As businesses reopen following the COVID-19 global crisis and governmental regulations to limit the spread, there needs to be a plan in place to change how local businesses operate to ensure the continued safety and well being of everyone involved.
Businesses should look to the precautions many essential businesses like grocery stores have put in place, for example limiting the number of customers in store at a time or marking safe distances at the entrance and checkout.
Things won’t be back to business as usual, but there’s opportunity in what will become the new normal and what happens in between.
Here are some steps small businesses can take.
1. REVISIT AND REDIRECT
Where and how consumers expect businesses to serve them took a sharp turn in the beginning of 2020. It may take many months to return to “pre-COVID” service, and in some cases things will not go back to the way they were, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You may need to cut costs and look at how to survive in a socially distant model. You may also need to adjust your model or pivot to succeed.
Take a wider view at your business as a whole to dive into:
- What products or services you sell
- How you sell and market them
- Who you sell them to
- Where do you source your materials and products from?
- What does your supply chain look like?
- How you deliver your products and services
- Are you relying on foot traffic?
- Does it make sense to return to full staff and operating hours?
- Can you expand your online offering?
- How are you taking appointments?
- Does your product line still cater to your demographic?
- Is there something new, relevant to your industry, your customers may need?
- Are your vendors or suppliers making changes?
- Are you set up to offer contactless service?
Now is a really good time to take a deep dive into your business model and how it will hold up in the transitional period while businesses start to re-open.
Where possible, transition your business to a subscription model versus an al a carte offering. This ensures a steady stream of revenue while your customers continue to get the services they need and want.
2. CONSIDER HANDLING CUSTOMERS
You will need to change the way you serve customers, with a focus on social distance and sanitation.
- Scheduled appointments: Service-based businesses may want to take a break from walk-ins and simplify their online booking system. Businesses that aren’t service-based may want to consider if allowing customers to schedule times would work.
- Limiting customers at a time: Put your plan in place to allow everyone to keep a safe distance.
- Continue curbside pick-up: Don’t be hasty in doing away with these precautions, continue to provide customers options to make them feel safe.
- Sanitary practices: Plan for increased cleaning and sanitation of surfaces throughout open hours. Review any policies around free samples, trials, fitting rooms, etc.
3. VISIBLE SAFETY
Beyond implementing social distancing and sanitation practices, you need to be vocal and visible to customers to help them feel safe.
- Educate customers on what you’re doing: Create posters, post videos on your social media, provide pictures and keep customers informed through email marketing.
- Adopt masks and gloves: Provide Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for employees for everyone’s safety.
4. CONTINUE AN ONLINE FOCUS
While government guidelines may start to slacken, things won’t snap back to pre-COVID normal. Expect to continue to see an increased and ongoing demand for ecommerce and pick-up or delivery options.
This means setting up ecommerce or online orders for your business if you haven’t already. It also means rehauling your website and online presence to pull ahead from competition and earn the spend of your local and distant prospects.
- Sell online: Every business should be looking at how they can serve customers online, even if they plan to re-open a retail space. COVID-19 has forced some reluctant or unlikely businesses to move to ecommerce. Expect the trend to continue as more businesses are forced to look at what portions of their business need to be online ready. Look at hybrids of online and in-store—for example order online and pick-up in store.
- Accept digital payments: Use of alternative payment methods (e.g., Apple Pay, Google Pay) are growing, and make for seamless check-out experiences especially on smartphones. Most ecommerce platforms will allow you to connect multiple payment options. PayPal is still the most widely used digital payment, especially for consumers over 35.
- Audit your online experience: Take time to really audit your website and user experience, especially on mobile. Compare your website to your top competitors. Even before the crisis, 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, with 33% looking every day (BrightLocal). Now is the time to launch an updated website.
5. PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES
There are plenty of free ways to try to reach prospects and customers, but now may also be a good opportunity to get a sense of what ads you have budget for as costs per click or impressions have dropped on most major platforms.
And don’t wait until you’re ready to reopen, take advantage of the all-time high usage on mobile, social and more to build your base of customers now.
- Plan offers/promotions: When you reopen, you’ll be competing for much needed business. Having a promotion prepped will help bring in the business and can help incent customer sharing online.
- Stay active on social: Staying on customers’ radars will have them anticipating your return.
- Consider paid ads: On Facebook, ad pricing fell as much as 50% in March. It won’t stay low, so use the advantage to collect followers and subscribers now.
- Two words: Email Marketing: Plan a weekly update email and start early as you work towards re-opening. Include everything you have planned from above: what you’re offering, how you’ll be serving customers, safety precautions, offers and promotions.
We understand this is a new and challenging time; we’re all in this together.
We’re here to support you as best we can. The safety and security of our employees, customers and communities is top of mind. Let’s trust everyone is doing the best they can to weather this uncharted territory. Consider and share ways to support your local businesses, and your neighbors.