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If you’re the owner of a brick-and-mortar retail business, you’re probably concerned about the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 this winter and the impact it could have on your business. While that concern is a valid one, it’s important to remember that the current climate also offers an opportunity to innovate in ways which will not only keep your business running smoothly for the near future, but also improve your operations in the long term.
According to a recent survey of 600 small- to medium- sized business owners, 78% of respondents said they feel prepared for another COVID-19 spike after rethinking how they do business, how they serve their customers, and how they collaborate and communicate. If you don’t feel quite as prepared, here are 3 strategies you can implement to overcome the challenges presented by a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic this winter:
Keep Your Customers Informed
Think about ways that you can provide information which would make customers feel more comfortable visiting your store along with messaging that assures your customers that you’re taking extra precautions to protect both them and your staff during this time.
If your store is on the larger side, consider posting a diagram of your shop’s layout on your website or near the entrance to your store. This map should also detail product categories that can be found in each aisle. Customers who know exactly where to go in your store to find what they’re looking for may feel more confident in entering since they can spend less time searching and be in-and-out quickly.
Another useful way to relay information is by using social media. You can respond to customer inquiries regarding whether you carry certain items or currently have them in stock. Customers will be more likely to visit if they are confident that they’ll find what they’re looking for. Using live video streams on these platforms, you can also showcase changes to your store, new product offerings, special events, and more.
If your retail storefront is small or is of a more boutique style, you may want to offer shopping by appointment. Individuals or small groups can enter the store during a reserved time slot and shop at their leisure without the concern of close contact with other shoppers. They may also benefit from more personalized service, resulting in greater overall satisfaction with their experience in your store.
For larger stores, outdoor tent sales are a great way to present your products in an environment where customers may feel more comfortable taking their time. You can offer to complete transactions outdoors, or escort customers in one-by-one for indoor checkout depending on the technology at your disposal.
Purchases made online or over the phone can be offered for curbside pickup for those customers who wish to keep their exposure at a minimum.
This is a great time to implement an e-commerce site if your business doesn’t already have one. The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2020, increased 31.8% from the first quarter of 2020.
Having an e-commerce site will enable you to offer online ordering, inventory tracking, and other modern conveniences that customers have come to expect. This will help you remain competitive with “big box” stores and online retailers. An e-commerce site also provides additional options for customers who may be unable to go shopping in person.
For smaller, boutique stores, you could consider assisting your customers by acting as their personal shopper via video conferencing. You can help them browse your products and answer their questions in real time. Doing this will recreate the shopping experience they enjoy from your boutique while they’re in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Pairing this service with curbside pickup options will keep the shopping experience as contact-free as possible.
Lasting Positive Impacts on Your Business
While many of these strategies are intended to enhance safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also offer enhanced convenience for your customers. Online ordering, virtual shopping assistance, and curbside pickup could become permanent service offerings which your customers will enjoy for years to come, ultimately helping you to grow your business.
To learn more about how SBG can help you secure the funding you need to get your retail business ready for a possible resurgence of COVID-19, visit our retail business financing page here.
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