As I write this, we are a week away from Christmas. And while it may feel like the holiday season has already been decided with everyone from the post office to mail-order businesses saying there's no way they can meet Christmas deadlines, now is the time that local small businesses can shine.
You have an advantage at this point over online stores because customers can come in and get a last-minute gift, service, or gift certificate. But you can’t just fling open your doors and let the world in. There are a couple of things you need to be doing to ensure that they feel safe. Still, It's not too late to implement these COVID precautions in your business.
Show Customers Your Precautions
I noticed something today about the news. Even with the vaccine being distributed this week, the tone is growing bleaker. On two separate broadcasts, on two separate stations, I heard the COVID death toll compared to the numbers in two different wars. As one would expect by that kind of news, people are frightened, maybe even more so than they were in March. They want to know your business is taking precautions.
Telling them you're taking precautions is not enough. You need to show them that you are. Customers need to see it with their eyes. I went to a register today where the cashier stopped me from moving forward until she was able to wipe down the entire counter and the credit card processing machine. She then welcomed me with a smile.
This is the first business I've seen do this. Yes, many have told me they are doing in, but I haven't seen it. I felt much safer in this establishment. Most people would feel the same.
Cut Down on Touch Points
These days when shopping, I struggle with what to do with the cart or basket after I've used it. To me, the cashier should either show me where to set it or there should be someone gathering them and wiping them down. If you offer carts or baskets, create a section for those that have been used recently just as you would pens.
Your other option is to catch people as they’re coming in and wipe it for them but often, they’ve already touched the cart at that point, making the effort less worthwhile. The simple action of cleaning things people touch frequently makes people feel safer.
If someone is perusing your shelves and touches something, either have someone in place to wipe those things down or ask that they be brought to a spot where they can be wiped down and restocked. This may seem cumbersome but if you're worried about safety, it's a necessity.
Understand That Some Things Are Done for Peace of Mind
If you've been to a takeout restaurant recently, they may have brought your food to you in a basket or tray. Then they may have asked you to take it out of the tray thus making it a “contactless” delivery.
This makes people feel better even if your employees are still putting the food in the basket and the customer is still taking the food out of the basket. This action limits the possibility that hands could touch or come close to one another. It does not limit the possibility of something living on the surface. But again, some practices just make people feel safer. It gives them peace of mind that you are taking precautions and speaks to the larger picture. If you’re doing this, you’re likely taking precautions elsewhere.
Offer Contactless Delivery on Larger Orders
It may be a good time to add delivery to your business. Set a minimum purchase amount for delivery and publish that in a variety of places.
If you make delivery free, leaving place for a delivery tip or asking if they want to leave a tip, that will ensure your driver gets taken care of. The other benefit to offering free delivery (within a specified area) at a minimum purchase amount like $100 is that psychologically people would rather pay for product than delivery. If someone knows, for instance, that delivery will cost them $5 but if they spend an extra $10 on product they'll get it for free, they often will spend the extra money on your products.
Also, most people understand these days that tips are very important. But it never hurts to put a line or two in the website ordering page copy how very important tips are to the livelihood of your drivers.
While better days are surely on the horizon, many people are currently very frightened. If you want them to spend money in your business, you have to give them reasons to feel secure with you. These ideas are a start along with following local ordinances and CDC guidelines.
Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so.
Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.