Rita Mitchell, Certified Counselor at the USM Small Business Development Center’s College of Business and Economic Development, compiled a great list of 11 ways retailers can combat coronavirus fears, the closures, and the financial decline those fears are causing.
Here are her suggestions.
- Have VISIBLE and TOTAL hygiene discipline. Mitchell suggests placing anti-bacterial pumps throughout a store. Also, posting photos online and on your website of “deep cleaning” activities can show customers your commitment to keeping them healthy while shopping.
- She also recommends posting a kind and intimate email, Facebook post, Instagram post, and in-store posted statement about your commitment to the care and services your business will provide during this emergency.
- To drum up business from people who are staying away from shopping in stores, she recommends making an open offer of encouragement to deliver or ship a client’s order and then, include a fun surprise. (P.S. Your client will want delivery and shipping to be at no charge.)
- Offer NO penalty, no-hassle returns while shopping online or ordering by phone/email and give immediate credit, however it was paid, to provide customers peace of mind. With trips, reservations, and flights offering only in-house credit, this is vital.
- She recommends creating, scheduling and announcing more Facebook Live posts, animated posts, and enticing videos to show new stock, with a simple call to action and click-buttons to buy. Also, focus on ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ options.
- Another idea for clothing retailers is to create “Stitch Fix”- like personal stylist bundles for your regular clients, completely customized for their tastes. Deliver to them, or allow your client to pick up on approval. Offer to pick up what’s not kept from the box, and follow up with visual suggestions on how to wear their sassy new items.
- Mitchell says this is a great time to leverage virtual couponing via mobile texts, in a personal email, or just a QR code. “Surprises like this are force multipliers,” she said.
- She suggests highlighting products made in America in your store. One of her clients posted that he is ordering his merchandise bags from the US from now on via social media, and had a hugely positive response.
- Use your staff and the power of a GREAT visual story to create a connection with your brand. You could post an employee’s favorite new item on Instagram or show how to style an outfit.
- She says your goal on social media shouldn’t just be clicks, but also engagement through things like flash contests, polling followers on their favorite products, or offering giveaways to the first responder of a post.
- Mitchell says her favorite tip is to simply ask how your clients need you to help them now. One retailer reported that a client just wanted a bright new top to wear, and didn’t want to make a trip to the store. The store sent her options, she chose the one she liked, and both client and store are happy.
While we have no way of knowing how long retailers will be impacted by coronavirus, it’s what you do now that will help combat coronavirus fears and minimize the strain this situation causes.
Your Small Business Development Center can help. SBDCs provide free counseling to small business owners around the country. They also offer disaster preparedness and resiliency assistance. They have 1,000 local centers available to provide free business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses. Find your SBDC here.
Please keep in mind this information is changing rapidly and is based on our current understanding of the programs. It can and likely will change. Although we will be monitoring and updating this as new information becomes available, please do not rely solely on this for your financial decisions. We encourage you to consult with your lawyers, CPAs and Financial Advisors. To review your real-time funding options with one of Nav’s lending experts, please contact us.
This article was originally written on March 16, 2020 and updated on March 31, 2020.