Around the world, many companies – including retailers, restaurants and personal care businesses – are loosening or even lifting COVID-19-related lockdown measures in one way or another. The New York Times recently reported that whilst all 50 U.S. states have started reopening, substantial variations exist, and especially as much of the public remains anxious about the potential for a second wave of coronavirus cases to blossom.
As such, there are certain measures retailers – and other companies – should take to help the public (and their employees) know their respective businesses are taking extra measures to address the situation. This might include mandating employees and/or customers to wear masks, implementing one-way foot traffic or allowing fewer customers into an establishment to enforce social distancing.
Let’s take a look at some of the initiative’s retailers should consider and implement, even as their state governments are lifting restrictions.
Survey customers and employees
Do you know your customers’ and employees’ main concerns regarding coming into your bricks-and-mortar location? If not, you should. Consider emailing a survey to both your customer base and your employees to find out what makes them comfortable and uneasy. This is also a good time to let them know what you are doing to help prevent the spread of germs, such as prohibiting patrons from trying on clothing or returning purchased items, asking them to only pick up or touch items they intend to buy, and taking the time to thoroughly clean and disinfect your retail space.
Allow senior citizens in early
Several U.S. grocery store chains and discount retailers, in particular, have allowed older adults, who are more susceptible to COVID-19-related complications, into their stores to shop before most of the general public. Therefore, you can help attract this segment of the population by giving them their own “happy hour” to shop in your establishment – perhaps before normal operating hours.
Accept all payment methods
According to (pre-COVID-19) findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), cash was the most preferred payment choice, representing 30% of all transactions and 55% of transactions less than $10.
Although we are slowly moving to a less cash-reliant society, it’s critical to accept several types of payments. A recent article points out cash is essential to the millions of Americans who don’t have access to banks or credit cards, or who simply opt not to use them.
When bringing customers back, retailers must be safe and flexible in their payment methods. By refusing cash, you are turning away potential sales at a time when retail in April was at an all-time low in the United States, according to Trading Economics. The organization reported retail sales in May jumped 17.7% from the previous month, and retailers are obviously hoping this number continues to increase.
Provide hand sanitizer and face masks
As a retailer, you can easily show customers you take safety measures seriously. By providing hand sanitizers throughout your physical store and having face masks available at the entrance, you allow customers to better protect themselves from potential COVID-19 exposure. Similarly, consider placing signage in a prominent place to let them know the extra steps you are taking – i.e. extra cleaning – to help cut down on the potential spread of germs.
If employees are required to stay after work to thoroughly clean or if you hire a third-party service to disinfect your store, let your shoppers know. Now is really the time to adopt the “more they know, the better” philosophy.
Encourage one-way foot traffic, less people in stores
At the height of the pandemic, many retailers put signage in stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing, especially in lines. Simultaneously, they limited the number of shoppers they let into the store at once and posted “footmarks” on floors to encourage people waiting in lines to stand 6-feet apart. By doing the same, you show customers that you prioritize health by encouraging them to safely shop – at a distance – from others.
Communicate clearly and often
Whether you have opened or are getting ready to, email or chat to shoppers when appropriate. Communicating with your customers reminds them of your existence and provides an avenue for offering extra incentives, such as “Use this BOGO certificate or 50% off offer when you come see us again.” Some retailers have taken the time to write and send handwritten thank you notes to shoppers who frequented their establishments before the COVID-19 lockdown. Such measures are appreciated and remembered – and can set you apart.
Getting back in the saddle again
Nationwide – and even worldwide – retailers and other organizations have been opening their doors to consumers who are more than ready to get out and shop and dine the way they used to. However, fears surrounding a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases rightly exists in the minds of consumers and retailers alike.
Therefore, it’s critically important to take certain steps to show shoppers and employees that you have their safety in mind when reopening your stores. By doing things like extra cleaning, surveying consumers and employees, allowing seniors to shop before regular hours, accepting all payment methods, and so on, you are conveying you are re-open ready and you care about their health, well-being and ability to safely shop in your establishment, too.