wide (and are inundated with messages from all over the country every time the latest sneaker is set to drop!). As the weather in Minneapolis turns cold, the ability to sell to people in warmer parts of the country is a huge competitive advantage.
“Our expansion to online sales has been explosive,” says Jeff. “You look at the numbers and we’re pretty even with where we were last year—in the midst of a global pandemic we managed to recoup almost all of our sales. And the crazy thing is that last year all of those sales were in-store. All of them.”
In the midst of a global pandemic we managed to recoup almost all of our sales. And the crazy thing is that last year all of those sales were in-store. All of them.
TCRC was able to reopen its retail stores in May, following strict safety guidelines, of course. They are now reaping even more of the benefits of Shopify POS, giving customers the ultimate flexibility in where and how they shop.
The Run Squad is booming, online sales continue to soar, and in-person interactions are stronger than ever. The pandemic has been tough for retailers everywhere, but, thanks to their innovative leadership and Shopify POS, TC Running never missed a step.
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