How to Communicate Retail Reopenings With Your Customers | Coronavirus Series
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that explores the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the world of ecommerce. Explore daily insights surrounding the coronavirus crisis or check out these additional resources to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.
There’s a faint light at the end of the (very long) tunnel that is the coronavirus pandemic—stay-at-home restrictions are beginning to ease in certain areas and some states have begun reopening the economy in phases.
This, of course, means that both online and offline retail brands are preparing to welcome customers back to their brick-and-mortar stores. While having an ecommerce presence has helped many businesses outlast the pandemic and lost revenue from store closings, many still depend on a storefront to meet revenue goals.
But consumers are still wary of the risk associated with in-person shopping. In fact, a third of people say they don’t think they’ll regularly shop in-person for non-grocery items for at least two months after reopening, according to recent surveys.
Whether consumers decide to continue shopping online for the time being or feel comfortable venturing out into the world for in-store shopping, it’s your responsibility to make your customers feel comfortable however they choose to buy.
If you’re planning to reopen your business for in-store shopping, continue reading for guidance on what information to share through your owned marketing channels (including email, mobile, and web), how to create safe and comfortable in-store shopping experiences, and how to segment your communication to be more relevant to your customers.
Prepare customers by sharing essential information
There’s no detail too small or insignificant when it comes to communicating your plans to reopen and sharing information on how you’ll keep your community safe.
As consumers are still uncertain about the safety of leaving their homes, it’s your responsibility to clarify the safety measures you’ve put in place to reduce the risk of in-store shopping.
How you operate your store will largely depend on your location, the size of your shop, and the phase of reopening you’re in. But providing as much transparency as you can about what you’ll expect of your employees and customers, as well as what they should expect from you, will give people the information they need to make the best decision possible when it comes to their future shopping plans.
Outline hygiene requirements and cleaning policies
When retail employees return to stores, there are certain measures of sanitation and safety they’ll have to follow to create a safe shopping environment.
Whether you’re requiring employees to wear masks or going as far as to have plexiglass barriers, be clear about what shoppers should expect when they come into your store so they can properly social distance and respect your employees. This will ensure both the safety of your customers and the wellbeing of your staff.
Customers will also likely want some insight into your store’s cleaning policies when it comes to how often the store and its surfaces are sanitized—specifically in the most commonly used spaces, such as checkout counters or fitting rooms.
Make it clear that cleaning measures will be taken more seriously and done more regularly than pre-coronavirus. Be as specific as possible when it comes to these new sanitation policies in order to build confidence with your customers and exemplify that you’re taking every action to create a clean space—vague messages aren’t reassuring when these specifics are so necessary to customers’ comfort and security.
While customers should understand what they can expect from personnel, they’ll also need to know what you expect of them before they can safely enter your store again. This means you have to enforce a certain standard when it comes to asking customers to follow new policies, such as wearing masks and keeping their distance from other people outside their group.
For example, if you’re only allowing a certain number of people in the store and asking others to wait outside, make that evident upfront through your owned marketing channels. Shoppers should know what to expect if they want to visit your store in-person before they even leave their homes.
Additionally, there are likely certain safety measures that you’re offering to help ensure that their shopping experience is as safe as possible. Between new technologies, basic supplies, and store policies, inform your customers of what resources will be available to them if they choose to shop in-store.
Some safety measures to offer and promote include:
- Hand sanitizer dispensers and cleaning wipes
- Contactless payment
- Free masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Reduced store and fitting room capacity
- On-call or on-site nurses
- Temperature checks
- Adjusted return and exchange policies
- Senior store hours
- Curbside pickup
While outlining all of this information may seem excessive, you can still keep it brief and digestible, like apparel brand Aritzia displayed in their recent email.
Aritizia outlined the important health and safety measures they’re focusing on without overwhelming their customers with information. In the email, Aritizia gives an overview of their policies while also including an option to find additional information on their website, which is a great resource for customers if they want to know more than the basics.
Lay out all the options
Even though your store is reopening, you probably won’t be able to offer the same breadth of service as usual. This also means there might be new ways for people to shop to enforce social distancing.
Whatever your reopening looks like—whether it’s by appointment only, limiting the customers allowed in the store at one time, reducing hours, or only offering curbside pickup—let your customers know what their options are for shopping with your brand in-person.
While making an appointment to shop in-store and trying on clothes looks a lot different than curbside pickup, both of these shopping experiences can be considered phases of reopening.
Customers will need to know all their options before they leave their homes and what they have to do to prepare, whether that’s making a reservation or ordering over the phone. This means it’s important that you explicitly communicate what kinds of services will be available.
Massachusetts-based clothing store LIT Boutique provided their customers with all the information they need to know in order to shop while restrictions are still in place on their social media.
