5 Ways to Drive Foot Traffic in a Post-COVID-19 World

As much as many people want to go back to “normal” after COVID-19, the fact is retail will look different for a while (maybe for good) even when states and cities start opening back up again. 

Because of this, traditional ways of driving foot traffic to retail stores may not work as well as before. For example, pre-pandemic, it’s not uncommon for retailers to hold in-store events and encourage customers to bring their friends. But going forward, this tactic wouldn’t be well-received, given that consumers are still practicing social distancing. 

So as you gear up for reopening your business, you need to think carefully about how you’ll attract shoppers to your store. We’ve put together some ideas and examples on how to drive foot traffic in a post-coronavirus retail landscape.

Check them out below and see if you can weave these into your reopening strategy.

1. Focus on health and safety

If you want to get people to shop at your business, you need to make them feel safe in your store. Implement health and safety measures to limit physical contact and ensure that your staff and shoppers protected. 

We discussed this in more detail in our re-opening checklist, but common practices include doubling-down on cleaning and sanitizing your shop, providing personal protective equipment to your staff and if possible, your customers, and increasing the availability of hand sanitizers and wipes.

You should also find ways to limit the number of people in your store. In addition to keeping a lean workforce, you could also reduce the number of shoppers who can enter at any given time. 

Depending on your business model, you can also choose to take appointments instead of walk-ins. Make sure you schedule them with ample time in between customers, so you and your team can thoroughly clean and sanitize everything before the next shopper comes in. 

Strike Bridal Bar, for example, has recently re-opened its location. With some restrictions still in place, the bridal shop changed its policies so it can only take one bride at a time. 

Another best practice during this period is to implement contactless shopping options such as curbside pickup. Encourage your customers to use your website to shop and when their orders are ready, they can simply drive up to your location and you can put their stuff in the trunk.

Once you have your policies in place, communicate them to your shoppers. Like Strike Bridal, you could leverage social media to get the word out. You should also use both traditional and digital channels when communicating with your customers. These may include:

  • Phone calls to your VIP customers
  • SMS
  • Email
  • Your website
  • The local media (i.e., press releases, media outreach)

Get creative with your communication efforts. Nordstrom, for example, produced an upbeat video showcasing some of the things the company is doing in the name of health and safety. 

2. Promote exclusivity

When the luxury brand Chanel confirmed that it would be raising its prices, hundreds of shoppers in South Korea fell in line outside its stores. This happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and amidst concerns that South Korea would have a second wave of the virus. 

It goes to show that when people are truly motivated to buy, nothing — not even a global pandemic — will stop them.

Not every brand has Chanel’s clout, but there is a lesson to be learned here. When you offer something exclusive and has a high perceived value, people will continue to shop. 

If it makes sense for your business, find ways to promote an air of exclusivity around your brand. Maybe you’re offering something that won’t be around after it runs out. Perhaps there are products or experiences that only YOU have. 

If you have something exclusive and sought-after, double down on it and make sure the right people know about it. 

3. Re-position your existing merch

Not every retailer can start selling facemasks, hand sanitizers, and other timely products. But you can still be relevant to your customers with your current assortment if you position your items correctly. 

Figure out how you can market your products for the needs (and wants) of your shoppers in the current landscape. 

For instance, if you sell clothing, you can market your merchandise as loungewear or something to use while people are working from home. 

Nike did just that when it recently sent an email with the subject “Style your downtime” and features products that you can wear during the quiet moments. 

Selling home or kitchenware? Start getting in front of people who bake, as this seems to be a common trend during the pandemic. 

It’s also a good idea to think about any upcoming holidays or events. In the United States, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and back-to-school are coming up. It may be worth thinking about how people will celebrate or approach these events in the “new normal” so you can figure out what products to stock and how to market them. 

4. Launch *smart* promotions

Running promotions are a proven way to drive traffic and sales, but you need to be smart about your offers to ensure that you’re maximizing profitability. 

The right promotions strategy will depend on your business, but here some quick best practices:

  • If you’re trying to get rid of excess stock, then multi-buy offers like BOGO are a good way to go. 
  • If you want to attract more customers, then dollars or percentage off discounts are a better route.
  • No matter which type of offer you decide to implement, exercise discipline so you don’t end up putting too much on sale. The last thing you want is to train shoppers to wait for a bargain. 
  • For best results, run promotions that are tailored to each customer’s behavior and purchase history. 

One company that does this well is the personal care brand Mountain Madness Soap Co., which sends different email marketing streams based on each customer’s behavior. For instance, brand new customers get a different message and offer from existing shoppers who haven’t bought anything a while. 

Mountain Madness’ effort to personalize their customer communications has paid off tremendously. According to the company, 60% of their shoppers end up buying again and they’ve generated thousands of dollars in sales from their campaigns. 

Vend Tip

Have you checked out Marsello? It’s a loyalty and marketing automation tool that makes it easy to create personalized campaigns. With Marsello, you can send targeted communications based on each customer’s behavior, purchase history, and brand interactions, so messages will resonate more with shoppers.

Learn More

5. Spruce up your window displays

Compelling window displays can captivate customers and entice them to check out your store. When you reopen your business, be sure to come up with attention-grabbing displays that are attractive and timely. 

Check out this window from Daisy Park, a UK-based independent gift store. At the time of writing this, Daisy Park’s brick and mortar location hasn’t opened up yet, but that didn’t stop them from creating a beautiful window display promoting hope.

Not only is the display relevant to what’s going on in the world, but it also does a great job of showcasing the store’s products… all while sharing an uplifting message at the same time. 

Final words

Your foot traffic strategy will look a little different in a post-COVID-19 world. Prioritizing health and safety is more important than ever. You also need to be creative and relevant while being sensitive to the current climate. 

We hope these tips help you kick off your reopening on the right foot and enable you to attract more traffic and sales! 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.