When COVID hit, all the brick-and-mortar stores had to put a sign on their physical stores’ windows and locked the doors. But, harnessing the power of the eCommerce platform, nurtured through regular livestreams and posts on social media, many of brand owners stayed afloat during tough times and some of them even grew. Now, when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in some locations, you might think about reopening your store. In this article, we will examine how to reopen your physical store safely, and whether it is worth opening your retail point of sale or not.
Safe reopening practices
#1 Do store sanitation
As your local government permits you to reopen, think twice before actually opening the doors. It’s true that the pandemic has cutted down the landlord fees in some regions. However, to come in under your budget or at least recover costs, try to estimate the foot traffic. If you had a total of 25 people who walked in your store (foot traffic) and nobody ended up buying something, your conversion rate is 0%. It is not worth it.
Lots of direct-to-consumer brands in New York City opted not to reopen in June even after the government restrictions were lifted.
Consider the following issues when deciding whether you reopen or not:
- How am I implementing social distancing in my store?
- How will I comply with the sanitation regulations?
Figure out how much retail space you will need to accommodate customers. Organise it to keep more free room to ensure a proper social distancing. Maybe it is better to open the store for limited time slots. In that way, you’ll be able to carry out cleanings to steam clothing and wipe down surfaces without distracting your visitors. Put the hand sanitizer around your store: at the cash register, entrance, or other high-contact places.
Some stores use their own branded plastic personal protective equipment (PPE) shields and face masks for employees. Some install plexiglass barriers at their counters. Precaution measures can be one more way to reveal your customer care and highlight your brand. You can shout out your health protection activity throughout your social accounts to invite more customers like on Instagram, for example.
#2 Use cashless payment options
To limit the use of cash in your physical store, provide an option to pay with the NFC technology (Apple and Google Pay).
Think about a progressive web app for your store to facilitate the pickup in stores like Starbucks did. Their PWA store was the key in reopening local cafes as it seamlessly combined mobile on-the-go purchases, the online payment process and the pickup in store option.
No-contact delivery and curbside pickups are the most safe ways for customers to get their purchases. If you run an online store, you can add a drop-off option for orders like “Leave it at my door” or additional instructions on the Checkout page.
You can also take the health crisis as an opportunity to improve your physical store with a backup online store offering digital receipts sent to the customers’ emails.
#3 Arrange appointments online
This is one more way to reduce the flow of customers in your local shop. With an online calendar and available time slots for visits, you are free to open the store only for those who already confirmed their willingness to visit your place. Often, it is just not necessary to meet in person. An online calendar embedded on your web page can connect your salespersons and potential customers on a virtual call to provide all the required information. A conference call or a chat will assist in the remote handling of customer requests to keep the store open for buyers who are ready to buy.
#4 Help your staff to adapt
At the time when some brands reopened their retail stores, they had already introduced regular check-ins with staff to gather feedback and get to know about the needs of their employees. Going back to offline sales, they kept some online practices to stay productive. Following this example, you also can add more flexibility to your office hours. For example, if your employees practice messaging customers instead of in-person communication, why not to keep this option for them? You can also introduce a mixed working experience and floating working hours for your staff. Shift part of customer interaction activity to online and part to offline, when needed.
#5 Announce your reopening plans
If you are ready to open, make an announcement. Use the power of social media, live stream the event, show how your store is ready to welcome customers. It is critical while reopening to keep in touch with your online audience. Live streaming and messaging through virtual chats have the potential to engage your customers better.
#6 Take the most of the online and offline store benefits
If your brand has a rich life in eCommerce, don’t take it away after reopening your physical store. Online stores are worth investing. Take Chubbies for example. After opening their five stores in the southeastern US, they kept the focus of their online stores making their plus-size models available online. They additionally re-evaluated the delivery strategy and offered customers to shop online and pick up from the store.
It’s true that COVID-19 induced some brands to terminate their businesses and never reopen. But with the government incentives and eCommerce capabilities, you can keep and grow your business as from disruption comes opportunity. Start your eCommerce project with us to evolve and adapt to a new reality!