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If you’re considering reopening right now, your business has proved its resilience and impact during a challenging time. And you’ve probably been feeling that just as you adapted for closures, you need to adapt for reopenings. This time for a post-pandemic future defined by continued omnichannel efforts, streamlined operations plans and a reopening of doors to the public.
Surviving the pandemic meant rapid changes and quick adaptations. Many businesses had to re-evaluate their existing offerings and explore new ways to continue sales and stay connected to customers. Statistics from Square’s Future of Commerce report show that many businesses moved online in response to pandemic restrictions while others had to adopt technologies to facilitate contactless commerce. For example, 88% percent of retailers surveyed now sell items online. And in the restaurant industry, 62% of restaurateurs expect a significant proportion of their revenue to come from takeout or delivery in 2021.
After months of lockdown, businesses are eager to get back into full operations, but still cautious about the future. While most states have fully reopened — which means no capacity limits or curfews — some restrictions, such as wearing masks indoors, still apply in certain areas.
This guide covers important strategies to help you reopen your business smoothly while adhering to prevailing safety regulations.
Reopening Your Business
1. Conducting an internal audit
Before reopening your business, it’s important to take a step back and take stock of how your business fared overall during the pandemic. And, like many other business owners, the next 6–12 months might feel just as taxing for you. This will help you be better prepared for any uncertainties as the rest of the year unfolds.
Take some time to think through the following questions:
- How was your business most affected? It’s important to pinpoint the major pain areas and why those areas were particularly challenging for you.
- Were you prepared for the lockdown? If the answer is no, what steps can you take to be better prepared for emergencies in the future?
- Where do you stand with your customers? If you had a hard time staying connected with your customers, that might be an area in which you need to reconsider your strategy.
- What is the financial position of your business right now? State and federal governments are providing resources to help small businesses recover from the negative economic impacts of the pandemic. If the financial health of your business does not look good, you can consider some of the financial assistance options available to you.
- Did you explore any new products or services during the pandemic? Which of those are worth continuing?
- What is your current staff strength? Do you need to downsize your staff or make new hires?
At the end of your audit, you should have a clear understanding of the current position of your business and the areas that need the most attention.
2. Preparing your staff
Employees are the backbone of your business, so it’s important to ensure that they are well-motivated and inspired to do their work.
The dilemma for most businesses is how to keep employees happy while staying profitable, especially after significant income dips during the pandemic. Here are some ways you can do this.
Thank employees for their loyalty.
Appreciating employees for their work is crucial to employee engagement. If you have employees who performed well during the pandemic, then it’s important to recognize their contributions. Thank them for their commitment and for sticking with your business through the difficult times.
Prioritize staff safety.
While it may be true that pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, it’s not over yet. Forbes reports that one of the main reasons for the shrunken labor force is that people are worried about catching COVID-19 if they return to work. This is why it’s extremely important to prioritize staff safety.
Continue to use masks and protective equipment for as long as it makes your employees feel safe at work, and follow applicable regional and federal safety guidelines. Discuss reopening plans with employees. In particular, have an open dialogue about the safety measures that make them feel safe and protected, and invest in those.
Promote work-life balance.
If your employees have been working remotely, months of working from home have changed perspectives toward work hours. As employees return to work, they will be interested in ways to maximize their time and ensure work-life balance. Find ways to improve their workflow and make their work easier.
For example, Square Team Management helps you manage shifts and provides valuable insight that can improve employee productivity. Use Square Payroll to easily track employee hours, pay employees, and manage employee benefits.
3. Re-establishing your supply chain
Supply-chain activities were heavily disrupted by the pandemic. A survey by Statista showed that for more than one-third of businesses (34.3%), severe delays in acquiring critical supplies had a serious to catastrophic impact on their business. If your business has been affected, then this is a good time to get back on track.
Take stock of your inventory.
Managing inventory manually can be time-consuming, especially if you have several products across multiple locations. It’s no wonder that 74% of retailers plan to use real-time inventory technology, according to Square’s Future of Commerce report.
With Square Inventory Management System, you can import thousands of products in a snap, manage existing products, and get stock alerts when you’re low. Square’s technology also makes it easier to handle any hiccups as you ramp back up.
Reconnect with suppliers and business partners.
Since a lot of supply chain businesses were negatively affected, confirm that your contacts — distributors, vendors, partners, etc. — are still in business and can meet your needs.
This is also a good time to reassess your suppliers. For food businesses, in particular, ensuring that suppliers adhere to food safety regulations is crucial if your business must remain compliant.
