Local business owners are doing their best to stay informed about COVID-19 and offer pandemic-friendly services. While we realize that the “right way” to stay open varies depending on the city and state in which you operate, there are several ways local businesses can win customers for life by offering a more convenient, safe customer experience. 

  1. Continue to offer pandemic-friendly services. In a recent survey we conducted, we found that 84.4% of consumers report having used services like curbside pickup, local food and grocery delivery, and/or contactless payments since COVID-19. Over 80% want one or more of those services to continue post-COVID, and over 50% report having avoided local businesses that do not offer such services, choosing to discontinue patronage or jump ship to competitors. Even as restrictions change, continue offering consistent pandemic-friendly services. 

  1. Let your customers know you’re open. Your customers need trust and reassurance during this time, and they need a direct invitation to engage with you. Consider placing a “Text us we’re open” sign in your store window or taking to messaging to send brief messages of support and personalized invitations to engage with your business. 

  1. Keep your customers updated on changes in policy procedures. Take to social media to keep your customers informed on any changes in policy, store hours, and measures you are taking to keep them safe in their engagement with you. You can go live on Instagram/Facebook, host a social media event, or begin an interactive blog section. 

  1. Prioritize your employees and customers. Though it will take additional measures and investment, your employees and customers need to know that their safety is your top priority. Over 70% of customers report if they perceive that a business is prioritizing profits over people, they will lose trust in that business forever. Show your customers you care by asking for feedback (about safety measures, etc.) and implementing it. Create an “employee wellness plan,” and hold mini huddles with your team on the daily.

  1. Offer contactless payment options. Approximately 30% of consumers now prefer a mobile payment option, demonstrating a growing desire for cardless and cashless options. Nearly 80% of consumers hope to see businesses continue to offer contactless payment as they reopen and in the future, post-pandemic phase. Use a platform that enables convenient payment via text and a direct link to help you meet customers where they want to meet you—on their phone.

  1. Consider local delivery. If you don’t offer it already, consider adding local delivery to your list of services. Along with contactless payment, local delivery (especially when the product is left on the porch) is a safer, more convenient option for your customers.

  1. Use messaging to offer your customers a safe, convenient customer experience. The new normal involves more and more mobile interactions and the convenience of mobile communication. In fact, 42% of respondents in a recent survey said they were more interested in texting with local businesses now than they were before COVID-19. And it’s not just limited to millennials. Texting is preferred by all age groups, including consumers over 60 years old. Use messaging to let patients waiting in cars know a doctor is ready to see them, to let waiting customers know their order is ready, or to ask for feedback on your safety measures after a customer leaves your store. 

  1. Make sure your transitions from online to offline are seamless. After your customers first contact you online, they will come onsite expecting to be able to move on to the next step. Make sure you have the items that you’ve talked about ready to view. Review online conversations before customers arrive so that your discussion can be fresh on your mind, and ensure that online dialogue is conversational through use of colloquial language, punctuation, and emojis. 

  1. Be sensitive to the varying comfort levels of your customers. Redesign/configure public spaces to continue to allow for social distancing, train your employees on sensitivity to varying customer comfort levels, and educate your client base on how to be considerate to their fellow shoppers with signs, social media, etc. 

  1. Implement a web chat feature. With more and more business generated on a mobile device, consider adding a web chat feature to your website. Fifty percent of consumers expect to see a chat option when they’re browsing on their mobile device. And reports claim a 30% increase to conversion when the live chat option is available. With fewer people in store, making your online experience easy, convenient, and personalized is critical. 

  1. Implement appointment scheduling. Consider implementing appointment scheduling if your business model includes a storefront. This will limit the number of customers in your store at a time, keeping your employees and customers safer. It will also allow you to offer more one-on-one time to your customers, personalizing the overall buying experience. 

  1. Establish your new health rules and guidelines. Determine new health rules and guidelines for each employee and customer—temperature checks, symptom questions, quarantining rules, hand sanitizing or washing requirements, and cleaning standards. If your state or city requires anything specific, post those requirements in your building and on your website. 

  1. Communicate transparently. In wake of the pandemic, 85% of consumers expect local businesses to offer more convenient communication and services now than they did prior to COVID. Keep employees and customers completely informed concerning inventory changes, plans, and possible changes or concerns. Consider messaging to help you communicate transparently and conveniently as 65% of consumers think that texting makes working with a local business more convenient.

  1. Keep calm and confident! Remember that we’ve made it this far, even with everything that’s happened. Now is the time to place a stubborn belief in the hopes of the future and help your customers to get back on their feet. 

With everything that’s happening, staying open, or reopening in our current economic situation can definitely feel like an uphill battle. There are many decisions to make and even priorities to re-determine. However, with these tips, you can help your customers to feel reassured and cared for, regardless of what the future holds.