How to Weather Economic Downturn as a Retail Business
“Necessity is the mother of invention” - Plato
There is no rule book, no set of guidelines on how retailers who were deemed nonessential during the stay-at-home orders should approach the process of reopening. However, one thing is for certain, retailers will need to get creative as they face a number of unique challenges with re-opening.
Most retailers have been hit especially hard by stay-at-home orders that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. If you couldn’t tell by the name of our company— InStore Design Display, we are passionate about the in-store experience. We've felt the hit too, which drove our team to get creative about helping retailers reopen safely. We shifted our focus to developing products that help retailers create safe yet on-brand experiences for customers.
Here are four tips on how to keep your customers and staff safe, while breathing life back into your brick-and-mortar spaces.
Keep your customers informed.
First things, first, make it easy for your customers to do business with you.
For example, if your hours of operation have changed, it’s important to update your social media pages, customer-facing sites, and Business Profile on Google Search and Maps. If your brick and mortar store is currently closed, it’s also important to make sure you are offering e-commerce options. If there hasn’t been a strong online presence in the past, not to worry!
To help stores stay afloat through their online presence during the COVID-19 lockdown, some eCommerce support businesses are offering their products for free. You can also access free learning tools to better navigate the online landscape.
Provide Operational Transparency
Now that you’ve informed your customers how and when they can shop with you, it’s time to share what that experience will look and feel like.
The mindset of the consumer after COVID is still unknown at this point. Whether your customers are itching for an in-store experience or wary of re-entering public spaces, they will appreciate learning about the precautions you’re taking to reduce infection risk for consumers and employees. Social media and email/text campaigns are a great way to relay this information.
Publishing a statement across the different platforms that highlight additional safety measures is a great first step in improving transparency. Imagery is another key way to share this message. For example, this UPS storefront implemented personal protection barriers and clear face shields built by Instore Design Display.
It may feel strange to post photos of your employees in face shields or behind personal protection barriers but in our “new normal,” that could be the difference in whether or not you have foot traffic in-store.
Enlist Customers to Play a Part
Once you’ve highlighted the steps you’re taking to create a safe environment, it’s time to educate your clients on what they can do to help. Clearly outlining procedures like low occupancy limits, social distancing guidelines, and encouraging shoppers to make their selections in a timely manner will set proper expectations and ultimately provide a better experience.
A great in-store experience leads to lingering shoppers, which increases the likelihood of impulse buys, that’s Retail: 101. But what if you are encouraging customers to expedite their shopping trip?
Consider posting on your website as well as on your social media pages and stories the items you currently have in stock or highlighting new arrivals. This will create a sense of anticipation, but also help buyers better understand what they may be looking for in-store and enable them to make decisions more swiftly.
According to a study done by Sprout Social, 90% of people buy from brands they follow on social media. So, not only will you be providing them with helpful information, you’ll also be building “social rapport” that will pay dividends over time.
It’s also helpful to inform shoppers what is out of stock. A simple dry erase board at the store entrance outlining what high demand items are out of stock is a cost-effective and efficient way to keep customers updated on your ever-changing inventory.
Streamline to Increase Safety
During a typical shift, a store employee may be responsible for many tasks. But wiping down high traffic surfaces may seem less important than a line of patrons at the register. However, as we navigate our way through this pandemic, that step in sanitization could potentially save lives.
Since disinfection is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, retailers will have to train employees to properly clean and sanitize merchandise and high-touch areas while they're working. Going one step further, retailers will need to train their employees on how to provide customer service while respecting social-distancing guidelines, which will require new workflows and revised service essentials.
For years, retailers have been appealing to our senses in order to drive purchasing decisions. In the COVID-19 era, that appeal may be a little different. The sight of a staff member sanitizing a basket, the feeling of the store provided hand sanitizer, or the smell of cleaning supplies has the power to define a customer’s sense or interpretation of your brand. These efforts may be the difference between being perceived as caring about your guest’s well being above all else or not.
These necessary actions to keep employees and customers safe can be tedious. Thus, it’s important to reduce workloads to help team members focus on tasks that yield the highest results.
Another way to improve employee and customer experience is to add safety barriers and direct the flow of customers. For example, menswear giant Suit Supply has incorporated in-store partitions that will provide an additional layer of protection between staff and clients. This allows them to continue providing on-site alterations and custom made suiting, which are considered the brand's defining services.
Before you run to the hardware store to fashion a sales desk barrier with a piece of plexiglass, wire, and a swimming pool noodle, consider your brand and how you want to be perceived. Partnering with a one-stop-shop like InStore Design Display will enable you to provide a consistent look and feel while saving on time and money. We offer an all-in-one COVID Response Package that includes the following elements:
- Personal Protection Barriers
- Clear Face Shields
- Room Dividers
- Reception/Sales Desk Barriers
- Floor Messaging to Promote Social Distancing
- Sanitization Stations
- Cubicle Barriers for Office Staff
The IDD team is ready to support your efforts to get back to work and serve your customers in this new normal.