It’s been over a year since the coronavirus shook the world, turning it upside down. The effects are far-reaching with the small business community getting hit hard.
Now that more than 20 percent of the U.S. population fully vaccinated, optimism is coming back and the new-normal is being shaped. Like so many industries facing crushing disruption during this health crisis, retail has permanently changed on multiple fronts.
Even before the pandemic, the retail industry shifted thanks to rapidly advancing technology and consumer’s changing tastes and shopping experiences. Retailers from big box to grocery have to fight for customers in a world dominated by Amazon and other online companies.
If you run a physical location, all is not lost. Here are strategies – time tested and new – to help you rebuild.
The safety of your employees and customers as the pandemic continues should be completely obvious. Your customers and the community are looking closely at businesses to determine if it’s safe to start shopping in person again. Here are steps to help you get on the right track and protect yourself, your workers, and your customers:
Create a comprehensive safety program
Whether you employee hundreds or just a handful of people, put a program in place so everyone is on the same page. Include policies, procedures and budget.
Train your employees
Don’t assume that the people you pay who interact with your customers know how to implement and emphasize safety. Create a mandatory training program and check in with your staff regularly.
Practice what you preach
The oft repeated phrase “Do what I do, not as I say” is a terrible strategy in any situation. It’s important to recognize that you’re the face of the organization. It should be very clear to your staff and those visiting your store that you’re personally committed to safety.
Consult with OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established to provide safety and health training to help prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. Review the rights and protections they are dedicated to here: OSHA Worker Rights and Protections.
Nurture loyal customers
Loyal customers will consistently buy your products regardless of if they are on sale or not and recommend you to friends and family. Keeping this audience large enough to keep you afloat is vital to the overall success of your business. There are several other benefits associated with having loyal customers, including positive online reviews and free word-of-mouth advertising. Here are five simple ways to build customer loyalty. For a deep dive into this topic, visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: 5 Simple Ways to Build Customer Loyalty.
1. Know your customers and let them know you
Things like remembering birthdays, the ages of customer’s children, and the last item they bought from you are all little things that go a long way in customer retention. Implement a trigger email program that sends a birthday email and offer discounts during their birthday month.
2. Create customer loyalty programs
3. Be the best
It sounds almost too simple to be true, but a simple tactic for increasing customer loyalty is to be the best around. Customers have many brands to choose from, but focus on delivering a quality product at a price point that works for your customer base. When individuals can connect with your company, they are more likely to become and remain loyal customers.
4. Ask for feedback
Customer feedback goes hand-in-hand with customer loyalty. Positive reviews will help attract new customers, providing excellent products or services will convert new customers to loyal customers, and happy customers leave good reviews. Read The Best Ways to Get Customer Feedback.
Identify the most important customer touch points
A touchpoint is any time a potential customer or customer comes in contact with your brand–before, during, or after they purchase something from you. Customer touchpoints are your brand's points of customer contact, from start to finish. For a brick and mortar business, touchpoints include:
- Your showroom
- The bathrooms
- Promotional signage
- Checkout lines
- Point of Sale systems
Paying attention to these touchpoints can help you attract new business and delight current customers.
Create a strong social media presence
A Harris Poll conducted between late March and early May, found that between 46% and 51% of US adults were using social media more since the coronavirus of 2020 began.
This is good news for small businesses is that this trend opens up new avenues for brand-building and promotion. Getting creative and being proactive can pay off when rebuilding your business or waiting for the economy to improve. For actionable ideas and strategies, check out our comprehensive guide: Social Media Guide for Businesses 2021.
Don’t ignore your company values
Embracing values can help set you apart from other businesses and attract new customers. According to a recent survey, 71 percent of consumers prefer buying from companies that align with their principles. This was on display during the pandemic when brands spoke out on a range of social justice issues. This trend is not expected to end.
Analysts at Wells Fargo took a deep dive into the future of the brick and mortar landscape and concluded that:
“Despite the uncertain outlook for the brick and mortar retail industry, we do recognize that well-located retail properties may have healthy demand, even if it requires transformation of a portion of the tenant base from traditional retailers to other services, amenities, and experiences that serve the community.”
Continue to innovate, embrace technology, and explore creative ways to pivot post-pandemic.