While the boutique is only letting customers shop in-store if they schedule an appointment, they provide all the information shoppers need to make the visit safe and efficient. For customers who are looking to shop same-day without an appointment, they have a curbside pickup option available for anyone who wants to order online or call in an order.
They also properly acknowledge the situation at-hand and assure customers that, while the new experience will be something to get used to, all changes are only temporary and will be evolved as restrictions increasingly ease.
Encourage customers to continue shopping online
Since the opportunities for in-store shopping may be limited—and considering many consumers still won’t feel comfortable shopping in-store—continue promoting online shopping and digital experiences.
While the ability to reopen retail storefronts and offer in-person services is a relief to many businesses, online stores have been and will continue to be paramount to accommodating customers during the pandemic.
While having an ecommerce presence and selling direct-to-consumer (DTC) has been a major source of revenue for brands in the past, the coronavirus crisis has proven that it’s more important than ever to meet customers where they are and continue to create robust digital shopping experiences for those who are able to and choose to stay home.
Candle brand Paddywax does just this in their retail reopening email. While the brand informs customers that their locations in Nashville and Birmingham are reopening—and emphasizes wearing masks, social distancing, contact-free pickups, and reduced class sizes—they also acknowledge that not everyone will immediately choose to shop in-store.
In the email, they promote their online shop, where you can purchase kits to pour your own candles or make cocktails. This email strikes the perfect balance of being informational without being pushy or absolute—they comfort their customers by providing options for shopping online or visiting in-person.
Communicate with empathy
Similar to the previous marketing content you sent during the pandemic, it’s important to continue to strike a tone of empathy in your communications.
Even as we begin to resume some of the activities we used to enjoy before the pandemic hit, life is still far from normal, which means you have to continue to practice transparency in your marketing and encourage a dialogue with your customers.
Keep in mind that you’re contributing to the development of a “new normal”—while customers may anticipate some safety measures, the shopping experience will be very different for what they’re used to.
Prepare customers as much as you can before they show up at your doors and provide as much insight into the new in-store shopping experience as possible.
Additionally, provide multiple ways for customers to reach out to your team for online support and additional information about reopenings, similar to how Madewell does in their email. With options for emailing, live chatting, calling, or even booking a virtual appointment with a stylist, Madwell customers can connect with the brand for any needs or concerns they may have, whether it’s better understanding in-store policies or picking out a new pair of shoes.
Since customers can’t get the same in-person support as they normally would talking to a staff member, having these resources shows shoppers that Madewell is dedicated to creating a comfortable and safe experience—online and offline.
Segment your communication
Your customers are likely overwhelmed by all things coronavirus at this point—from the news to their jobs to their personal lives, everywhere we turn it’s a topic of discussion.
That’s why segmenting your audience is so important in order to ensure relevance and value. Additionally, as the rules and regulations surrounding reopening vary from state-to-state, your policies may only be accurate for customers in certain geographies.
Segment your reopening emails so that you’re only sending to customers within a 100-mile radius of your store (or less) since people who live in Florida probably won’t find your shop reopening in Massachusetts to be very useful.
If you have retail locations across different states or countries, you may also need to create different messages for customers depending on where they live since the rules and phases of reopening will likely differ.
If you want to be more precise about geographic targeting before you send out any communications over email, take a page out of Lou & Grey’s handbook—the women’s apparel brand prepared customers to receive information surrounding retail reopenings by asking them to update their zip code so that they would get the most relevant content in their inbox.
With stores across the United States, Lou & Grey was proactive when it came to their reopening communications, ensuring that customers were able to update their preferences so that any emails they receive would be properly tailored to their needs.
To get even more advanced with your segmentation, create a segment of customers who first bought from your brand during the pandemic, like toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap did when demand for their eco-friendly paper products reached an all-time high in March.
Create a unique message for these people that welcomes them to your community and encourages them to shop with you offline now that your store is offering in-person shopping.
By specifically targeting these new customers, you can create a message that’s more personalized to their experience with your brand and invite them in-store for their next purchase.
Alternatively, if you want to share information surrounding your reopening more broadly but don’t want to send the content to your entire email list, post on social media and update your website to reflect the most recent information about your store reopening. By making these updates easy to find on public platforms and through your owned marketing channels, you can help new and potential customers navigate updated procedures if they’re interested in shopping in-person.
Navigating a phased approach to reopening the economy
We still have a ways to go when it comes to life returning to normal. But for retail brands, reopening the economy is the first step in offering customers more ways to buy and inviting people to shop in-person again.
But before you send out an email to your entire email list, post to social media, or update your website, think about what information will be the most critical to customers during this time and what you can offer to make them the most comfortable.
If you prioritize shoppers’ health and safety first and foremost through your owned marketing channels, your customers can start to plan for a new in-store shopping experience with your brand.
Looking for more information to help you adjust your marketing strategies as you navigate the coronavirus crisis? These resources may be helpful.Back to Blog Home