Do: Retail Best Practices for a Pandemic and Beyond


Milk social media for all its worth

  • Find out what platforms your customers follow and keep posting.
  • Devise a posting schedule and stick to it.
  • Demo, demo, demo and then post those videos.
    a. We are all looking for diversions.
    b. 72 percent of consumers would rather learn about a product or service by way of video, says software-development firm HubSpot.

Artist Liz Carlson, a staffer at Wet Paint in St. Paul, creates videos of demos, paintings in progress, and artistic activities for all ages. She posts them on YouTube each week and, on the store’s Facebook page, invites store customers to “create along or just watch.”

  • Include your contact information always and prominently. List all the ways customers can reach you and your staff.
  • State clearly and frequently your state of “open-ness.” Are your doors open to walk-ins? If so, what are your hours? And how many are allowed? Or, do you only offer curbside pickup? Are personal shopping appointments available?
  • Present all the ways people can see your merchandise (in-store, website, via Facetime, etc.). Invite them to buy, and list methods for ordering, paying, and picking up/receiving their purchases.
  • Explain your sanitizing policies and spell out your in-store customer guidelines (mask required, limited number of shoppers, by appointment, etc.)
  • If you’ve made changes to your usual policies (like limited availability of product, no returns or exchanges for the time being, etc.), post an explanation in-store and online.
  • Use your website and social media to collect customer email addresses and phone numbers. Offer a percentage-off discount in exchange for their information. Remember: in “normal” times, email marketing effectively communicates deals, coupons and other promotions. During a pandemic, email connections are a lifeline.
  • Use your POS system to segment your email list for specialized communications. Identify top spenders, parents with children, past participants in your classes, pastel, oil and watercolor artists, etc., and compose different messages to send to each group.
  • If you have direct and personal relationships with your customers, pick up the phone and call them.

Make your physical presence memorable

(for an increased number of walkers, joggers and cyclists)

  • Create window displays and change them often.
  • String lights inside and out to make your store sparkle at night.
  • Conduct demos in your windows.

During May and June, the windows of Art Noise store in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, contained a rotating exhibit of the art of Otis Tamasauskas. Normally a host location for downtown’s annual Spring Art After Dark event, the gallery at Art Noise would have displayed and sold Otis’s work, accompanied by a party. When the event was cancelled, Art Noise removed the fixtures and art supplies in its display windows to accommodate the art. Please stroll by and have a look!” It’s breathtaking,” said the store on Facebook.

  • Add selfie-worthy props, plants, sculptures and murals.
  • Make your façade interactive.

The folks at ARTspot in Edmonds, Washington, stuck blank post-it notes on its window and invited customers to add art/comments/words of encouragement. The store continues to share pictures of them on social media.

  • Review your outside signage from all angles and add banners if needed.
  • Position a sandwich board in your parking lot, in addition to the one on the sidewalk in front of your store.

Sell Trust and Hope

from Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor (

The world’s leading expert on brick-and-mortar retail doesn’t think e-commerce will “save” retail. He recently wrote this on his blog: “A lot of pundits are touting how online is going to take over because so many people had to shop online during the shutdown, but there is an awful lot of cost associated with online, and with free shipping and returns.”

And, as Bob points out, many digital-native retailers are opening brick-and-mortar stores now because they’ve discovered online alone is not a sustainable business model.

“Let’s be clear. Online is about transaction. Online is about going to buy. But when consumers walk into a store, they want to discover something new. Discovery is part of what makes brick-and- mortar retail so valuable.

“This is your golden opportunity to raise the stakes of what great retail looks like,” Bob continued, in a blog entitled, “3 Ways the Pandemic Will Change Retail Forever.” One of them is keeping associates without skills needs to end.

“With less traffic, you need associates on your floor who can suggest complementary items and associated merchandise to help make the in-store visit more authentic, efficient, and profitable. Those who can’t must be relegated to warehouse workers or stockers … or let go altogether.”

He recommends selling hope and trust, as well as products – something brick-and-mortar stores are uniquely positioned to do. “While everyone else will say you have to focus on cleaning, what I’m telling you is you have to focus on building trust. You need to make people feel safe and welcome again.

“That’s what our place is in retail right now,” he concludes. “People have gone through a horrible trauma and they feel the weight of the world. It’s up to you to fix that. You provide a feeling, a feeling the shopper matters. That’s one thing online, by design, can’t do.

“It’s really that simple and yet it’s really that hard. It will take training. It will take holding associates accountable and it will take practice. But in my close-to-30-years as a sales trainer, there’s never been a more dire need for delivering a remarkable shopping experience.”

It’s time to get to work.

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