How to get customers to come back during and after COVID-19

In this 5-minute read:

  • Encourage the use of PPE
  • Visibly demonstrate proper sanitization and safety procedures to customers
  • Exploit curbside, online, drive-through, and delivery options
  • Get onboard with safer, contactless payment methods
  • Utilize special promotions, sales, deals, and packages
  • Make sure to let your customers know about your efforts, changes, and hours

COVID-19 has had dramatic impacts on the US economy, particularly as small businesses have been shut down or are operating on a very limited basis for extended periods due to statewide shelter-in-place orders and other restrictions. 

As more states begin to transition out of full lockdown and “reopen,” many small business owners are finding that customers are in much shorter supply than before the pandemic. Lots of people are being extra careful about social contact with people outside their family, and visiting local restaurants, retailers, salons, and other brick-and-mortar shops is on the “let’s wait and see” list for many potential customers.

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Let’s go over some tools and tips you can employ to hopefully get more former and future customers back into your store and move toward full recovery.

Encourage the use of PPE by your staff, particularly if required in your state

Probably the first step small businesses should take is to demonstrate in overt and visible ways to customers that you are compliant with all recommended COVID-19 safety and sanitation procedures for businesses in your area.

The most visible cue to customers that your business is compliant with any local regulations on the use of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, face shields where required) is if you and your staff actually use it. 

The use of face masks in particular is not the historical norm in America. And while some people are finding every excuse to complain about it, many of your customers may be put more at ease if your staff is visibly compliant with any local regulations.

Follow the CDC’s recommended business cleaning and disinfecting procedures for COVID-19

All businesses should be kept clean, but due to COVID-19 recommendations even businesses that don’t serve food or drinks, or that don’t involve physical contact between employees and customers (like salons, barbershops, and spas) or physical contact between customers and equipment (like gyms, arcades, trampoline parks, etc.) need to be sure they are compliant with any new sanitization requirements. 

There may be surfaces in your facility that didn’t typically see frequent cleaning and sanitizing (countertops, chairs, doors, waiting areas, brochure stands, touchscreens or displays, etc.) before COVID-19. Now is the time to update your sanitization processes (and let your customers know about it—more on this later).

The CDC has specific guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your facility. Read and follow these guidelines to clean each piece of hard-surfaced equipment and your floors, soft surfaces, and electronic/plastic devices. Also, take note of the CDC’s recommendation for business owners or supervisors in charge of managing custodial staff or employees engaged in sanitizing the facility.

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Exploit delivery, curbside pickup, drive-through, and online sales channels if possible

The COVID-19 pandemic has kickstarted many a small business into enacting what they should have done years previously, namely move into a more “omnichannel” strategy for sales.

Small, local businesses are competing with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world for every dollar spent by their local customers in their local market. Now we understand that a local brick-and-mortar store can’t compete on a meaningful level with the ecommerce biggies on their own turf. This isn’t what we’re saying.

What you need to understand is that today’s customers shop and compare and get word-of-mouth recommendations online, even for local, brick-and-mortar businesses. So local businesses need to have a robust online presence, monitor and respond to their online reviews, claim all their free business listings, get set up for online ordering and delivery, and otherwise move into the 21st century.

Local restaurants in many areas have been taking advantage of new regulations allowing increased use of outdoor space.

Many local businesses that have never thought about the need are killing it with curbside pickup and delivery.

And if you’ve never thought about selling online, now may be an ideal time for you do get started. Click to read our guide to getting set up for selling online.

Use contactless and low-contact payment methods where possible.

The COVID-19 crisis has also accelerated adoption (by business owners) and use (by customers) of contact-free ways to pay, often called “contactless” payments.

Whether your customers use a mobile app or an RFID/NFC-enabled “smart card,” these types of payment methods allow more physical distance between customer and cashier, as well as preventing the actual physical transfer of pathogens by exchanging cards and typing in PINs.

If you would like to know more about accepting contactless payments as well as how to help keep the payment process more sanitary, click here for our full article.

Create discounts, sales, special COVID-19 deals and packages

Smart small business owners are taking advantage of the “slow” business period to come up with creative sales, deals, and promotions.

Lucy’s Pizzeria is just one example of a local business that has come up with creative ways to keep selling during and after the lockdown. They created “DIY Pizza Packets” for families to make pizza at home, sold “Dining Bonds” at reduced rates for future dine-in purchases, and pumped up their social media marketing efforts to let their customers know they were still the place to go for takeout and delivery.

Since lots of people are hungry for a good deal right now, it’s the perfect time to try a creative sales promotion or special deal to drive more customers to your door.

Use email marketing and social media to let customers know your hours, safety procedures, sales channels, and special deals

No customers are going to care about your sanitization and safety procedures—or your re-opening specials or new sales channels—unless you tell them about it. So it’s a good idea to use whatever contact method you have available to let all your current, past, and potentially future customers know about everything you’re doing to keep them safe and save them some dough while providing the peerless, personalized customer service experience you are known for.

If you don’t have a customer directory, now is a great time to get up to date. Womply’s offering is the first and only dynamic customer directory that comes “pre-populated” with all your customers’ contact info and purchase history, and which automatically updates with each transaction.

Let customers know you miss them and need them.

In this instance, it’s okay to be the needy one in the relationship. Customers are all well aware of the plight of their local businesses during the pandemic, and if you can remind them how much you need them and encourage them to support your business, they might make an extra effort to buy from local businesses to help ensure you’re around when they need you.

Remember, getting customers to come back doesn’t just mean getting them to come back once after COVID-19 reopening. It means getting them to come back again after they purchase. Here’s a guide to setting up an effective loyalty program in 3 creative ways

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Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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