Promote safety protocols to attract wary customers back into stores

Clothing retailers, department stores, full-service restaurants, and other businesses with physical locations need to communicate a new kind of message to customers these days: Come back – we’re safe!

Even months after some of those public spaces reopened, many people still need convincing. Only 28% of U.S. adults surveyed by Morning Consult in late August said they were comfortable going to a shopping mall, and only 33% felt good about dining out. Many Americans are instead opting for choices they perceive as safer, like online shopping and food delivery.

Our own research highlights the retail trend. Just over half of marketers we surveyed this summer said they experienced an increase in sales from their online stores, and 39% reported a rise in sales from third-party retailers’ digital properties. Meanwhile, half reported a drop in sales from their own brick-and-mortar locations, and 41% saw a decrease from third-party retailers’ in-person stores.

To lure back customers, businesses need to not only put safety protocols in place, but also frequently communicate the steps they’re taking to minimize risks for guests and employees.

Use preferred protective measures

Your industry likely has its own set of safety guidelines, and advocating social distancing, offering hand sanitizer, and limiting occupancy are three good first steps. The following measures can also help alleviate shoppers’ fears:

  • Mandate masks: A McKinsey survey found 35% of respondents said masks and barriers were top priorities when deciding where to shop in-store.
  • Provide contactless services: In addition to self-checkout, give shoppers the ability to buy online for in-store pickup. The latter has a bonus benefit: You can sell additional items to customers when they come in for their purchases.
  • Offer contactless payments: A Visa study found 46% of global consumers said using contactless payment methods is among the most important safety measures stores can follow. It also reports that 26% of respondents have used tap-to-pay technology for in-store purchases for the first time since COVID-19 arrived.
  • Clean frequently: Nearly half of those surveyed by Visa say disinfecting the checkout area after every customer is another top safety precaution stores should take.

Publicize your efforts

After you’ve established solid safety practices, highlight them throughout your media channels in both direct and more subtle ways. Be authentic when you speak about protecting customers, addressing their concerns, and maintaining a positive shopping or dining experience.

Visuals can help reinforce your message. Show how your dining room looks different now, for instance, and that your employees are dutifully social distancing and wearing masks.

Email can be a great vehicle for this important communication about safety because it’s such a trusted channel. Crafting compelling messages in an email newsletter or in ads that run in email can help motivate customers to spend their dollars in-store or dine in-person at a restaurant once again.

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