COVID-19 dramatically changed the face of retail for months, and the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt – even as regions begin to reopen. Before getting into how to market your store when you reopen, we should quickly address the notion of “post” COVID-19. Until a vaccine is developed, it will be difficult to predict how governments will change social distancing and public health guidelines. While inviting customers back into your business, you should continue to plan for circumstances in which the government might ask you to close up shop again.
Marketing is all about creating, understanding, and managing expectations. When it comes to the post-COVID landscape, safety is a priority for everyone. As such, you should create the expectation of safety by highlighting the steps you’ve taken to protect your staff and customers.
One good way of going about this is by using proper signage in your store – everything from arrows to direct the flow of foot traffic to signs pointing out where the hand sanitizer is. Signage on the floor that shows people how to stand 2 metres / 6 feet apart is an excellent idea, too.
You might also opt to create messaging about security measures your store is taking on your social media posts or through traditional advertising. Keep in mind that most businesses will be using the same messaging right now, so don’t be generic (you have hand sanitizer and social distancing signage). Talk specifically about the kinds of care you’re taking with your particular products, from no trying on clothes in-store to the way food is handled. You know what you sell and how you’ve made it safe – tell people about it.
Have In-Store Sales
You’ve likely transitioned to an online sales model if you’ve stayed open during the pandemic. You need to attract customers back to your store – one way of going about this is to have sales exclusively in-store. You want to get your customers back in the habit of coming into your store to browse, and money talks.
Make sure you’ve taken great care with how the store is laid out; everything should be cleaned immaculately, and you should consider creating special displays for the event. You want your customers to remember how fun it is to go shopping – to browse and enjoy a retail environment. Have a lot of staff on hand (while keeping public health guidelines in mind) so that every client who walks through your doors will have personalized care.
Keep Your Customers Aware of Changes
Your clients need to know that your hours of operations may have changed, and that they may be subject to more changes depending on advice from public health officials. To successfully reopen post-COVID-19, it’s important to set expectations – your clients need to know that you may need to close up shop again. You should also let them know about any supply line disruptions that could create delays or limited stock.
This can all seem pretty negative, but it’s not all bad. The knowledge that the reopening might be temporary could prompt clients to show up at your store more frequently – after all, you might have to close up again, and they could miss out on the fun, retail experience you offer.
Be Empathetic, Honest, and Open
Let your customers know how much you’ve appreciated them continuing to do business with you during the pandemic if you’ve transitioned to online sales. Be candid about any hardships you’ve experienced, and how support from your customers as you transitioned your business helped keep you afloat.
This type of conversation is often best over social media – there, you can have honest discussions in the comments with your customers. Let them know that you know it’s been hard for them too. Build a sense of community. After all, they’ve been there for you and you’ve been there for them – you really have come together in order to keep each other afloat during hard times
Now is probably not the time to run a long-term ad campaign; things are changing rapidly. As such, you should consider focusing your efforts on social media campaigns and web advertising. These avenues are incredibly mutable – you can change landing pages and copy in the blink of an eye.
Given that public health orders may require you to reduce in-store capacity or close again, it’s a good idea to look ahead and start brainstorming on how you’ll market in those circumstances. Keep the infrastructure you created during the peak of the pandemic, and continue to ponder ways of refining it. We can hope the pandemic is over for good, but you know the old saying: hope for the best, plan for the worst.