As more and more states ease lockdown restrictions related to the COVID-19 virus, many of our country’s small businesses are preparing to open their doors for the first time in months. We sat down with serial entrepreneur Scott O Hirsch, the CEO of Media Direct, to discuss what business owners can do to rapidly get customers back in stores.
“In many ways it’s like opening a new business all over again,” shared Scott Hirsch, “because you have no idea what your customer-base will look like. A lot of people are still very nervous about going into stores, meaning that even your best customers might not return for a while. However, a lot of new customers will also have a whole new appreciation for you being open in their community.”
A major hurdle for businesses in the COVID-19 era is a wide range of opinions at every end of the spectrum. For instance, some customers may refuse to wear masks while others believe it’s vital, and these types of topics create a lot of apprehension for local shoppers. That’s why it’s so important to relay your store policies on your website and in emails today so consumers will know what to expect once you are finally open.
“I’d say to be as proactive as possible in easing coronavirus concerns by telling your customers all the steps your business is taking to keep them safe,” added Hirsch. “From enhanced cleaning schedules to limiting shopper volume to employees continuously washing their hands, the public needs to know that you’re putting their safety first.”
Staffing is another concern since many employees have been furloughed for months. Some might be hesitant to return to work and risk getting infected, so the re-hiring process needs to start early to ensure shifts can be fully staffed. Hirsch recommends reconnecting as soon as possible if you haven’t talked to your top employees lately– even if you’re not 100% ready to open yet.
“In any business, you have to be prepared to be super busy on day one but accept that it might start off slow,” shared Hirsch. “That’s a nightmare for industries like hospitality but it’s essential that you’re 100% ready for a rush. It’s okay to be open with your staff though and tell them you don’t have all the answers today.”
As for what to expect on opening day, Hirsch cautions against unrealistic expectations since many consumers will have found other ways to obtain the products and services you offer. The key is reminding customers why they loved your business in the first place- convenience, great service and personalized attention.
“Build campaigns and in-store promotions around helping the community- now’s the time to show you’re there for the greater good,” added Hirsch. “Think about how you can help customers deal with today’s COVID world and they’ll remember you long after this is over.”
Scott O. Hirsch is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Media Direct, one of the nation’s largest data-driven digital marketing agencies. Across his 25+ year career, he’s pioneered many of today’s most important digital marketing concepts including email marketing and display advertising. Scott is a regular contributor to Forbes, CEO World Magazine and countless other publications.