Across the country, retailers are beginning to reopen their doors after weeks — and in some cases, months — of stay-at-home orders. While this is a necessary step, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and many businesses are looking for ways to open effectively while prioritizing the health and safety of their employees and customers.
In many cases, this won’t be a one-and-done scenario. Instead, as requirements change, retailers’ actions and policies will evolve as well. Here are five things you can do right now to have a successful reopening.
How to Safely Reopen Retail During COVID-19
1. Stay Updated
As we said, pandemic response guidelines are regularly changing. Your state or city may be opening up now with the hope that COVID-19 cases will continue to decrease — but that doesn’t mean social distancing recommendations and stay-at-home orders are necessarily gone for good.
Stay up to date on your local news and guidelines to ensure you know what’s happening in your community and have a strategy for how the business will react if and when these guidelines change. In Ohio, for example, all businesses are required to conduct daily health assessments to ensure employers and employees are “fit for duty.” If your state has the same guideline, make sure you have all the equipment needed for these assessments before reopening, including contactless thermometer. Also, determine who will conduct the health checks and when.
2. Take Precautionary Measures
All retailers should follow their local pandemic response guidelines. However, you may want to consider going above and beyond what is required to further protect your employees and customers. For example, even if your state doesn’t have strict social distancing guidelines, take action to encourage customers to spread out.
A fairly easy way to do this is by rearranging displays, furniture or racks to make it easy for customers to stay separated. Also, consider adding signage or floor markers to remind your customers of the 6-feet recommendation. While we’ve all been hearing about them for months now, it can sometimes be difficult to judge how far 6 feet actually is. Depending on the logistics of your store, you could also add plexiglass dividers at places like the checkout to protect both your employees and your customers.
3. Make the Most of Your Retail Tech
Like most retailers in 2020, your store probably leverages technology to streamline your workflows and improve the shopping experience. Consider using this existing retail tech to your advantage when reopening. Likewise, invest in new tech when needed.
Many grocery stores are already using their existing PA systems to periodically remind customers and employees to socially distance and to wash their hands. Retail tech suppliers such as Indyme are also “flipping the script” on their shopper engagement and loss prevention solutions to help retailers monitor busy areas of the store. For example, Indyme’s SmartDome system senses that patrons are too close to one another, it will announce a reminder to stay farther apart.
Also, consider offering the option for contactless payment at the checkout, whether that’s offering digital options like ApplePay or creating a way for customers to exchange cash or credit cards without physically interacting with the cashier.
4. Think About the Customer Experience
Customers are at varying levels of comfort when it comes to returning to stores and other public spaces. Encouraging shoppers to return is a new challenge many retailers are now facing.
One way to bring them back is by turning to your existing customer loyalty programs. Try offering your loyal customer a bonus free item, discount, or other perks that entice them to visit your store. Then, work with your retail technology provider to expand these offerings as well as improve your ad targeting, messaging and placement. Don’t forget to communicate with shoppers about how you’re responding to the pandemic, too.
5. Train Staff & Provide PPE
Nothing will be exactly the same when you re-open. Whether you’re implementing more intense cleaning procedures or new checkout processes, your staff will need training to be up-to-date on these changes. Make sure you take the proper time to instruct them on your new way of doing things. Also, if your state requires your employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while at work, provide them with that equipment. Even if they don’t have to wear it, many employees may feel more comfortable returning to work if they have access to it. Have PPE available for those who want it.
As retailers begin to reopen and provide services to their customers again, the shopping experience is looking a little different. But by taking these five steps, you can ensure your reopening is safe and successful for your employees and your customers.
If you need qualified field technicians or project managers to support your retail technology projects now that your store has reopened, contact Kinettix. Our highly-trained team can coordinate projects of any scope, from replacing a router at a single store location to rolling out portfolio-wide upgrades and equipment decommissions or multi-store installations. Schedule a consultation to learn more.
P.S. If the strain of the pandemic has had a negative impact on your mental health, be sure to check out his helpful guide. It gives practical tips for improving your mental state during these stressful times.