It’s hard to believe that months ago, cities and countries around the globe first enforced stay at home orders. As the virus progressed, businesses incurred massive losses. With everyone stuck at home and businesses closed, the Coronavirus pandemic had us feeling frozen in time.
Now, we’re seeing the glimmer of light as the shelter in place orders lift. As the ice starts to thaw and society wiggles its fingers and toes, how will affected businesses rebound?
It’ll take a conscientious effort to restart your business after COVID-19, and it’s best to start planning now.
Here’s a business relaunch checklist to help you anticipate your customers’ needs, communicate effectively, and bring people back to your store.
Coordinate with your team
Communication is crucial right now; not only with your audience, but with your team. Ensure your entire staff is clear about plans to restart your business after COVID-19.
Here are some key points to address to help you establish a framework for reopening:
- Will you reopen your stores according to your pre-COVID hours, or create a new schedule?
- What are your city, state, and national guidelines for reopening and business hours?
- If you have multiple locations, how many staff members need to outfit each location?
Reach your audience where they’re at
Many people have completely changed the way they consume goods and services. Frequent, in-store customers have learned to navigate online shopping. My own Grandmother who uses a flip phone had a Zoom conference with her family on Mother’s Day.
Crisis forces people to change their habits and COVID has done exactly that, so it’s important to cover your bases.
Maintain a strong online presence and communicate your plans to your audience. Ensure that you reach them where they’re at; both virtually and in-store.
Check out this newsletter from Kay Jewelers that announces a segmented reopening. Notice that virtual shopping options are still readily available. Bonus points for including the hashtag, #LoveIsUnstoppable, and a list of safety measures for in-store visits!
Share your plans to reopen
People will naturally feel reluctant to head back to stores, so it’s crucial that you anticipate their needs and share your plans for reopening.
The world’s changed, but people are eager to resume their pre-COVID activities, even if only in phases.
Here are a few ways to share your plans with customers:
- Update your new store hours on Google
- Add an update to your website’s homepage
- Send a newsletter with your plans to reopen and safety initiatives
- List your store in online directories as “now open”, including FourSquare, 8Coupons, Nearlist, and any local directories in your city
- Remind your customers that although your store is reopening, you’re still available online
Maintain a virtual presence
If your business has thrived online during COVID-19, maintain strong digital communication. For many businesses, virtual is the new normal. This is especially true for the fitness industry, which is reliant on gym memberships and in-class attendance.
Despite closing for months, many gyms have successfully navigated business online via video software like Zoom. How?
People enjoy the luxury of working out at home, as proven by a 55% increase in fitness equipment purchases in March. This behavior started out of necessity, but it will likely remain.
As you prepare to reopen your business, keep its virtual presence alive by following the example of Studio House Pilates in NYC. The owners know that at-home classes provide convenience to their clientele, and plans to maintain that offering post-COVID.
Not only does this enhance the business’s availability to current customers, but it attracts a wider audience beyond the city lines.
Modify your product lineup
Regardless of financial status or lifestyle, COVID has changed the world. That means that you can’t rely on your usual products and services to reach people the same way. Modify your offerings to be the most relevant to your audience.
Many retail clothing businesses have already done so by adding face masks to their catalog and discounting popular items.
For restaurants and coffee shops, promote popular items and ditch novelty items. Keep it simple and focus on the bestsellers.
Make cleanliness and safety priority #1
When people finally get the chance to venture out again, make sure they feel safe when they walk through your doors.
Enhance your cleaning protocol, enforce social distancing, and do your part to protect your clientele. Nowhere have I seen this more than at grocery chain, Trader Joe’s. As an essential business, the store has remained open through the closures, which means you can benefit from its example.
The chain has enforced strict cleanliness and hygiene practices, including:
- Limiting the number of customers allowed entry
- Requiring masks to be worn by all customers
- Cleaning and disinfecting shelf products throughout the day
- Sanitizing all surfaces and shopping carts regularly
- Enforcing staff hygiene and safety measures
When you communicate your safety measures, you incentivize people to shop at your store. Because if customers feel safe, they will shop. If they don’t, why would they stick around?
Outline your safety and cleanliness practices on in-store signs and storefront banners to provide buyer assurance and bring in foot traffic.
Lure them out of their shell
As excited as you are to reopen, many people won’t feel comfortable leaving their houses yet. Just as we all had to adjust to staying inside, we’ll all have to adjust to going back out again.
Here’s how you can entice customers to visit your store:
- Online advertising – Create promotions that announce your reopening on Instagram, Facebook, and Google.
- In-store discounts – Blast a discount voucher to your email list and mailing list to get people in the mood to spend.
- Send SMS messages with new store hours and protocols for in-store shopping. Don’t forget to throw in a discount to get people excited to shop.
Get people excited about your store
If ever there were a time for imagination, it’s now. I’m not suggesting you reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new. Don’t cling to the old ways, because this is a new time.
Imagine your store reopening as crossing the finish line in a marathon race. At the end, the confetti flies and supporters rush toward the winner in excitement. The second they cross the threshold of your business, make them feel like that marathon runner.
With ubiquitous financial and health concerns, people are looking for encouragement. Don’t just give customers a product or service to buy, give them a memorable experience.
- Freshen up your storefront with new welcome signs, digital signage, or fresh foliage.
- Be available to greet customers with exceptional service.
- Offer a refreshing beverage, provide samples, instructional product demos, or featured discounts.
- Play upbeat, jovial music that inspires them to hang around and shop.
Show them that your business has learned from this pandemic and that no matter what, they made the right decision to come to your establishment.
It wasn’t easy for businesses to close up shop due to this pandemic, and reopening is no easy task after COVID-19 subsides. The good news is that you’re offering people a breath of fresh air with your new and improved business operations.
Leave the old ways behind and march toward the new normal. Incentivize your customers with discounts, an exciting experience, and a clean, safe store, and your relaunch will be a success!