No one is super thrilled about the rising surge in COVID cases and how it may potentially cause another major shift in business. This time, our industry has a chance to prepare for any major shutdowns and plan how to navigate potential closures. As of now there are no closure mandates going into effect, but what we are seeing is a surge in voluntary closures. Event cancellations (none that are industry-related) are starting to trickle in for me, and that means one thing — prepare.
The last time we went into closures and shoppers started locking down in their homes, it caused all of us to shift how we did business to be accommodating to what was happening in our world. This time, we have more knowledge about what we need to do to support shoppers who are starting to stay home and order online again due to mandated closures.
Here are some ideas on how to prepare for the Delta variant and how it may affect us:
Cleaning and sanitizing remain incredibly important
Keep up the good habits you developed when COVID first appeared. Extra traffic in stores means more germs, so keep those sanitizing wipes well stocked. Lysol and Microban are great products when it comes to disinfecting all contact surfaces after periods of heavy foot traffic. This may sound clinical, but it’s important to keep your store safe and customers feeling confident. If they see the actions you are taking to be safe, it reaffirms the decision to shop with you and spend money.
Look at your tester policy
A lot of stores have put testers back out. I’m not saying you should not put them back out on display, but I would advise looking at how they are being sanitized to make sure customers feel confident in utilizing them. Testers are such a key part of our business; it’s an extra challenge to operate without them. Instead of taking them off the floor, put in place a strict sanitizing policy for anything that might be touched by multiple people on the sales floor throughout the day. Let customers see you taking safety seriously and they will be more likely to do so as well.
Promote online shopping if you can
A lot of retailers were able to implement online shopping as an option when COVID started. Send an e-blast to customers and offer them a discount if they shop online to help with their safety. If you already operate an online store, try directing more traffic to it. This gives you an excuse to reach out and promote your business, while also showing that you are working to keep your community safe. If you feel your conversion rates are low in trying to get people to shop online, now is a perfect time to experiment with different promotions or reward systems to see what your customers gravitate towards. Retail forces us to experiment frequently to find out what works for our stores and teams.
Online shopping isn’t just a website; it can also be done via social media. If you haven’t explored how to set up shopping options utilizing social media, it is a great way to drive sales, promote products, sell things online, and educate customers. It’s not just for fancy pictures, but a tool to make money. Share pics of new products, do small training videos, highlight promotions or deals that customers can take advantage of. Let customers know that items can be shipped for a small fee and set up drop shipping from your store. Lingerie is a great example of something to post on social media to get people’s interest without sharing a hardcore sex toy image, in case you are worried about going against the guidelines on social media platforms. Want to share something on the more daring side? Find a program that lets you blur or pixelate the more realistic-looking items.
Utilize online trainings to include as many team members as possible
I’m hearing different concerns about people in stores being vaccinated or not being vaccinated — remove the barrier and focus on online trainings again. I know it can feel redundant to sit in front of the computer for trainings but implement small prizes for those who attend. A $5 Starbucks card or a similar small gift can be a great way to reward those who engage, and also encourage more people to participate. It’s a little thing, but it goes a long way in making things feel new and fresh.
Tune into your CLIENTELING
Remember what customers shopped for with you during the last time that the pandemic altered retail. Offer them specials for being a VIP customer, even if it is in the form of a discount code. This is also a good time to check in on your social media followers. Are you following your top customers back when they follow you? It’s a small relationship-building tool, but it can be so effective when it comes to personalizing someone’s experience with you and your store.
While I hope that we don’t find ourselves back in states of lockdown, we have the opportunity this time to be prepared and help preserve business as we know it during strange times. New can be scary, but it can also be good. Being forced to step outside our comfort zones can show us new ways to make money and drive sales in our businesses. I hope this article doesn’t cause fear but highlights some small steps we can do to keep business flowing.