Over the last few weeks, the COVID-19 situation has rapidly unfolded around the world and continues to evolve on a daily basis. The uncertainty it’s causing has led consumers to panic, and left supermarket shelves empty.
So, how is coronavirus affecting brick-and-mortar businesses, both now and in the long run? First and foremost, it means that strengthening relationships with your customers is more crucial than ever before.
Despite social distancing and self-isolation measures being in place, there are numerous ways for businesses to stay connected with their customers during this unprecedented time. Even small independent businesses with little or no online presence can quickly adapt to the current situation and continue to cater for their customers’ needs.
Here are a few tips for how brick-and-mortar businesses can retain customers during the coronavirus outbreak.
1. Allow your customers to shop from home
Obviously, each specific business’s ability to do this depends on what products and/or services it provides – a hair salon can’t exactly sell its services online (although I’ll mention some alternative tips for these kinds of businesses a little later in this article).
Most brands that sell physical products, however, can shift online basically overnight. Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan proved this when it had to close 40% of its shops due to the initial outbreak in Wuhan earlier this year.
The cosmetics company was quick to engage its customers digitally and push online sales, resulting in a whopping 200% rise in sales from the same period last year.
At times like this, communication is more important than ever. While consumers are panicking about supplies right now, most reasonable people can still empathise with the difficult situation business owners find themselves in at the moment.
The more you can keep customers in the loop in regards to changing opening hours, store policies, health and safety measures or temporary closures, the better. The best tools for this are your website, social media pages and email newsletters (if possible).
If your business facilitates online shopping and delivery, it’s crucial that you broadcast this information to as many of your customers as possible. Offer clear instructions on how they can shop with you online, and perhaps consider a digital loyalty app as a means for making the process as convenient and straightforward for home shoppers as possible.
3. Keep your online content positive and reassuring
When you do communicate with your customers digitally via your website, social media, e-newsletter, loyalty app or other means, be sure to keep it positive.
There is no shortage of negative information clogging up people’s newsfeeds right now, and while it’s essential to stay informed, some light-hearted content goes a long way at a time like this.
4. Make it easy for customers to continue supporting your business
Remember earlier when I mentioned service-based businesses like hair salons and restaurants? While it isn’t feasible for these kinds of businesses to shift online (although restaurants are well-positioned to utilise delivery services), gift certificates can help keep revenue ticking over at a time when no customers are physically walking through the doors.
People are still celebrating birthdays and other milestones during this time, and vouchers are a very logical gift. Not only does it allow consumers to continue supporting their local businesses without exposing themselves to the risk of infection, but it gives the recipient something to look forward to once quarantine measures are relaxed.
5. Utilise delivery services to their full potential
As I mentioned above, restaurants and cafes can ramp up their home delivery services to keep up with demand.
App-based delivery platforms like GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates have already announced they are temporarily deferring all marketing commissions or subscription payments for the time being, making it easier for small businesses to continue utilising their services throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
Have a brainstorm about what kind of initiatives you could temporarily incorporate into your business model to encourage people to purchase your products for home delivery.
6. Adjust your product offering to meet current demand
Who says you need to stick to selling what you normally sell? Many businesses are adjusting their product offerings to sell things they don’t usually sell; specifically, essential items like pasta, milk, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and so on.
Brad’s time as a content writer for Stamp Me Loyalty Solutions has equipped him with a thorough knowledge of brand loyalty and customer retention – from current trends and techniques in the industry, to creative marketing strategies for rewards programs.