These past couple of weeks have been stressful for businesses all around. And with recent measures such as social distancing, we’re sure you’re nervous about how much foot traffic in your retail location may have dropped, or even stopped. 

The good news is that we’ve seen some retailers doing more business than normal, even with traditional ways of customer interaction out of commission. How? Here are a few tips we’ve gathered from retailers across the country who are weathering the storm:

1. Tape your floors to encourage social-distancing.

If you’re still in-store, adopt a strategy some businesses are employing to tape off sections of floor around registers so that customers can social distance while they shop. You can even mark off 1.5m squares throughout your store and ask that only one customer stand in each. This might look funny, but it shows your customers you care and that you are taking practical measures to protect them. 

2. Set aside specific shopping time for those who need it.

One small chain has set aside the first 30 minutes of each day for the elderly and medically vulnerable to shop. This is an excellent way to address the specific needs of your community and protect each level of your customer base. 

3. Send images of products.

And videos. And links. Even if your customer is not on-site, you can still facilitate an effective, interactive, and visually-reliant shopping experience for them through text—complete with your greatest strength: outstanding people skills. Through messaging, you can answer customer questions with visuals to offer high-quality, convenient shopping. Try offering virtual sales calls and encourage customers to show the space they want the new furniture to go and offer them products that fit the space or offering a live-stream of product crafting and a virtual tour of your sales floor.   

4. Take advantage of inbound leads through webchat.

With online traffic increasing, forming a strategy to win inbound leads is a must. Coast Wholesale Appliances is taking advantage of in-bound leads through Webchat: “We’ve been doing our best to get our teams on inbound leads from Webchat as quickly as possible,” says Scott Wong, Marketing Manager. With a Webchat feature, you can quickly and effectively engage inbound leads, answer any questions, and make a sale—all through chat. 

5. Update your customers. Frequently.

Use messaging to let your customers know what measures you are implementing to keep them safe so they can decide whether to shop on-site or online. Also, consider gathering feedback after products are received or interactions take place to gauge how your customers feel you are following CDC guidelines. This lets them know that their safety is your #1 concern. 

retail store closure covid-19

6. Maintain a connection with your high-value customers.

Because approximately 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue, staying connected with your top customers is key. Reach out with special promos, updates, and messages of hope and encouragement to strengthen your relationship for current and future business.  

7. Promote gift cards.

If your business has thin margins, try promoting gift cards, even at a discount. Gift cards provide a quick influx of cash for you and promise future business (and engagement) from your customers in the future. You can also offer discounts and free shipping on products through messaging, providing the incentive and convenience customers may need to engage with you.  

8. Work proactively with lenders and vendors.

To preserve working capital and avoid surplus inventory, work proactively with your suppliers to pause orders (where possible) and work out delayed payment plans. While these conversations can be difficult to have, stay positive and always be transparent so that both parties can be in the best position possible. 

9. Shift your marketing.

There is a pandemic going on. And while business should continue as usual, it is important to acknowledge the change in circumstances on your website, social media profiles, and other advertising and marketing. You should also re-evaluate which advertising channels will be most effective for you during a crisis.

Because situations like quarantine might decrease existing demand, consider moving away from advertising channels that rely on existing demand (like Google Adwords) to platforms that create demand, like Facebook, to advertise locally and connect with future customers. Shape your content to show awareness and sympathy for the current situation, and to offer support and resources to your customers.

10. Take special care of your employees.

With the uncertainty of the future and frequent changes, everyone is concerned—especially your employees. Regularly communicate with your employees to keep up morale and to keep them informed on the steps you plan on taking and the options you’re considering. You can also provide information on how to navigate 401k loans (including their limitations, requirements, etc) so that they can be in the best position possible to plan. To avoid furloughing staff, reallocate your employees to different jobs like manning virtual sales and marketing messaging. 

11. Beef up your internal operations.

Use the extra time to catch up on accounting, inventory review, product development, SEO strategies, and even team training (these can be more formal meetings to strategize and prepare or casual events like “tea breaks” online or “campfire” events where people chat and share thoughts and ideas). After this outbreak is over, there will be a retail rebound—and you’ll definitely want to be prepared. 

Retail is not coming to a halt. Not even close. With the right tools and mindset, you can keep your business thriving—under any circumstances.

Podium is giving small businesses across the country the tools they need to adapt in wake of COVID 19. Using Podium, one business saw sales increase 148% from the same weekend last year. “Sales have been up the last few days,” said Brian Morgan from Austin’s Couch Potatoes. “I think Podium is the vaccine for COVID-19 in my retail store. If they are concerned to come in, we can chat with them online or over text.”

Jason A’alona
Jason A’alona Director of Retail Sales

Jason A’alona is a retail professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects consumer businesses with their customers.

Adapt the way you do business. Press send.