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The future of retail shopping in a post-shutdown world, at least for a time to come, will not be the same experience as it was before.
Fast, an e-commerce payment solution, recently released consumer survey findings that examine how shopping behavior has changed during the pandemic. The Harris Poll, on behalf of Fast, surveyed 2,048 adults that were ages 18 and older in the U.S.
Currently, 89 percent of U.S. shoppers polled are concerned about shopping in physical stores, and 63 percent of respondents cited their number one concern was social distancing. Those respondents expressed concern that a safe social distance might be too difficult to maintain in stores filled with other shoppers.
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Additional shopping concerns included the following:
- Store cleanliness (40 percent)
- Touching credit card terminals and POS systems (34 percent)
- Passing cash back and forth (32 percent)
As small business retailers start to plan for how they will reopen storefronts, customer and compliance concerns will need to be taken in consideration, ensuring customer safety while still allowing for sales and transactions.
While each company will likely adhere to industry-specific guidelines, here are a few dos and don’ts retail storefronts need to think about before reopening for business.
DO: Keep cleaning supplies and protective gear visible in-store
Remember when it was taboo if you used hand sanitizer before grabbing a store shopping cart? Now, customers want to see and have access to all of the sanitation supplies possible.
Make sure you’re able to supply customers with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. In addition to customers, your employees should also wear protective masks and gloves while they are at work. If you’re able to put up any physical barriers, such as Plexiglass, consider doing so.
As part of your commitment to public health and safety, consider creating specialty signage for your storefront. This signage should detail how hard you’re working to keep your store clean and disinfected. Share this information on your social media platforms, too.
DON’T: Presume you do not need to deep clean your store’s interior before reopening
This goes much further than setting up hand sanitizer stations or wiping down countertops prior to closing for the day. It’s entirely possible that during the coronavirus shutdown, your building could have developed structural mold and bacteria. This is particularly true of businesses where the HVAC is turned off and there’s no other ventilation.
Doug Hoffman, executive director of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI), advises small business retailers to take a two-pronged approach to deep cleaning their space before they can safely reopen.
- Hire a certified sanitizing professional (CSP). This individual will conduct testing to determine airborne and surface microbial loads.
- Have a professional NORMI Certified IAQ/Mold Assessor conduct an assessment of the space. “These assessors are trained in evaluating the presence of mold and other IAQ contaminants that business owners may not detect,” Hoffman said. “They may determine the appropriate recommendations for the reduction of mold, bacteria, and other contaminants, should there be a problem.”
DO: Continue to offer access to initiatives implemented during lockdown
There’s no data at the present time that suggests customers will storm their local retailers once they reopen. If anything, they may be a bit hesitant to physically visit stores, even if they were loyal customers before the crisis.
During lockdown, did your store offer contact-free delivery or curbside pickup options? If you found a way to successfully adapt your offerings for customers in quarantine, keep these initiatives going even after lockdown orders are lifted. Make sure customers know they may still choose these options, and be sure to share them through your newsletter and social media marketing efforts.
DON’T: Dismiss customers for expressing their concerns
Once you decide to reopen for business, there will need to be training conducted with staff for new in-store safety policies. For example, your employees may need to tell customers where to stand on marked off tape to insure appropriate social distancing protocol. Remind your staff to issue these directions with compassion.
Remember that while this is a difficult time for everyone, it’s important to remain kind and helpful. Really listen to customers when answering their questions, and be positive and thoughtful. Your team’s behavior contributes to the overall customer experience, which should be as good, or better, than it was before.
DO: Utilize livestreaming video as part of the shopping experience
Denis O’Flynn O’Brien is the co-founder of LivePitch, a fashion and beauty mobile app. Retailers and content creators use LivePitch to create live videos, which allows them to showcase and sell fashion and beauty products to their customers.
As previously mentioned, entrepreneurs with retail storefronts may find that their customers prefer an at-home buying experience. How do you get creative and bring the in-store experience home? Share livestreamed videos from your storefront onto retail-centric apps like LivePitch.
“We have sales representatives that are currently doing private video shopping events for clients from their homes,” O’Brien explains. “Once the storefront’s retail location is safely open, owners plan to livestream from the store to reach customers that are at home.”
Livestreaming video enables small retailers to reach countless customers at once via video, especially when they aren’t comfortable heading back into your brick-and-mortar location yet.
DON’T: Rush yourself into reopening too soon
Reopening a physical retail storefront is not a one-size-fits-all process. Maybe you were able to check off all of the above items from your pre-open list. But, perhaps you still feel as though you’d rather wait a little while longer to fully re-open your store — even if it’s just another week or two.
Listen to your instinct. Whether you personally have a gut feeling or are concerned about the wellbeing of your staff and customers, do not try to rush into reopening your store too soon. Communicate with your partners and customers to keep them in the loop as you get closer to potentially opening your doors, but be mindful that the initial first step might mean taking a phased-in approach.