The business landscape has changed significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. More changes are undoubtedly coming, with one in particular certain to affect retail businesses in a big way.
Social distancing—defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as maintaining a physical distance of “at least six feet (or about two arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces”—is a major factor for business owners who plan to reopen in the weeks and months ahead.
Let’s start with the assumption that business owners are, above all else, concerned with the safety and health of their customers. This means taking specific actions to protect customers who visit your brick-and-mortar facility and/or the office where your business is headquartered.
It also means a renewed emphasis in your marketing materials to inform customers of this overriding priority—and thus making them feel comfortable about returning to your place of business.
Here are tips to keep in mind with regard to social distancing:
Focus on contactless options.
Many businesses catering directly to the public have implemented contactless purchasing options such as delivery and curbside pickup. Where possible, it could be helpful to embrace this approach with your business, whatever products or services you provide.
As National Business Capital & Financing notes, the strategy of providing such options “gives customers a much-needed sense of security,” which you can promote in your marketing efforts “by offering a discount to customers that select a delivery or curbside pickup option.”
Explore rearranging your current floor and office layouts.
Whether it’s the floor plan of your retail business or the office in which your employees work, now is a good time to re-examine the layout in order to emphasize proper social distancing. It may be necessary to add space where possible, widen shopping aisles, etc. The more attention you give to the physical layout, the more comfortable customers (and employees) will feel upon returning to your business in person.
Enable customers to browse virtually.
Real estate companies and others long ago introduced virtual browsing to potential customers, and there’s no reason you can’t explore a similar approach for your business. The simplest method may be having employees (or sales reps) circulate through your business or warehouse with an iPad that provides an on-line “visual tour” of your products. This can eliminate the need for customers to physically visit your place of business.
Offer customers the opportunity to make appointment reservations.
In order to avoid overcrowding in your retail space, think about inviting customers to make reservations to visit at their convenience. Scheduling appointments means fewer people in your place of business at any given time (which enhances overall safety for everyone involved), while also making your space more “user-friendly” for customers.
Highlight your social distancing efforts in marketing materials.
Customers want to feel safe, so it’s vital to keep them informed about social distancing and other safety measures you implement towards that end. Spread the word about safety precautions on your website, in your social media postings, in signage in and around your place of business, and through informative emails and new marketing materials.
At a time like this, letting people know their safety is your top priority may be the most effective marketing message you can offer.
Back in May, TAB Facilitator Phil Spensieri offered this insight: “If your business is open to the public, you may choose to limit the amount of transactions that occur at a time, the type of payment you accept (i.e. no cash), or implement protective equipment safeguards to create physical barriers between your staff and customers.”
This advice is as pertinent today as it was months ago. By reassuring your customers, you make the eventual “return to normal” more palatable for all involved.
Find out more by visiting our COVID-19 Resource Center.