6 Ways Local Businesses are Adapting to Social Distancing

April 6, 2020 Cox Media

6 Ways Local Businesses are Adapting to Social Distancing

As recent events have caused businesses to either close their storefronts or drastically change how they serve their customers, companies are being forced to think creatively about how to solve revenue problems created by halted in-store traffic and, in many cases, less sales opportunities to customers.

If your business is being impacted by social distancing, you’re probably on the hunt for ways you can adapt your current business model to keep your company afloat during these uncertain times. To serve as a little inspiration, we’ve rounded up six ways local businesses are embracing new strategies to serve their customers while respecting the new expectations around social distancing. 

1. RESTAURANTS EXPAND TAKE-OUT AND DELIVERY OPTIONS

Many cities have limited restaurant operations, including temporary bans on dine-in service. This is a huge problem for those businesses, and it’s prompted them to commit more fully to take-out and delivery dining options.

In cities across the U.S., restaurants are now offering take-out and/or delivery service for the first time. Some are even offering prepared meals to customers who want to quickly pick up a dinner they can heat and eat at home. This is helping account for some of the lost revenue created through dine-in seating bans, giving those businesses a shot at surviving these social distancing efforts.

2. EXPANDED CURBSIDE PICKUP SERVICES

Retailers that depend on in-store sales may not be able to allow customers into their stores anymore—and even if they do still have that option, they can’t ignore the fact that many customers are uninterested in going into stores, shopping in crowds, and waiting in line to pay for their purchases.

Curbside pickup has gained traction as an option for driving local sales while eliminating contact during the purchase and pickup process. Best Buy has already moved all of its shopping and ordering to curbside pickup, allowing customers to quickly pick up the items they need locally, while keeping both customers and employees safe from unnecessary exposure. This approach can be easily implemented by any local retailer eager to preserve in-store sales while prioritizing the safety of their customers.

3. REAL ESTATE BUSINESSES OFFER VIRTUAL HOME TOURS

Social distancing has created a strain on the housing market. Real estate agents can no longer host open houses for new listings, and some buyers and sellers are wary of trafficking through unfamiliar homes and potentially being exposed to unnecessary health risks.

To keep the housing market moving despite these concerns, more real estate agents are using virtual home tours to let prospective buyers explore their options remotely. This significantly reduces exposure risks and enables buyers to limit physical visits to cases where they’re seriously considering a purchase.

4. DISCOUNTED RATES FOR ONLINE ORDER DELIVERY

Bookstores across the country have felt the sting of losing in-store sales and foot traffic due to the recent public health scare, which has eliminated their biggest advantage over online-only retailers like Amazon.

In response, many booksellers are now offering cheap shipping for orders made through their online stores, including one-dollar flat rate shipping per order. Some also offer free local shipping or delivery, hoping that this affordable rate can generate sales while their storefronts are closed.

5. FITNESS STUDIOS OFFER CLASSES VIA LIVE-STREAM

Fitness studios and gyms have mostly shut down to comply with social distancing. But those gyms still have customers and members who want to maintain their fitness even if they can’t visit a facility.

In response, some studios are offering live-streams of their fitness classes, either for members or to the entire public. This helps those businesses maintain a relationship with their customer base and retain members who will return to their facility once this period of social distancing has ended.

6. EXTRA SAFETY PRECAUTIONS FOR HOME SERVICES PROVIDERS

Home service providers face unusual challenges when it comes to social distancing: in many cases, it’s impossible for them to do their jobs without entering their customers’ homes. Yet even as local governments order most businesses to close, home services companies are often exempted as an “essential service” that local communities need even during a public health emergency.

To ease customer worries and minimize the risk of exposure, some home service providers are taking additional steps to protect their workers and customers. This may include asking technicians to wear gloves and shoe covers when entering a customer’s home, using soap and and water to wash hands before and after every visit, and even scanning technicians to make sure they aren’t running a fever before starting their work day. These extra safety measures provide customers with a greater sense of comfort when they require service from one of these providers.

BONUS TIP: TELL THEM ABOUT IT

Make sure your customers know you are making changes with their safety in mind. All of the creative solutions you implement can certainly help your business during this time, but you need to make sure consumers know what you're doing for the ideas to have their full impact. Communicate through your social media channels, email newsletters, and keep up your marketing efforts where you can.

Related: Advertising Your Business During an Economic Downturn

Social distancing has forced many businesses to rethink the way they operate. But as innovative companies have shown, a little creativity can go a long way in helping local businesses weather the current storm.  We hope these inspire you to consider creative options for your business, and if you need a little help brainstorming, give us a call. We're here to make this time better, together.

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