The health crisis paired with the massive growth of e-commerce has overshadowed brick-and-mortar businesses. More people are turning to online buying as a convenient alternative and a healthy opportunity to shop without risking a viral infection, or spreading the disease. On another note, people are increasingly more frustrated with social distancing rules and the sheer lack of human interaction in person. That represents an opportunity for brick-and-mortar businesses to reconnect with customers on a new level – but what about the staff?
Retail employees in brick-and-mortar businesses are faced with a unique set of challenges caused by the pandemic. Many feel a lack of confidence and their sense of security is rattled by the situation. Their role has been pushed to the sidelines to make more room for online-based interactions.
Now that brick-and-mortar retail stores are getting back on track with their goals and getting reopened, you need to maximize employee engagement as well as customer engagement. This will help elevate your business reputation, but also create a better company culture where your employees can thrive, no matter the department in which they work.
Focus on ongoing training
Employees are people first and foremost, and that means they want to grow. Their need to develop as people and professionals should be fostered through regular training opportunities, which is your responsibility to provide.
Training gives your staff all the skills and knowledge they need to be more productive and efficient. In turn, they’ll be less frustrated at work and they’ll feel appreciated through such investments. Engagement has a much better chance to evolve in organizations that invest in regular employee education.
On the other end of the engagement spectrum, training elevates customer experience and sets the stage for better engagement on every level. With properly educated employees eager and equipped to help, your customers will feel that they can trust your brand with their decisions and choices.
Provide personalized perks
Every employee, much like every customer, is a unique person with specific interests and preferences. Only if you listen to their needs can you offer perks that make sense in their world. Organize a business-wide poll to gauge their interests and see how you can contribute with your internal benefits program.
- Fitness programs are a popular option for many brick-and-mortar businesses to boost employee morale. Instead of merely covering a single gym membership, offer employee-specific classes you know they like: from dance lessons to rock climbing, everyone has a passion!
- Spa retreats and even one-time relax sessions can be all they need to prevent burnout. We’ve all been under tons of stress lately, and it matters how you help them deal with it.
- Flexible work hours, a pet-friendly office, or childcare within your facility can be other options to consider. Get to know your workforce to know what to offer them.
In a similar way, keep track of your customer interactions to see what they love most about your brand. The ongoing analytics and monitoring will help you provide a personalized approach to every person coming to your brick-and-mortar business.
- Send personalized invites to the store when there’s an item they love in stock.
- Make sure your staff remembers the name of your recurring customers – it amplifies the experience manifold.
- Train your employees to provide a personalized experience to each customer coming to your store, since that will boost engagement, and your customers will feel heard and valued.
Invest in the health and security of your business
A strong program of employee perks and benefits should cover a wide array of options, fitness courses and nutritional counseling included. Go the extra mile to let them know you care about their safety – insurance policies are one way to go. For some employees, getting the right insurance policy for their home or the car they use for work is a great way to show just how much you value their safety and wellbeing.
The more you invest in their wellbeing through insurance (other than basic healthcare plans, that is), the greater your chances are for them to feel like valued members of your business. Talk to them to see what they need, and you can craft a specific solution for each employee in your business.
In a similar manner, research what your customers need to feel taken care of in your brick-and-mortar store. Maybe you’ll need to add more hand-sanitizing stations or perhaps make your business safer for people with disabilities. Engagement can only soar when you create a safe environment for your customers to come to your place of business.
Foster a culture of recognition
No matter if you’re talking to your cleaning personnel, your marketing department, or your IT team, rest assured that each of those individuals feels the need to be acknowledged and recognized for their achievements. Recognizing every person in your organization takes a dedicated strategy, so be sure to create a plan in order to avoid leaving anyone out of the program.
- Encourage teamwork instead of competition and send out company-wide emails to recognize your brick-and-mortar staff’s success on a regular basis.
- Offer gift cards and tokens of appreciation as a way to say thank you, regularly.
- Set up shout-outs to employees on social media and your website, and you can have a wall for acknowledging each employee in your brick-and-mortar business.
- Add their names to the projects in which they participate and talk about their contribution – no matter how minor it may seem.
Customer recognition is equally vital. When your customers know you listen to their needs and recognize their preferences, they will be much more likely to come back to your store and engage at every touchpoint.
- Send personalized birthday notes to your customers – if they come to your store on their birthday, make sure there’s a gift card waiting!
- Acknowledge when they’ve been a loyal customer for a certain period of time, for example, a year. Commemorate the anniversary by offering a discount for their next purchase.
- Use geotargeting to notify them of a sale when they’re near your store. They might appreciate the reminder and be more eager to come for a purchase.
Make sure every person is heard through feedback
How long has it been since the last time you organized a poll for your customers? Do you still have an old-fashioned book of impressions collecting dust next to the cash register? Some habits are tough to adapt, but that’s precisely what you need to do: ask your customers what they want, and then follow through! Your most loyal customers will be eager to provide useful feedback, so make sure you act on it every time.
Add to that, managing your workforce is an art form in and of itself, but it’s far from a stagnant process that once established shouldn’t be changed. On the contrary, it calls for ongoing innovation and adaptation, since your employees are people with changing needs, preferences, and developing relationships. Perhaps they need a new learning opportunity, a change of venue, or they might appreciate working with their trusted team for longer than planned.
Being at the forefront of your business, they are also invaluable sources of information and ideas as to how you can run your business more efficiently and deliver a better service. They are also the best people to ask when you’re looking to boost your culture. Feedback-collecting cycles should be part of your overall workforce and customer management. Make sure to ask them to contribute with their ideas, but also to openly share their concerns and fears – that’s the only way you can ever begin to understand them in the first place.
Brick-and-mortar stores are gaining more relevance quickly, as social distancing becomes redundant and more stores begin opening their doors as the pandemic slows down. In the light of these changes, your own brick-and-mortar business should pay close attention to how your employees and customers are coping with these and other challenges.
Even more so, it’s up to you to set the stage for strong relationships and for better engagement, without the fear. It’s going to be a difficult, competitive world for brick-and-mortar businesses after the pandemic. You stand a far better chance with engaged employees and customers who care about your brand.