Coronavirus Cases Surge Again

Coronavirus cases are increasing across a large portion of Ontario, and retailers must weigh the safety of their employees and customers with their desire to capture revenue. Many retailers that are still open are reporting that customers don’t always comply with safety precautions, which puts them and employees at risk.

For retailers that were hoping that the summer would bring some much-needed foot traffic, it will be important to have a plan for keeping customers informed and everyone safe as rules and store experiences continue to evolve. This plan requires communication across three parts of the customer journey — what they should know and expect before, during, and after their visit to a store (and as a bonus, what they can do if they choose to shop from home or if a store must close.)

What You Should Know Before You Go

Seventy-one percent of customers said that they feel comfortable returning to non-essential retail stores.  But, Gen Z shoppers are much more hesitant, with many saying that they’d wait two weeks or more before returning. People also noted that they wanted to book private dressing rooms to try on merchandise and that they preferred that stores would hold returned items 48 hours before returning them to shelves.

In addition to posting store hours and occupancy rules on site and in emails, retailers can also talk about the smaller details, for example, how items in the store are sanitized and if there is a contactless payment option.

Consider creating a “How it Works?” series to get people comfortable with shopping in-store again. Embed a video of the store with people shopping to show the experience up close. Include a link to download contactless payment apps that you offer in your store. If you’ve rearranged things, share a map of the store. Let people know how often you clean, and explain your policies for returns and curbside pickup and delivery.

  • You may want to introduce a new checkout process that reduces interaction with cashiers and offers contactless payment options.
  • Create a website with videos and FAQs to help communicate with your customers, as well as personalized and localized email marketing. People want to see and understand what they’ll be experiencing before they get there.

What the Customer Should Expect When Shopping

Be proactive where your customers are concerned; make sure that customers know what is expected of them. If your policy requires them to wear a mask, remind them in your messaging across channels, and explain why this is important. Costco, for example, is clear that all customers must wear masks and they don’t allow customers in unless they comply.

Personalizing email is a quick way to get customers the information they crave, and to make sure they aren’t misinformed. Consider personalizing emails by location to clearly show customers how they can safely shop with their local store.  Whether that is BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store) an in-store visit, or even an outdoor dining option.

Make It Easy to Picture the Whole Journey

Don’t lose a customer because of their uncertainty about what might happen after they leave your store. If they decide to return an item, make it easy for them to do so without added hassle or risk.

Determine if it’s feasible to make returns and exchanges by curbside, so that customers can feel safe and worry free if they get the wrong size or change their mind about the color they like.

And for customers that aren’t ready, communicating the different options they have is also essential for keeping them engaged. Rather than focus too strongly on in-store options, some business uses their newsletter to provide information about each option: in-store, curbside, and delivery.

Most importantly, use this time to learn about each customer and improve communication tactics so that they and your employees have the best and safest experience possible. Tailor emails and content so that whatever a customer’s shopping preference, there is a way to keep them informed and engaged.

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