While every country is dealing with COVID-19 in their own way and on their own timeframe, one thing remains constant across much of the globe — brick-and-mortar business looks completely different in April 2020 than it did just months ago. And even though there’s news this week of some European countries starting to ease business restrictions, it’s still likely to be awhile before we’re all back to a ‘business as usual’ mindset. Here are some strategies brick-and-mortar businesses and retailers can take to adjust to the continuing changes of COVID-19, plus quick tips for easily managing updates to your store locations.
Whether you sell clothing and accessories and you’ve seen in-person sales decline steeply, or you’re in the grocery or pharmacy business and you can’t seem to keep up with the spike in demand, pretty much every industry has been upended by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
And we know any kind of massive change in your foot traffic can be stressful, no matter which end of the spectrum you currently fall into. But there is good news. First: This is temporary. And second: There are things you can do to help your business weather COVID-19. Here are some quick strategies you can implement.
1. Make sure your website and all of your digital channels are up-to-date with any changes due to COVID-19.
You’ll definitely want to edit your home page and contact page with any important changes or updates for locations that are closed, operating on different hours, with reduced or new services, etc. A banner at the top of your site is a great way to make sure customers see changing information. There are easy plug-ins and apps for almost every web platform to help you set one up in a few clicks without any coding.
- On Shopify, try the Quick Announcement Bar app, which offers a free plan.
- Using Squarespace? Most themes come with an announcement bar that you can turn on.
- For BigCommerce, try the Welcome Header Bar app, which offers a free 30-day trial.
In fact, even if nothing has changed for your business, it’s still a good idea to update your website to let customers know that. A recent survey found that close to 40% of consumers don’t trust online information from local businesses right now [Source: Market Insider].
Whole Foods is a great example of a brand making COVID-19 related updates super clear and easy to find. The U.S. grocery store chain has added a dedicated page with a top navigation link, and banner at the top of every page.
In addition to adding a banner to your site, you may also want to show temporary COVID-19 related information on your store locations, like special hours for older shoppers.
You can add custom information like this in Storemapper by using a custom field in the shop edit screen, or creating a custom field column in a bulk edit from .CSV or Google Sheets sync. Information you might want to consider including for your locations includes things like:
- Expanded or reduced hours
- Special hours for older shoppers
- Availability of curbside delivery and takeout services
2. Temporarily hide retail locations closed due to COVID-19, and set search priorities for locations you want to highlight.
Speaking of your locations page, you may also be wondering how to hide some of your locations temporarily, or prioritize particular locations in search. This is super easy to do if you’re using Storemapper to run your locations page.
- You can temporarily hide a single location via the store edit page, or you can hide several at once by doing a bulk edit via .CSV or Google Sheets sync.
- When you want to show these locations again, just uncheck the “Hide location” box or do a new bulk edit.
- If you don’t want to hide any of your locations, but you do want certain locations to be prioritized when a customer performs a search, you can create temporary location “tiers” to make this happen.
If there’s any other type of update you’d like to make that we haven’t covered here for your Storemapper store locator, check out our full support page, and feel free to reach out if you can’t find what you’re looking for. We’re here to help, and would be happy to answer any questions!
3. If you haven’t already, transition as much business as possible to online orders, curbside pickup, and delivery.
An April 10 survey released by Market Insider shows that an overwhelming number of U.S. consumers want to support local businesses, and consumers in Europe are likely to have similar sentiments. A whopping 86% said they still intend to buy form brick-and-mortar businesses during COVID-19.
Topping the list of things local businesses and retailers could do to help earn customers’ business right now were:
- Free delivery (nearly 50%)
- Takeout and online ordering (41%)
- Curb-side pickup (38%)
So if it’s possible for you to add or enhance services (in a way that’s safe for you, your staff, and your customers) in these three areas, it’s an amazing way to encourage customer loyalty and keep your business running.
Don’t have any of these options already? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
- If your website runs on Shopify, here’s how to quickly set up a curbside delivery program.
- On Squarespace websites, the commerce plan allows you to create an in-store pickup option.
- For BigCommerce, the Zapiet app has everything you need to set up curbside delivery and in-store pickup, and offers a 14-day free trial.
4. Consider offering gift cards or special merchandise that customers can purchase to support you.
Even if curbside delivery and other online ordering options just don’t make sense for your business, you can keep your digital doors open and connect with people through your website, email, and social media.
It goes without saying that you need to be empathetic and sensitive to the current situation in any marketing right now. But a lot of people are concerned about their favorite local businesses, so letting them know how they can support you is a win-win as long as it’s done in the right way.
5. Think through any business pivots that could keep cash flow going.
Restaurants, one of the business segments that has been hit hardest by COVID-19, have turned to online merchandise sales to try to keep some cash flowing. Nonprofits are also cropping up to pay restaurants to make meals for healthcare workers.
Fashion businesses from big brands to local alteration shops and seamstresses have pivoted to making masks for consumers, as well as scrubs and gowns for healthcare workers.
Distilleries have switched from making vodka to hand sanitizer.
The list of industries switching things up right now is endless. And you might be able to get in on that trend, too. Think about your core skills and offerings, and if there’s any way you could safely reach a different customer base, or tweak your services to bring in some cash flow to see you through this challenging time.
And finally, remember it’s also okay to put yourself and your family first right now.
You may be the entire staff of your business. And with kids suddenly home from school, personal illness, concern or care for family members, or just the general stress that a big disruption to daily life can bring, you may just not be able to focus on your business right now. If you need to step away from it to prioritize yourself or family, give yourself permission to make that your priority.