How does a small and independent retailer sell garlic bulbs during a global pandemic? Instagram is one tool. How does another let her customers know she’s available to curate gifts without customers needing to leave their house? Facebook. How does another introduce a new apparel line? Email newsletter. As a customer, I’ve bought from each of these retailers thanks to the tools they’ve used to communicate their offerings and availability. (Yes, in fact I did rush to City Grange in Chicago after I saw their Instagram post with their garlic bulbs!)
The reality is, the global pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives. But it’s also reminded many retailers and wholesalers why they entered this line of business and what matters: connecting with each other.
So how can we get customers excited about shopping with us? The key is meeting customers where they’re at and that means realizing some may not be comfortable coming in-store to shop while others really want to leave their house and enjoy some retail therapy time.
Here are a few ways to make all of your customers feel welcome, safe, and excited to support their favorite retailers:
Use Your Windows
People are out walking and if your shop gets healthy foot traffic, continue to update your window displays and make sure passersby know how they can shop. It’s still a billboard for your business! Even if your shop is closed, instead of a sign that reads “Sorry, we’re closed due to COVID-19,” post one that shares how customers can shop. For example, “Sorry, our shop is closed due to COVID-19, but we’re adding new items on our website daily and can ship or arrange touchless curbside pick-up!” At a minimum, provide modified business hours, safety precautions and ways customers can reach you.
Offer a One-of-a-Kind Experience
For those who want to support your business but are uncomfortable visiting your shop, work with them. Some retailers are using technology like Zoom or FaceTime to “walk” their customers through the store to see new items.
Others are allowing customers to email or message them with things they’d like to see and the retailers are pulling those items to “show” them online at a designated time. In other cases, retailers are acting as personal shoppers. For example, let’s say a customer wants to send a gift to a child’s teacher and wants to spend $25. The customer lets the retailer know her budget and the recipient’s details and the retailer takes care of shipping the item.
Fearless Cooking, a kitchen accessories boutique in Chicago that also offers cooking classes (now virtually), calls it their Gift Concierge Service. To help explain this service, the owner added this detail on her website: “When the quarantine began, we were so lucky to have customers who supported us by asking us to put together gifts for loved ones. Now, we are making that service official with our Fearless Gift Concierge Service! Just answer a few questions by clicking below and we’ll put together the perfect gift. No additional charge.” Brilliant. To be fair, many retailers were already doing this pre-pandemic but it’s definitely increased in availability and many customers are choosing this option since it allows them to still send gifts to friends while supporting their local businesses.
Maximize Your Social and Digital Media
Again, meet your customers where they are. If they’re on Facebook, feature Facebook Live sessions daily and focus on a certain theme of items. If they’re on Instagram, post Stories or update your account with new items.
Don’t forget your email list! If there was a time to use that list to your advantage, it’s now.
It’s hard to believe a business doesn’t have a website these days but if you don’t, this would be the time to invest in one. More people are shopping online, so why not allow them to shop with you?
In-store Shopping Experiences
Many customers still want to shop in person and if you’re offering that option, remind customers of what that experience might look like. If you require masks while in the store, make sure that’s clear before customers walk through your door. To help minimize traffic at any given time, some retailers are offering customers the option of reserving a shopping time. Fearless Cooking created a calendar on Calendly.com that allows customers to reserve an in-store shopping experience in 30-minute increments.
Customers come to us because we’re meeting a need. Stay focused on your customers now and be flexible. They’ll appreciate it and keep coming back, now and later.