The world is currently dealing with a pandemic of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
A lot of businesses are afraid to talk about this, but we know you’re probably nervous and wondering what the future is going to bring. We want you to know that we’re thinking of you and we’re here to help you harbour this storm in whatever ways you might need.
We think this will be a challenging time for communities and retailers and so we wanted to be frank, offering some straight-up advice from us on good ways to minimise the potential impact—without the fear-mongering.
Things will slow down but customers will come back.
UPDATE: Hi 👋🏼due to the interest in this post we have turned the advice into an infographic and created the Retail COVID-19 Action Plan.Vaughan Fergusson – Founder of Vend
This includes discounts and free subscriptions for Vend’s POS, Bigcommerce’s ecommerce and Marsello to keep in touch with your customers.
Also we are reporting on daily traffic to retail stores, so you can see what’s coming and better prepare for the drop.
Firstly, take care of yourself and your team
If your staff are feeling unwell, encourage them to stay at home. It’s better to stop the spread of COVID-19 than have sick retail heroes turning up. It may be a bit of a challenge, but it’s important to look after your people.
Wash your hands. Like often. Coronavirus hates soap.
Keep all of your surfaces clean and safe. Identify the high-touch areas in your store—such as door handles, product displays and workstations—and disinfect them regularly. Put hand sanitiser in accessible places with a friendly or fun note. This is a serious time, but we are still all humans. Perhaps give a handwashing discount to customers who use your sanitiser? They are doing everyone a favour.
You should also limit activities that involve being in close contact with your customers, for example applying makeup, helping them try on clothes, etc. This will be unique to your individual store so take some time to think about how these interactions can be minimised whilst still providing excellent service. In particular, if you have any events, classes, or any public gathering planned in your shop over the next few weeks, it’s best to cancel or reschedule them.
Lastly, it’s about flattening the curve. The most impactful thing we can all do is slow the spread of the virus to take the load off our healthcare workers and hospitals. The more we slow the spread, the more time our amazing folk at the front line will have to cope with the load.
Get the right info
There is a lot of hype and hysteria coming out of the media but it’s easy for really important information to get lost in the noise. We have pulled together several reliable information sources that you can follow to find out what’s happening for real.
- The World Health Organisation: provides live news updates as well as links to a Q&A about the virus and advice on how to keep yourself safe.
- The New York Times: a good source for live news updates.
- GIS Map: a live map coming out of the Centre for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University providing data on the current confirmed cases.
- Ministries of Health Directory: the directory of ministries of health worldwide for your country’s latest updates and information.
- We are reporting daily on retail traffic to stores, so you can see what’s coming and better prepare for the drop.
Adjust how you’re trading
There is a secondary effect of the pandemic in that people will change their spending habits. They will stop social spending—things like going to bars or out to dinner—and may instead choose to stock up on supplies and stay at home. This can put all sorts of different pressures on the economy and local communities.
We think the most important thing you can do in a time of crisis is to look after those around you. Don’t stockpile and bolt the doors. Support your local businesses where possible. Use common sense but keep trading and keep your local economy strong.
Remind your customers that you are open but keeping them at arm’s length. You’re making these changes for them. Some retailers have put tape on the floor to mark out 1.5m squares, and ask that only one customer stands in each. It may sound weird but it shows not only that you care, but you are also practical. Keep spirits high about it too. Make it a game of
snakes shops and ladders.
If customers are unsure if they can shop with you or start to keep away, then keeping in touch with your customers is key to making sure they know what’s happening. Selling online is not only a great way to keep selling but also to keep the economy going. It may be a good idea to encourage your customers to shop online by offering incentives such as free shipping.
We have two great Vend add-on partners who can help with both communicating with your customers and selling online.
Marsello does customer retention and customer marketing via email, SMS and loyalty like no other and plugs into Vend perfectly. You can get going really simply and start engaging with your customers.
Use Marsello to stay in touch with your customers with one connection and up to 3,000 contacts free for three months.
Selling online might be something you do a little of, or not at all. But if fewer customers are going out, selling to them online is the next best thing. Bigcommerce integrates with your Vend store so you can manage all your products, customers and sales in Vend and sell online.
You can get three free months of BigCommerce to build your new online store.
We’ll help you get set up with both these tools, so just get in touch to ask if you need a hand.
Communicate with your customers
In the same way that we’re contacting you about COVID-19, it may be worth reaching out to your customers to inform them about what you’re doing to keep them safe. Again, Marsello is a great Vend tool for this.
Tell them about the additional measures you’re implementing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and reassure shoppers that their health and safety is your top priority. Let them know you can shop with you still, either in store or online.
Find other ways to be productive
You may not see many visitors for some time, so focus on things you can do in-store while things are quiet. Do a physical inventory count to make sure that all of your items are in check. Upgrade your POS, ecommerce, customer loyalty, accounting – get your business fit for when this passes. Evaluate your in-store processes and policies and take the time to update them if necessary. Strategise for the months ahead, so you can hit the ground running when business picks up again.
Take advantage of this slow period to work on the areas of your business that you wouldn’t normally have the time to focus on. In 1665 when the bubonic plague closed Cambridge University, Isaac Newton was home bound and used his time to develop calculus and the theory of gravity. Just saying.
That being said, and we hope you don’t need to, but if you need to push pause on your business for a bit let us know. We can put your account on-ice, so you won’t have a monthly bill to worry about when you are not trading. When things pick up we can get you going again.
These are strange times, but times when communities need to work together. We are here on standby to help as you need too. Together we can sale through it.
About Vaughan Fergusson
Vaughan is the Founder of Vend. An entrepreneur and technologist, Vaughan's goal is to make retailers' lives easier. When he's not leading the team, Vaughan is working on his charitable foundation and raising his kids.