As the UK begins at last to prepare for the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it’s perhaps no surprise that business owners all around the country have a spring in their step (if you’ll pardon the pun). The reopening date of 12 April 2021 offers a return to a more normal way of life for lots of us. The much-anticipated April date so far covers the reopening of hairdressers, libraries, zoos, outdoor restaurants - and non-essential shops, all of which are permitted to reopen if the necessary goals are met.So what does this mean for the UK’s so-termed non-essential businesses, many of whom have been completely closed since the Christmas holidays?
Understandably, the prospect of reopening to a public that you haven’t seen for months is a bit daunting for many businesses. With online retailers like Amazon seeing a huge boost in lockdown, along with the rise of digital independents on platforms like Etsy, it’s no surprise that many of the UK’s businesses are thinking carefully about their next steps.
After all, even for well-established and much-loved high street names in the UK, the pandemic has made one thing very clear: to keep up in today’s world, you have to be on top of your digital presence. The recent closures of multiple branches of family favourite department store John Lewis, for instance, are just not as simple as the store suffering a pandemic-related profit loss. In fact, John Lewis’ failure to digitise over the years meant that without in-person shoppers, they just couldn’t compete with others in the industry - who had already adapted their business models to fit a digital age. Fans of the store will be pleased to hear they’re investing into a new digital focus for 2021 (a lesson learned from lockdown, perhaps?).
So what can we learn from the John Lewises of lockdown? After all, if it can happen to one of the UK’s best-loved brands, nobody’s immune, right? The positive takeaway is that it’s a simple fix - investing a little time, energy, effort and even capital into your digital marketing can help your customers to know that you’re still out there, you’re still agile and you’re ready for reopening.
What do you need to do before reopening your business?
Update Your Google My Business Listing
Look - it’s been a whole year: so it’s pretty unsurprising if things have changed for you! It’s more than likely that you have had to make changes from your usual opening times and practices - perhaps even changed the number of employees you’ve got on rotation.
Once you’ve made the decision that you’re able to reopen safely and securely, it’s time to let your customers know that their favourite venue is open for business again - but with slightly adjusted opening hours.
You may even have had to change location or reopen in a different spot - so whatever it is, make sure your new details are available to all your clients. It’s important that you don’t limit these updates to just your Google My Business listing, too: updating details on your Instagram page, Twitter page, Facebook page, and website will ensure you’ve covered all your bases and no customers are left out in the cold (literally!). If you’re panicking that you haven’t got a Google My Business listing sorted yet - or any social media! - then don’t worry: that’s what we’re here for.
Keep Up Your Remote Offering
This one’s pretty essential, but may seem counterintuitive to many businesses here in the UK. Yes, you adapted during a pandemic - so now restrictions are lifting, it’s time to change back to an in-store only business, right? Wrong! Please, please, please don’t immediately drop your e-service or curbside delivery as soon as you’ve opened your front doors.
The adaptability and agility that your customers loved during lockdown is the very thing that’s going to keep some of them with you when you reopen again. Don’t write off your online customers as people who’d always rather be visiting your shop themselves - because this may well not be the case.
Accessibility, for many people, improved hugely during lockdown - whether your online services were a help for Disabled people (who may not enjoy the same level of access to your physical store that non-Disabled people have) those too busy with family life or work to visit themselves, or customers who may simply live too far away to enjoy browsing in-person, there are a whole host of reasons why your e-service might have been doing so well. If you can, try to keep remote services or offerings up even when your physical store opens up agan, and be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that digital was temporary.
Digital, as we all know, is the future - so stick with it, and you might just be rewarded.
Prepare your socials
Finally, it’s not much good being open if you’re not shouting about it! If you’ve already got your social media accounts up and running, it’s time to let everybody know when you’re going to be back. This might be a great time to consider boosted posts, especially if you haven’t seen much engagement or new followers lately: improving that reach is vital to make sure you’re getting under the nose of people who might love to swing by and check out your stuff.
This is especially useful for a service-based offering, where people might need to make appointments well in advance of popping by to see you. Hair salons, for instance, need to be already taking bookings from customers to keep the reopening as smooth and as friction-free as possible. It’s not unreasonable to expect that there may be a little bit of a bottleneck in the first few days of restrictions lifting; so it’s pretty key to work out what your new operation is going to look like, and crucially, to tell your customers in advance of them popping by.
Implementing a new one-way system? Operating a one-in, one-out policy? Going completely handsfree for checkout? Whatever adaptations your business has had to make to reopen safely, letting your clients know well in advance helps to ease your transition from lockdown stress to roaring success! (No, we’re not sorry for that one). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn are key platforms to use to reach your customers (more on that here).
So there you have it - the top three things that we think are essential for the non-essential to keep in mind when it comes to reopening in just a few weeks’ time. Of course, if you’re partnered with a Digital Marketing agency, they’ll take care of all of the small stuff for you, letting you focus on the important business of reopening. If you ask us, that seems like a smart move.