A Roadmap for Retail Survival– Part 2: Maintaining Vital Customer Relationships During the Shutdown Period

Most retail establishments, from restaurants to gift stores, are faced with the unprecedented challenge of how to maintain vital customer relationships during this period of shutdowns, stay-at-home orders and social distancing.   For a small business, this can be a daunting hurdle. But there are definitely some things you can do to survive in the short term – and thrive in the long term.

  1. Continue building customer loyalty to your store by reviewing and updating your customer contact database.
  2. Use social media such Facebook, Twitter and email to gently reach out to your customers with personal messages (like “from our family to yours”) to build deeper connections. Recognize that now, more than ever, people want to support their local businesses so they will be there for them in the future.
  3. Get creative in finding new way to connect and help your community, not only to be of genuine service, but also to build goodwill and awareness of your business for the long term. Put the government’s Payroll Protection Plan benefits to good use.  For example, pizza shops are donating food to hospitals and first responders. Other businesses are finding their own unique ways to help isolated seniors and the disabled to get through tough times. 
  4. Ask your customers what they want or need.  Online or email ordering?  Curbside service?  Home delivery?
  5. Be willing to take whatever creative steps are necessary to make your store safe and inviting.  You may have to rethink some of the basic principles of retailing you’ve lived by for years.  For example, stores may need to space out displays for safe social distancing instead of putting as much inventory as possible into a tight space.  This could mean reassessing your inventory to the items of highest demand and value in the current crisis.

Small seeds planted now can grow into new and prosperous ways of doing business when the “Coming Out” period arrives.

Tammy Gordon, president of D.C.-based Verified Strategy, said small business owners — regardless of whether they’re providing goods or services — can find ways to weather current and future hardships and uncertainty.  “Right now, I think the most important thing for small businesses is to communicate with your customers,” Gordon said. “And think about how you can take your offerings to digital platforms.”

Gordon continued, “If you’re a coffee shop, don’t think about how you sell lattes and hand them to people in person. How can you offload your inventory and sell bags of coffee, or how can you deliver coffee and make that handoff in a safe way?”

Roadmap for Retail Survival Series:

Part 1: The New Face of Face-to-Face Retail: To Survive, Retailers Must Adopt a Different Marketing Approach

Part 2:  Maintaining vital customer relationships during the shutdown period

Part 3:  Bringing Customers Back  (coming next)

Customer Loyalty Accelerator (CLA) is here to help small retail businesses to survive now and thrive again in the “Coming Out” stage of the Covid-19 crisis.  CLA offers an innovative solution to building strong customer relations through instantly-redeemable rewards to encourage return customer visits and higher spending.  Shopify and Clover merchants can find the CLA app on the Shopify and Clover app store.