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How to get your customers back through the door

For most retail and hospitality businesses, trade will inevitably be down. Social distancing restrictions will make for smaller numbers – and therefore revenue. Plus you may have to adjust your opening hours, your product offerings and more.

So, it’s more crucial than ever that you get as many customers as you can back buying from you (safely).

As well as the practical logistics of letting people know you’re back in business, with consumer confidence knocked, building trust is crucial.

We’ve put together five surefire ways to let people know you’re open again – and to get those all-important customers through the door.

1. Tell people you’re open, and when

We’ll start with the most obvious point. First and foremost your customers need to know when you’re reopening – and just as importantly – how you’re doing it safely. Be upfront with customers about the changes you’ve made, and the planning that you’ve done. If you’ve had to adjust your opening hours for instance, explain why.

Your website is a great place to start. You want important messages to be prominently displayed so a small banner at the top of the site could be a perfect way to say “We’re back open from July 4, we can’t wait to see you again!”. Banners can be set to appear on your homepage or globally across your site and they’re a non-intrusive way of getting your message across. Pop-ups could also work, especially if you want to tailor your message to different customer types.

An email campaign to your customer base is also an essential task. The more touch points the better. If you can, take the time to have a personalised email sent from you, as the business owner. Big supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s did this really well in early lockdown and it definitely helps to create better engagement, which is important with so much email noise at the moment.

2. Use social media to build a relationship with your customers

The other clear channel you should be utilising is social media. Focus on the platform that you know resonates best with your audience. While your website should definitely have all the crucial information, your social is another key place that people will check to assess the state of your business.

You can also use it to add a more human element. Share images of how you’ve adapted the business, show customers inside the premises and engage in a dialogue with people. If you’ve got the capacity, replying to messages and getting involved in chats and threads will help to keep and build a connection with visitors, that will be so important in encouraging them to return to your business.

3. Update your Google My Business listing and other community pages

Alongside your own company communications, make sure that any other listings are correct. If you have a physical premises, or service element to your business, it’s likely you’ll have a Google My Business listing. This is one of the first places people will check opening times, probably more so than your own website, so it’s integral it’s up-to-date. If you don’t have one, you can easily create a profile here. 

Lots of information is being shared in community pages and groups at the moment, so take a bit of time to see if there are any really relevant additional places you should also be sharing details of your reopening.

Small businesses in Whitstable, for instance, are being encouraged to create free listings (and update them) on this guide to businesses by the sea. Facebook groups for specific towns are also a great place to gain some traction.

4. Gather and share customer feedback

One of the biggest issues you’ll need to deal with, at least initially, is wariness from consumers about the experience of returning to your business.

There will clearly be concerns about safety, but it’s also how it will feel to return. Will it be a pleasant experience or will it feel strange and awkward? While lots of people are itching to get back to shops, there’s also a sense that it might not be worth it.

It’s inevitable that shopping or eating or staying with you won’t be the same as pre-covid, but there’s no reason why it can’t still be a positive and fun thing to do.

Ask for feedback on how customers have found visiting your business, and even better, get them to leave reviews. Lots of people will be using word-of-mouth or searching online to get reassurance before venturing out themselves, so positive recommendations will speak volumes.

And as well as showcasing the good reviews, listen and respond to what customers want (where it’s feasible). Times are still very changeable and you will need to keep adapting. This will definitely improve customer satisfaction and help to create a feeling of trust.

5. Offer an incentive or reward

This may seem impossible when you’re trying to manage costs as tightly as possible, but try to think about creative ways to incentivise customers to return.

Money is unfortunately tight for a huge proportion of people right now, so it will be even more of a battle than usual to get shoppers to part with their cash.

Giving away complete freebies might not be viable, but can you think of ways to reward loyal customers who do come back. Limited time promotions might be a great way to get those first people back through the door.

It will no doubt be a long time before many businesses are able to operate in a way that resembles life pre-covid, but in lots of ways it’s been a positive start for shops that have reopened. A week ago, research firm Springboard said that retail footfall was 38.8% higher than the previous week, so demand is growing. And hospitality will hopefully see a similar rise in customers returning.

There is so much that is out of our control at the moment, but if you do all of the above you can put yourself in the best position you can to reopen with a bang!

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