From big box stores to mom-and-pop shops, businesses of every size and type are extremely anxious and need to see foot traffic return to their stores. After months of closures for nonessential services due to COVID-19, and the virus still looming nationwide, customers are understandingly concerned about venturing out of their homes. However, there are strategies and tactics businesses can implement now to regain consumer confidence and drive customers back into their stores.
Communication Is Key
When it comes to new safety protocols, consumers want to know what you’re doing differently and what will be expected of them when they visit your place of business. Leverage all the tools at your disposal to over-communicate changes customers will encounter—including social media, email blasts, in-store signage and your website. These channels are all great for sharing additional cleaning and safety procedures your business is taking, capacity limits and especially live video feeds to convey estimated wait times to enter.
Place an employee at the front of the store to greet guests, answer questions and assist customers with the sanitation of carts and baskets. Throughout the store, use floor decals to indicate one-way traffic patterns in aisles, or to help customers stand six feet apart while waiting in line at the deli, pharmacy or check out. For customers who may be in a high-risk group, offer early shopping hours first thing in the morning when stores are perceived to be the cleanest.
Use Technology to Enhance the Customer Experience
Many consumers are trying to limit their exposure to people and places to minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19. This practice has fueled the rapid adoption of technology-enabled services. Data collected by InMarket shows stores experienced a huge increase in first-time curbside pick-up orders, but they also predict this isn’t a passing trend—it’s the beginning of a shift in consumer behavior. Invest now in technology to maintain and enhance your online ordering and pickup services so you can continue to provide your customers with a seamless experience.
For customers who are comfortable shopping in-store, make it accessible for them to check inventory prior to making the trip via an app or your website. This is especially helpful for items that are in high demand right now, including hair clippers, hair dye, nail kits, alcohol, DIY supplies and fitness equipment.
It’s also time to start thinking ahead about the upcoming holiday season. InMarket’s surveys found 49 percent of consumers are more interested in shopping for gifts online, so be sure your e-commerce site is optimized and ready to handle increased traffic.
Embrace New Trends
The inability for shoppers to touch, feel and experience products in person can increase the number of returns and result in cart abandonment, especially in categories like beauty, home goods and apparel. Market trend research company, PSFK, offers great ideas for overcoming the challenges of digital browsing.
Encourage more audience engagement post-purchase to share product ratings and reviews online so shoppers can have an unbiased opinion. The social aspect of shopping that is important to many consumers can still be created online. Create private group forums and virtual co-shopping platforms for your brand as a means for people to connect. One-on-one video consultations and live-streamed events that bring together education, entertainment and social interactivity are another way to provide an extra layer of personal service and exclusivity to your brand.
You can also borrow a page out of Tanger Factory Outlets’ playbook and offer concierge shopping. This virtual shopping service enables remote customers to browse through the outlet’s various brands and retailers to find the best products. Once their selections are made, onsite shoppers do the heavy lifting for them, letting customers retrieve items curbside or have them delivered.
The customer journey may look different these days but adapting to changing trends and helping your customers connect with your business comfortably and on their terms will be key to driving your future success.