By the end of today, 43 states are expected to be reopening retail stores even if only for curbside pickup.
Retailers who were categorized as a nonessential business are anxious to reopen. Unlocking the doors will be easy, but how will you rebuild trust?
As global citizens, we have had our trust broken in government’s ability to keep us safe, in public health officials to deal with a pandemic, in the stock market, in the SBA, and even in our own family members who could potentially bring home the virus to kill.
You’ll have to find a way to build trust in those early adopters who first return to your store. They are hoping it will be the same, but it cannot be.
In an April 2020 survey conducted by First Insight , 500 Americans were asked about their sentiments regarding safety in retail, specifically as various store types begin to reopen. Consumers believed they would feel safest shopping in categories that never closed, including grocery stores (54%) and drug store chains (50%). Ranking in the middle were big box retailers (45%), warehouse clubs (43%), and local small businesses (43%).
If it were me, customers entering my reopened store would need to understand my safety protocol. They would need to wear masks, maybe undergo a quick temperature check, and observe social distancing rules once inside.
I don’t want to get into a fight with anyone looking to shop in a retail business after stores have been shut for so long, so I would make sure I posted any such rules on social media, on my website, and at the entrance to my store.
These are near-term solutions to show your customers and your crew that you are committed to their safety. My precautions would go further than just having hand sanitizer stationed at the counter.
If the shopper didn’t have a mask to wear, I would make sure I had disposable ones for them. If they didn’t want to wear a mask, I’d suggest they shop online and use my curbside pickup.
Reopening will bring customer service challenges like how to enforce social distancing measures, what to do when someone seems ill, and how to deal with a public on edge.
While you still need to see everyone as human, you can’t have 2/3 of your customers wearing masks and the rest not. Most shoppers would assume they were at risk going into your store because of that visual. And if your store associate isn’t wearing a mask, it’s even worse.
Make sure you manage the optics.
I have a whole new course you can take without commitment or credit card; it is free. It covers how to create a plan for reopening your store and reigniting your crew. It includes how to pivot conversations away from COVID-19 and negativity into something more positive, such as how to greet customers while wearing a mask and how to sell more.
In addition, you may want to check out this reopening retail resource from the NRF as well as this great resource Kroger shared with downloadable signs to help explain what you are doing during the coronavirus outbreak.
Your new social-distance protocol will probably be mandated by your state who can limit the number of visitors in your store at one time. This could force people to wait for service on the sidewalk like you’ve seen at your local grocery store.
You don’t want people to be surprised when they come into your store and see the changes you’ve had to implement such as everyone wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.
That’s why it is so important to tell your customers now what has changed – masks, social distancing, etc. – and what hasn’t changed, your commitment to keeping each employee and customer as safe as possible.
Major retailers are reducing store hours to help allow for additional cleaning and to deal with an expected drop in foot traffic for the near term. They have also suspending bra fittings and not allowing customers to try on items, while beauty departments are getting a complete overhaul with makeovers completely forbidden.
If you are changing things customers will be disappointed to discover, make sure you tell them in advance.
A Great Video Example Of Telling Shoppers What Has Changed
Greg and Angela at Third Rock Music in Cincinnati made a video outlining exactly all of their changes. My hat is off to them!
You should make one too.
What makes this reopening retail video so great? Greg and Angela come across as genuinely caring and they make light of some of the new restrictions they have to operate under.
The video is full of explanations to calm any anxiety that shoppers might feel when coming to their retail store.
Where to post your reopening retail store video?
The key is to make such a reopening video now and post and repost it everywhere on social media, your website, your Google My Business page – the works.
Even McDonald’s in Amsterdam has made a reopening video showing changes. Yes, it is in Dutch, but you can understand the new procedures.
The first thing you notice is the visitor has to wash their hands for 20 seconds before even going in. While this is a prototype, notice the power of knowing what to expect before you get there is reassuring and helps build trust.
And also notice how much extra cleaning time is required. That’s one reason some retailers have decided not to reopen certain locations as the extra measures required in mall stores might eat up too much payroll compared with upside of reopening.
Whatever measure you implement, over communicate it, not just in a video but in an email detailing how things have changed with cleanliness and safety practices but also on how things have not changed in your focus on friendly customer service.
The news media continues to ramp up fear of the unknown for everyone, especially when it comes to retail shops. To help qualm your shoppers’ nerves, be proactive about what steps you are taking to keep your customers and employees safe by making your own video.
Once you get them in the store though, know you’ll have to do even more to build trust and reassure them. That’s why you should check out my new Reopening Retail & Rebuilding Trust course. No credit card required or commitment.