Reopening Your Business: How (and What) to Tell Your Customers
Across the United States, some states and local governments have either already lifted business restrictions, or they have plans to do so in the near future. This gradual reopening is likely welcome news for many small businesses, especially those that haven’t been able to maintain a limited form of operations throughout the public health crisis.
Those restrictions have had a powerful economic impact on local businesses, with 83 percent of SMBs reporting negative financial implications created by the public health crisis. A majority of those businesses believe the effects of this disruption will last three to six months, which means that reopening isn’t necessarily the end to the challenges businesses will face.
But reopening can be the launching pad for recovery, if this process is properly managed. A majority of SMBs (54 percent) expect to lean on advertising to help their business communicate with customers and re-establish their operations within this altered landscape. To make this transition as smooth and effective as possible, your business needs to have a plan for communicating with customers about your reopening plans—including the changes you are implementing to support their safety.
We've compiled three tips to help you keep your customers informed as you start to reopen your business below, but first want to acknowledge that we recognize deciding when and how to reopen your business may present its own set of challenges. As you consider the various factors at hand, the intent of the following tips is to make sure your communications approach is the least of your worries, especially once you've determined that reopening is the best course of action for your business at this time.
1. ADDRESS CUSTOMER SAFETY UP FRONT
Your business may be ready to reopen, but customers may have their own reservations. Safety concerns could prompt many would-be shoppers to stay away from a local business property, especially if they aren’t sure what to expect in terms of additional safety precautions being taken by that business.
With the public health crisis far from over, those safety concerns need to be addressed whenever your business is talking about reopening. Highlight the changes you’re making to improve safety for your shoppers, whether that includes modified store hours, reduced store capacity, one-way shopping aisles, face mask requirements, and/or additional safety measures being taken by in-store associates or home service technicians.
Even if your business is able to open, safety concerns could keep many of your shoppers at home, and further delay your economic recovery. But proactive messaging and a safety-first approach could win over nervous customers and increase shopping activity.
2. COMBAT SHOPPER ANXIETIES WITH ADDED INCENTIVES
To win over anxious shoppers, businesses may need to create new mechanisms to incentivize in-store shopping and in-home service requests. Examples of these incentives can range from traditional sales and discount strategies to value-adds related to the ongoing public health emergency.
Given the time of year, for example, clothing retailers could promote their reopening efforts through a “Sidewalk Sale” campaign that moves clothing racks outside of the store, and offers shoppers a discount on inventory. This strategy offers several benefits: it makes your store’s opening more visible to your local area, it offers savings to attract shoppers, and it puts your shopping experience in an open-air environment that may feel safer for shoppers worried about contracting an illness.
Alternatively, your business could run a promotion such as a free face mask handed out to shoppers when they enter a store, or with a purchase. You can even partner with another local business and offer additional discounts to shoppers when they provide proof of purchase at your neighboring business. This can be a great way for hard-hit stores to band together and incentivize additional spending that provides a much-needed economic boost.
3. USE THE RIGHT MIX OF ADVERTISING CHANNELS TO SPREAD THE WORD
Any business reopening strategy needs to include a plan for informing your customers that you’re back in business. A mix of advertising will be required to notify existing customers as well as potential new shoppers in your local area—particularly because there is a lot of confusion about which businesses are open, and whether they’ve modified their hours or their shopping experience to accommodate public health concerns.
Businesses are expected to lean heavily on social media to quickly disperse their reopening news among existing customers and followers. Email offers another channel for reaching a built-in audience of followers. But digital video and TV advertising are also expected to play a large role in communicating with local customers and encouraging returns to your business.
Digital video in particular figures to play an outsized role in this messaging approach, with local businesses eager to talk directly to their customers, and to showcase new changes made to keep their customers safe. This video can deliver value through multiple advertising channels by being repurposed across cable TV advertising, social media, and even featured on your business website. In a similar way, radio and digital audio can be useful for giving your business a voice and directly addressing your customers’ concerns.
Finally, keep in mind that in-store signage, and even outdoor signage, can be extremely useful in giving shoppers the information they need to determine whether they’re comfortable shopping at your business. At a minimum, this can include signs in your storefront that provide updated hours of operation. But this signage can also communicate new rules and policies for safe shopping, such as social distancing rules and a face mask requirement for entering your business property.
As you navigate the unfamiliar territory of reopening your business amid a public health emergency, remember that your customers are also going through this process for the first time. While you work to address the economic impact of this crisis, make sure your customers’ needs and concerns are given top priority—and use a mix of advertising channels to show you have their best interest at heart.
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