Amid the global pandemic, small businesses are feeling an unprecedented impact. This is particularly true for brick-and-mortar businesses that rely almost exclusively on foot traffic and in-person store visits to drive purchases. Stores with traditional retail footprints must think quickly and reimagine both their marketing efforts as well as revenue streams to be able to stay afloat in these troubled times. The balance is in being practical, creative, and, of course, sensitive.

Investing in digital marketing and online shopping has long-tail benefits as well. Even in “normal” circumstances, a strong e-commerce infrastructure and promotional plan can help with customer acquisition, data collection, brand awareness, communication—and, ultimately, sales. An investment now can pay long-term dividends on the other side of a crisis.

Set Up the Easiest Customer Experience Possible

If you don’t have a robust e-commerce presence right now, you’ll need to invest in one. The first step is making sure you have a strong website. Look toward small business website builders that have easy drag-and-drop templates enabling you to both showcase your products and sell them. Many of these sites offer pre-installed e-commerce software that’ll enable you to list your products quickly and easily facilitate checkout. This isn’t something you’ll want to—or have time to!—build on your own.

Alternatively, if you have an e-commerce presence, but it’s not streamlined and up to date, the same goes. Look to update your template or even move your entire website host to a newer platform with modern software, or look to integrate well-loved e-commerce platforms that can directly integrate with your existing site.

It’s more important than ever to reduce customer pain points as so many other businesses are competing for a limited amount of customer spend during this period of diminished demand.

Curate a virtual store window: As consumers won’t be able to touch and feel your products, you need to make sure that how you’re showcasing them online gives your target customers all the information they need to make a purchase. Use a website builder that’s made specifically for displaying products, or consider updating your current design to better show off what you have. Don’t forget to make the photographs count.

Make checkout seamless: Once they make a selection, customers need to be able to check out quickly and easily; it’s crucial to reduce the chance that they’ll abandon their carts in the process of checking out. A bump in the road during payment processing could dissuade customers from going through with a transaction. Additionally, you may want to consider offering an installment payment option which enables them to pay less upfront. This reduces what’s called the “pain of payment,” which is a psychological phenomenon in which every dollar you spend feels “painful,” making you less likely to part with money. As consumers are being more money conscious in this economy, you can help them feel better about purchasing with you—and keep customers from abandoning their carts.

Start loyalty programs: Once your e-commerce store is in a strong place, you may even want to consider starting a loyalty program. A good loyalty program can help with the rate of customer return and repurchase. There are a few ways to institute this—for instance, you can create incentives based on the volume of purchase dollars, number of purchases, or purchases in a certain time period. Offer loyal customers discounts, free gifts, or special access. And, just like digital storefronts, you can manage a loyalty program with cloud-based software options.

Open Up the World of Video

Taking advantage of video can serve your brick-and-mortar business in a number of ways. There’s social media, of course, but the things you can do to market yourself are bigger than a quick-hit promo.

Help customers get hands-on: It’s impossible for customers to walk into your store and touch and feel what you are selling right now. So, if a customer’s ability to make a purchasing decision has a lot to do with how they interact with your product, create video content to help get customers hands-on. You could do it as a pre-recorded video or as a live video on a platform such as Instagram, during which you can answer customer questions in real-time.

Expand into entertainment: You may also want to consider not only using video to showcase what you sell but to also provide entertainment or education to consumers. Consider creating a way to showcase not only what you sell but the experts within your organization by making videos that customers can learn from—whether a quick how-to or a longer project.

Tap into Positivity and Charity

In a moment during which the news isn’t always positive, consumers can be hurting to hear something good. You can shine a light in the dark without being insensitive to the gravity of the situation.

Provide incentives for kindness: Offer your customers a discount or priority access for keeping themselves and others safe and healthy. Ask them to tag you in a social media post with a picture or video of them doing good: for instance, something like waving to a neighbor through a window to promote safe social distancing, or washing their hands while singing “Happy Birthday” to promote proper hand-washing. Remind them that no good deed goes unnoticed!

Consider helping out: It can be a tough ask for some businesses to donate any of their proceeds right now while their revenue is down. However, it may be worth considering donating a portion of sales on a single day to a charity—international, national, or local—to help raise awareness of your products as well as drive visibility of your company’s ethics.

Show how you’re being safe: Consider posting media of your staff filling orders or packing boxes while following stringent safety protocol. Perhaps that’s wearing gloves, or using hand sanitizer with a flourish! Doing so will help instill a sense of security in customers who may be worried about purchasing without seeing sanitary practices in action, and it’ll communicate to buyers that you care about their safety.

As you adjust to the new normal, one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle for success is keeping an extremely open line of communication with your customers. As they were in your storefront, customers are still your best source of information on the next moves you should be making. They’ll give you feedback about what they do (and don’t) want to see, tell you how they feel about new offerings or prices, and, most importantly, will continue to steer you in the right direction as you expand your digital presence.

Disclosures

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.

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