As we head into late spring, most states are coordinating phased reopening plans after the initial COVID-19 closures and stay-at-home orders effectively paused many of our lives overnight. Though the social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines have been necessary and helpful to public health, people are restless. This time last year, our customers would spend a May Saturday out and about, doing some shopping, socializing, and maybe stop at a favorite cafe for lunch.
A typical Saturday has looked much different for a while now, and most of us haven’t seen a physical customer since March. But, the reopening plans are underway and many businesses are preparing to jump on the path to “the new normal.” As has been the case many times over throughout the course of the pandemic, you may need to pivot once again in order to keep your business going. Here’s some guidance on safely, but effectively, attracting traffic back to your physical location and keeping up business in the face of uncertainty.
Start the Conversation Online
Many brands’ websites and social media accounts have turned into the most important line of communication between them and their customers in the absence of face-to-face interaction. Both channels play critical roles in many brands’ marketing strategies, now more than ever.
- On your social media channels: Keep your profile updated with the most relevant information your customers are looking for. It’s not uncommon for a customer to check for info like current hours, or store policies, on your social media profile before heading to your website. Be proactive in your communications by making posts about your business’s reopening plans as clearly and concisely as possible. Using paid social media ads on a platform like Facebook is a relatively inexpensive tactic to get the word out about your business reopening. You can target existing customers, or use Facebook’s tools to find similar prospects that are most likely to engage with your business.
- In your email marketing: Not all customers will check your social media or directly seek out your website for updates. Pop in for a quick visit to their inbox with an email campaign announcing your re-opening plan. You can send a mass blast to your entire subscriber list, or you can experiment with segmentation and try a more personalized approach to your messaging based on subscriber location, interests, and other demographics. Even in a crisis, subscribers still crave messaging relevant to their needs and preferences. For example, if your store has a special time set aside for senior citizens to shop exclusively, you could run a campaign specifically targeted at subscribers 60+ years old letting them know that, if you’ve gathered information about your customers’ ages beforehand.
- On your website: Make sure critical information is easy to access. A smooth and positive user experience is more important than ever in stressful times. Having some type of FAQ page or blog/news feature on your website was always good to have during normal times, but now, it’s the chance to put your best foot forward to communicate how your business is taking the necessary steps to keep employees and patrons safe. You can also utilize pop-ups or message banners to keep your customers informed in a proactive manner – offer them this information even before they go looking for it.
If you have an e-commerce platform on your site, make sure you keep that running smoothly, too! Not everyone is going to be comfortable going back out to physical stores, so it’s important to make sure your customers that still prefer online shopping continue to have a good experience. Additionally, though it’s not directly on your website, make sure your Google My Business listing has the most up-to-date information on your store hours.
Utilize Signage for Safety and Information
Those customers that do venture back to your physical store are expecting you to demonstrate clear guidelines to eliminate confusion and anxiety regarding your shop’s procedures. Printed signage like custom banners or custom floor decals can aid in promoting social distancing guidelines and display messaging about other safety measures. Banners are often a relatively inexpensive piece of marketing equipment, and have been heavily used by many businesses to communicate during the pandemic, like restaurants advertising their takeout and delivery options amid dining room closures.
Floor decals have become increasingly common to demonstrate social distancing guidelines in a checkout line, or direct foot traffic up and down aisles. Make sure that even before you open your doors again, your store is set up as best as possible to adhere to public health and safety guidelines.
Consider a Special Offer or Promotion
While money’s tight, many businesses aren’t super keen on offering a discount in order to save as much as profit as possible. However, if you are able to do it, offering some kind of promotion or offer to your customers can be a very effective way to get them coming back through the door. Money might be tighter on their end, too, and discounts or offers may drive them to make a purchase.
For instance, a clothing retailer could offer a free fabric face mask with every purchase made in-store; a restaurant could offer a free beverage or side dish with an entree order. This is the time to get creative with your ideas on meeting what your customers want.
Be Empathetic and Patient
The effects of the pandemic have caused extreme hardship for countless businesses across the world. While it’s exciting that re-opening plans have been put into motion, we have to remember that things won’t go back to normal overnight. They can’t, and they just won’t.
Even when health officials tell us it’s safe to slowly start shopping in person again, some customers just aren’t going to be comfortable with that for a while and may keep flocking to online shopping or continue to be un-engaged with your brand altogether. Don’t get discouraged if things pick up slower than you might have expected them to. As a business owner, you know this best of all – life continues to endure and adapt, one way or the other. Hang in there and let customers know you’re here for them when they’re ready.
“Eileen Shaw is a Marketing Coordinator at MVP Visuals who is passionate about helping businesses connect with their audiences through the power of creative branding, from major league sports teams to your favorite mom & pop shop on the corner.”