Starting out in the new normal:
re-opening your stores and
learning from the COVID-19 crisis
Margot Swaenepoel | May 8, 2020

As lockdown is gradually lifted and businesses prepare to resume their activities in full, it’s clear that ‘back to normal’ does not mean ‘back to pre-coronavirus normal’. Our omnichannel experts share their key advice to help you get organised during this next phase.

Re-opening stores: make sure your customer is well informed

Website information

Safely re-opening your stores will be a bit of a non-event if you do not also inform your customers and reassure them they can shop safely with you once again. That’s why we advise creating a section on your website (in the FAQs, on your store pages, linked in the footer) where you explain the measures that you have taken to ensure your customers’ safety during their visits. If you have extended the returns period for your online orders until the stores re-open, reiterate this on your information page. Also make it clear whether you are resuming your Click & Collect service at this time. Customers will be looking for this information, so make it easily accessible.

Informing your customers

Remember to update the store opening hours on Google My Business and on your website store pages. When it’s time to announce the good news, post about the re-opening on social media and send out an email. Target it to people who have visited your store, purchased in store or live close to a store. If you want to heavily push traffic to your store, install a banner or pop-up to let all your website visitors know about the re-opening (geo target as much as you can, as people are not going to drive hundreds of kilometres to visit your store at this time). A final tip is to set up a system whereby customers can book a time slot to visit your store(s). This will allow them to shop safely without having to worry about social distancing at traditionally busy times.

SEA

If demand for your products is increasing again and you want to support that with an SEA campaign, first make sure your inventory management is up to date. Once you have done this, encourage reluctant customers to buy online or in store by using promotion and price extensions to focus attention on your on-going promotions.

Next, remember to re-activate Location Extensions and, if you want to boost traffic to your stores at this stage, set up some Local Campaigns. We suggest using geo targeting in all Google networks (G-Ads,YouTube, Display) as well as on Facebook and Instagram. Keep testing, optimising and - most importantly – keep a close eye on the situation in every market, so you can react accordingly.

Organisation: learn from the past, prepare for the future

Even when the lockdown begins to ease, bear in mind that restrictions could resume or intensify again in the coming months. Your organisation should be prepared for a second phase of lockdown, should it be deemed necessary. Set up a (virtual) team meeting to discuss what went well and what went less well, so that you can improve your response in future.

Assess if things that went wrong could have been avoided and establish a checklist to help you make decisions next time around. In order to ensure that knowledge transfer can take place easily and remotely in future, take the time to document as many of your processes as you can. From small things like compiling a list of company contacts and which problems they are responsible for resolving/escalating, to detailing the store returns the process in a working environment where everyone has to be at least 1.5m apart, troubleshoot as many issues as you can.

Now is also a good time to take stock of the operational roles in your company and to make sure you have cover for each job in the event that somebody has to self-isolate. Take this opportunity to fill any gaps there may be in staff training, as training remotely can be difficult.

It is likely that when you list the problems you faced during the crisis, you will identify issues that your business does not have the expertise to resolve. Use this easing in restrictions as an opportunity to establish external partnerships to help solve those problems for you. Finally, list the data that could have assisted you in making better decisions. Do you have the data or is it external?This will help you prepare for the future, to act faster and to make informed decisions based on processes and data.

We may be lucky, this may (gradually) be the end of it, but if it isn’t you need to have used your time wisely and have processes in place to help your company cope with a second phase.