Every retailer is thinking about the steps they’ll need to take when it’s time to reopen. And it’s not just operations and logistics teams that need to prepare—your business’ social team also needs to have a plan in place for reopening.
Throughout quarantine, social gave brands a direct line to their customers. With in-person shopping making a comeback, social will again play an important role in keeping customers updated on information that will impact their in-store experience. As stores increasingly welcome guests in person, social data will help marketers develop a clear plan of action to ensure an effective and safe reopening for everyone.
As you plan your business’ reopening, keep the following considerations top of mind:
- Prioritize social customer care. As customers navigate this new normal, shoppers will continue to reach out on social with questions and concerns.
- Health and safety are shoppers’ top concerns. Businesses should use their social platforms to share updated safety protocols and address any concerns customers may have before entering stores.
- Information is changing rapidly. To stay on top of the latest trends, leverage tools like social listening to keep a pulse on how customers feel about stores reopening and what they need from your business.
Phase one: Prepare to reopen your business
According to the latest Sprout Social Index, 47% of consumers follow brands on social media to stay up to date on company news. Let customers know what’s changed about your hours of operation and safety requirements so they know what to expect from their in-store experience.
With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it’s only natural health and safety are top of mind for everyone. Our latest retail data report revealed that in social conversations about going back to school, more than 40,000 messages included the words “safe” or “safety.” As you plan out your content calendar, prioritize information around customer health and what measures are in place to enforce social distancing. After announcing their reopening in early June, Milk Handmade, an independent boutique in Chicago, took to Instagram to share updated business hours and provided customers the option of booking private appointments for added safety.
View this post on Instagram
We’re getting ready for you and being careful to keep everyone safe 🧼 😷⠀ ⠀ Looking forward to seeing you in the shop starting Friday. Our new hours are:⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Th-Sun: 11-6 (2 people max will be allowed in at a time)⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ M-W: by appointment. You can message me here or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make your private appointment.
In a similar move, fitness studio Barry’s posted to its Instagram important safety changes like updates to their air filtration systems and new check-in policies. The studio also let customers know how group classes would be changing, such as decreased capacity and rearranged equipment to ensure six feet between patrons at all times.
As you continue to roll out important safety messages ahead of your reopening, think about what else your customers need to know before stepping foot in stores. Leverage social listening to uncover which topics are top of mind for shoppers in your industry and what concerns you haven’t addressed on social or via other communications channels.
Other need-to-know information to consider sharing with your customers ahead of time may include:
- Changes to in-store return and try-on policies
- Reserved shopping hours for the elderly and immunocompromised customers
- The number of shoppers allowed in stores at any given time
- Face covering and mask requirements for entry
The more you can share with customers ahead of time, the better prepared they (and you) will be when it’s time for your business’ reopening.
Phase two: Provide ongoing support and quick responses to customers
The day is finally here—it’s time to reopen! As shoppers make their way into stores, social teams can expect to receive an influx of customer messages ranging from questions to feedback to complaints.
According to Sprout data, from April to June retailers saw a 72% increase in the average number of daily inbound messages received compared to the same time period last year. In other words, customers are reaching out to brands on social more as they adjust to new shopping experiences.
Instead of waiting for customers to come to you with their questions, brands can take a proactive approach and share important updates on social ahead of time. Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, for example, took to Twitter to share they were working to fulfill orders as quickly as possible after customers complained about long delivery times.
We are so grateful with how patient everyone has been with our process!
We have been buried in orders, but are digging our way out and will be closed next week for renovations, which will allow more time to get all emails answered and orders shipped!
Thank y’all so much! ❤️
— Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery (@SemicolonChi) June 20, 2020
Another type of message retailers can expect to receive from customers is questions around face mask requirements in order to gain entry. After Nordstrom announced select stores were opening back up, they received a number of questions from shoppers asking whether they had to wear a face mask in stores.
Hi there, We’re adhering to all local laws so if a face mask is required based on those guidelines, we’ll require them in our stores as well. We recommend that your sister connect with her HR team with any concerns she may have. Thank you.
— Nordstrom (@Nordstrom) June 19, 2020
While you won’t be able to anticipate every question, you can start building out guidelines for how you’ll respond under certain scenarios. For example, clothing retailers are likely going to receive questions from customers about trying on merchandise in stores. As part of your proactive communications strategy, consider sharing information about how social distancing will be enforced in dressing rooms and how often rooms will be cleaned.
As you plan out your social strategy, consider teaming up with your communications or operations team to brainstorm the possible questions you’ll receive and develop a list of pre-approved responses your team can pull from.
Phase three: Step back and reassess your messaging
As social teams continue to share important updates and support customers online, they also need to assess what’s working and what’s not.
Do your customers feel like they have enough information to safely enter your stores? What pain points are shoppers experiencing once they’re in stores, and how can the social team help alleviate those frustrations?
To find these answers and more, you need to look to your social data. With social media analytics tools, social teams can track how certain posts perform and what types of content gets your audience to engage. For example, you might find posts about in-store safety precautions get the most amount of engagement, while posts about sales are less engaging. This kind of social data can help marketers double down on content customers want to see and provide the confidence they need to safely shop with your brand.
With 40% of customers expecting brands to respond within an hour of reaching out on social, marketers should be tracking their response rates and times as part of their customer care strategy. Especially as shoppers adjust to this new normal, your brand’s ability to respond in a timely manner will go a long way in creating a positive customer experience.
Finally, social listening data can help social marketers identify trends and consumer sentiment around reopening in almost real-time. With listening data, marketers can keep a pulse on the latest developments in their area like recent store closures and concerns shoppers have about in-person shopping. And listening empowers social teams to quickly address and resolve any customer issues, like poor in-store experiences or confusion about operating hours, before they can spiral out of control .
Be ready for anything
If this pandemic has taught social teams anything, it’s that even the best laid plans can go awry. Already, we’ve seen several states walk back their original plans to reopen and retailers have to close their doors for a second time.
Until the virus is completely eradicated, the best social strategy for retailers is one that can adapt to the situation at hand, emphasizes proactive communication and prioritizes transparency. Most importantly, let your customers know you’re there for them and ready to support them in whatever way possible. With a strong plan in place, and a bit of flexibility, social teams can prepare for a smooth business reopening and support customers as they navigate the next phase of this pandemic.
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