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The Essential Guide to Branding a Retail Business Post-COVID-19

covid 19 and retail branding

Branding your retail business isn’t easy in the most prosperous of times. Right now, the world is facing the COVID-19 that threatens to drown small companies. No one is quite sure how long the self-isolation recommendations will last or what the impact will be when people emerge from their houses again. 

Although business closures vary by state, the majority of the United States is on lockdown to all but the most essential of services, such as grocery stores, hardware shops and medical establishments. Most restaurants have gone to carry-out or delivery only, which impacts revenue drastically and hurts servers who rely on tips for their income.

You can get through this time and keep your company intact. It isn’t going to be easy, but with a lot of hard work and some good American ingenuity, it will be back to business as usual soon. In the meantime, here are 10 things you can do to get ready for a post-COVID-19 world.

1. Disinfect Every Surface

If your office is currently closed, this is a good time to deep clean. Even if coronavirus isn’t lingering on surfaces, you likely don’t have the time to clean the way you’d like during a typical workweek. Use the downtime to steam-clean flours, bleach bathrooms and wipe down surfaces. Your store will look better, and you can reassure customers you used the closure to make it’s safe for them to visit again.

2. Understand Customer Emotions

Brands that tap into the emotions of their target audience see double the engagement. Right now, people are scared. The numbers on the news channels of those infected and dying around the world keep rising. The experts don’t seem to agree on when the outbreak might peak. We aren’t even sure if the virus could come back and be even stronger. 

Brands that understand the fears of the consumer can answer those concerns within their marketing efforts. Let your customers know you are staying on top of the news and getting information from reliable sources. Reassure them you are doing everything in your power to keep them safe.

One company is offering couponing tips throughout this event. However, the items listed aren’t even available in stores because many shelves are empty, and subscribers began complaining. Do the opposite of companies like this. 

3. Share Your Story With Art

When times are hard, people turn to music, books and art to focus on something other than the crisis at hand. Offer a distraction, and create a beautiful mural that tells your company story. You’ll brand your business even when your doors aren’t currently open. After the pandemic, you’ll have a beautiful mural that shows the core of who you are. 

Think about how the mural might work post-COVID-19. This time will pass, and you want wall art that works as well in six months as it does today. 

4. Ramp up Social Media Efforts

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to get more involved in social media marketing, but you haven’t had time to plan campaigns or train someone how to handle your online presence. Now is an excellent time to figure out your gameplan. 

5. Start an Online Store

No matter what type of retail establishment you own, you should be able to make some adaptations and take your sales online. People are home bored with little to do. Many are looking for an opportunity to shop online for the things they need. 

Start by listing items people are most likely to need. You can add the rest of your catalog later. For now, take a page out of Amazon’s playbook and focus on essential, in-demand items you can get out quickly to consumers who need them but might not find locally. 

6. Put up Safeguards

Now is a good time to figure out what you need to do to keep your workers and customers safe when your doors reopen. For example, many grocery stores are installing plastic guards at their registers to put a barrier between cashiers and customers. Think about safeguards you might use in the future. Can you utilize a discount system for paying digitally or add some distancing measures for register lines?

7. Implement New Sick-Leave Policies

Now is also the right time to go over some of your sick-leave policies. What should a worker do if they feel ill? Can you afford to offer some additional sick days, so workers don’t feel they have to come in even when they are showing symptoms?

Talk to your employees about the importance of staying home when they might be contagious. You may need to put some strict management policies in place. If someone comes in clearly ill, what warrants leaving early? If you mainly have part-time workers, how can you serve them so they don’t come to work sick?

8. Offer Specials

There will come a time when the curve of the virus begins to decline. Businesses will open again, people will venture out of their homes and the world will return to normal. Be ready to take advantage of reopening.

Offer special discounts so people can restock as they recover from being laid off for several weeks. Host a grand reopening event but do it without a large gathering as people may still be skittish. Announce the new measures you’ve put in place. 

9. Sensitize Your Brand Messaging

Now is a good time to show your customers they aren’t just another number. Ask them how they are doing. Be aware that most people aren’t used to staying home all the time. They may also be worried about family and friends. Give them a forum where they can vent. 

However, keep things positive. Ask them to share a funny moment from the last week. Have customers upload photos of a sunrise or sunset. Share images of pets. Give people a small glimpse of joy in a scary world. 

10. Sell Gift Cards

You may be short on cash flow with your doors closed. One option is to offer gift cards for future use. Certificates allow people to support your company now, even though they can’t come into the store. 

Your best bet is to set up a digital gift card that ties into your app or email to the user. Digital delivery prevents any person-to-person contact and keeps social distancing rules intact. 

Be Kind

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your brand name is to be kind to other people. You’ve probably read about CEOs from brands such as Texas Roadhouse and LongHorn Steakhouse giving up their salaries to help workers during this time. While smaller businesses may not have the funds to afford that, there has to be something you can do to help in this situation. 

If you are a clothing designer, perhaps you can sew facemasks. If you own a restaurant and are going to throw out food, send it home with your workers who are going to struggle without their regular paychecks. Find creative ways to keep people working, and serve your community. People will remember your brand as stepping up when needed.

About the Author:

Lexie is a digital nomad and web designer. When she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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