The year 2020 was a tough year for everyone. WE were all stuck inside with a deadly pandemic making rounds around the globe. Small businesses like stores were hit especially hard as their precious customer base was locked away at home, unable to visit.
That being said, it’s 2021 now. We’re starting to see the advent of viable vaccines. Not one, but several. It is said that this is the fastest vaccine response to a pandemic in human history!
When vaccines come, lockdowns around the world will likely loosen and people will start moving about again. The “new normal” of our current lives will give way to a “new new normal”, with its own practices and beliefs.
As store owners, you need to be prepared for this change. The best way to draft a plan to face this “new new normal” is to take a look at your store and lay out what your priorities should be.
Here are 4 key priorities to keep in mind during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Your autonomy
As mentioned before, small stores were hit harder by the global pandemic than most. Large percentages of them had to let go of all staff and close their doors. The remaining few found themselves on very unstable ground, financially speaking.
It was during this unstable and scary time that larger franchises began their corporate buyouts of such stores. Where the owners saw their stores as a vital part of their communities, corporations saw a way to gain a foothold in smaller communities at best and free real estate at worst.
Knowing all of this, the first thing you need to prioritize when making big decisions regarding your store is your autonomy. Finding sustainable and safe ways to make some profit is important because it can help you stay autonomous during this trying time.
It is said that reputations are built during the hard times. This saying means more to a local store than a megacorporation with an army of PR specialists. Working hard to stay autonomous and build the trust of your local community can reward you with them becoming loyal customers.
2. Your Staff
There is a reason why “staff” is on this list before “customers”. After all, there is a common adage that “the customer is always right”. However, consider that this motto came at a time when misrepresentation was commonplace and there were many cheats in the economy. This was a call to take their complaints or issues seriously. It does not mean that satisfying customers comes before your staff’ wellbeing.
Employees are the true lifeblood of a store. They are the ones who manage inventory, make sales, promote goods, clean the premises, and keep your customers happy. It is sadly common to see disenfranchised staff who are unmotivated or feel anxious at work.
Taking care of the people who have chosen to put their lives on the line during a pandemic to work at your store should be one of your topmost priorities. It is not only ethical to do so, but it also fosters loyalty among your staff. Additionally, you end up saving more in the long run due to not having to replace and train new staff if your existing staff continue working for you.
Modern organizations like to claim that they are a “family”. This is often positioned as a way to get loyalty and hard work from the staff. However, it should go both ways. If the staff are suffering due to, for example a global pandemic, the employer who takes care of them will be rewarded with loyalty and productivity far more than the employer who lets them go and attempts to replace them.
3. Your policies
As we all grew used to living with COVID-19, the aforementioned “new normal” made several changes to our daily lives. They were mostly public health and safety measures, some of which should have been normalized ages ago.
Practices like providing facilities to wash hands with, providing sanitizer, encouraging social distancing, and limiting the number of customers in the store at a time all went towards keeping people safe by reducing viral transmission as much as possible. They have become widely accepted as sensible measures to take.
When lockdowns ease up and people begin moving around, there is no logical reason why these policies should change. Even under normal circumstances, being able to sanitize one’s hands after touching any number of random surfaces is just good for health and hygiene. Overcrowding shops can lead to shoplifting or injuries.
As such, the next priority for you to consider should be the policies you set in your store. The reason why this entry is above “customers” is because without policies to keep the store and its staff safe, there would be no customers. So, find the policies that work for you and stick to them.
4. Your customers
Finally, we will talk about the customers. Their role in all of this is very straight forward. They have needs and you could be the store to satisfy these needs with your products. They buy your products and increase your profit. If they are happy, they are more likely to come back, by which time you will have more products.
The first thing to keep in mind is that everyone is having a hard time due to the pandemic. This affects spending patterns, movement patterns, and emotions. Regular customers might stop coming, but this does not necessarily mean they don’t want to. They might be fearful to leave the house.
Keeping in touch with them via call, email, or social media on behalf of your store could be a great way to remind them that you are still here, and to alleviate some of the loneliness of lockdown. Of course, this should be done in a professional capacity.
Doing deliveries has become also popular these days. If you can find a way to keep your staff safe and costs low, you should consider doing more deliveries as well. It ensures that the profit-based relationship between you and your customers continue. They will remember for effort in such a trying time.
There you have it. The four major priorities for your store during and after the time of COVID-19. While each of these priorities are key components of your success and continued survival as a business, the order in which you value them can influence your future plans greatly. The ideal here is to strike a balance that pleases all equally while mitigating some of the issues that arise.
Protect your autonomy, protect your staff, protect your policies, and protect your customers. Autonomy is vital for your store’s survival. Employees are vital for giving your store life. Policies can provide protection to the store, its goods, its staff, and its customers. Happy customers provide you with the financial means to thrive.
If you wanted to add a further step of safety, perhaps switching over to an easy-to-use, customizable, cloud-based POS system is something you’d be interested in.
Ewity is just such a system. Head over to our website and try Ewity today for free!