Switch up your packaging.
Consumers want an improved unboxing experience — 27% want to see more environmentally friendly packaging materials and 25% want more eye-catching wrappings. This is a good time to explore new packaging options and present your products in more delightful ways.
4. Informing customers that you’re back in business
If you maintained steady communication during the pandemic, then announcing your reopening will be easier. But if you had a hard time keeping in touch with customers during the pandemic, then now is the right time to re-establish communication and stay top of mind. Here’s how:
Stay visible in search.
The consumer’s search for businesses to patronize begins online. Mobile searches containing the words “near me” grew by 150% in the last two years, according to consumer insights from Think with Google. Plus, nearly 80% of local mobile searches lead to an in-store purchase. So, ensure that your business can be found during those searches.
Update your website and directory listings to reflect any changes in your business hours, products, or services. Optimize your website for search by using the keywords your customers are likely to use when searching for the products and services you offer.
Get active on social media.
One of the major outcomes of the pandemic was an increase in online activities. The number of active social media users grew by 13.2% in January 2021 compared to January 2020 data. If your business isn’t active on social media, then you’re likely missing out on a lot of potential customers.
To get back on track, start posting content regularly on social media. While you may not have the bandwidth to post every day, consistency is key. Create a social media content calendar and stick to it. Your content should be in tune with the times and highlight the measures your business is taking to ensure safety.
Highlight any community projects you’re involved in because customers want to see them. Square’s Future of Commerce research shows that consumers want to see more businesses doing good for their communities. For example, 50% want more businesses to donate to community organizations while 36% want businesses to source locally. Sharing these activities on social media is a good way to win some brand love and foot traffic.
Send regular email newsletters.
If you don’t have an email list already, start building one. According to a study by Statista, 49% of customers would like to receive weekly promotional emails from their favorite brands. That’s only four a month, so don’t think you need to write a ton of emails.
In your reopening emails, emphasize the steps your business is taking to ensure safety. In particular, share in-store safety guidelines you have put in place to protect your staff and your customers.
Square Marketing allows you to create automated campaigns, built through your existing customer data, using predesigned templates. This means you can draft and schedule emails ahead of time. Plus, you can easily monitor campaign efforts from your Square dashboard so it’s easy to see what’s working.
5. Increasing sales
For many businesses, increasing sales is a top priority after months-long revenue dips. If your business was affected, here are ways to ramp up sales as you reopen your business.
Use paid ads to get noticed.
Getting online sales organically can be a tough job. Through paid ads, you can amplify your organic efforts and reach more potential customers.
Facebook,Instagram and Google (search) ads are the best places to start. Facebook ads have some of the highest click-through rates — the percentage of users who see your ad versus those who click. This means more people are likely to click on ads you put on Facebook or Instagram compared to other social media platforms.
When running paid ads, set spending limits so you don’t go over your budget, and optimize your checkout pages/process so that buyers can pay without glitches.
Square integrates with Facebook and Instagram, which means you can post to your Instagram and Facebook pages through Square Marketing. You can also monitor the performance of your boosted posts via Square campaign reports.
Leverage social selling.
You already know that social media is a huge sales driver. What you might not know is that 78% of salespeople who sell on social media outsell their peers. Square’s Future of Retail report also shows that among retailers who sell on social platforms, 40% of their online revenue comes from social media.
Social media selling is all about making sales on social media while staying deeply connected with your customers and building a community. When selling online, it’s important to respond quickly to customer inquiries. Unify text and email messages with Square Messages so you stay on top of all inquiries and offer the best customer experience.
Square’s social selling tools also make it easy to start selling on social media. You can:
- Include payment links in your social media posts with Square Online Checkout.
- Turn your Instagram page into a fully shoppable website.
- Share your email campaigns on Facebook through Square Marketing.
- Book appointments from your Instagram bio via Square Appointments.
Reward loyal customers.
While attracting new customers is great, don’t overlook your existing customers. Existing customers are more likely to bring repeat business — according to Harvard Business Review, if you can increase customer retention by just 5%, you could see a 25% increase in profits.
One way to encourage existing customers to purchase more is by creating a carefully crafted loyalty program. Loyalty programs can boost repeat business by up to 40%, which is why nearly half (42%) of restaurant owners and managers surveyed in Square’s Future of Commerce report plan to offer new or expanded loyalty programs.
6. Staying in control of your omnichannel experience
Your business may have introduced new channels to better serve your customers during the pandemic. For example, many restaurants shifted to takeout and delivery, which meant creating an Online Store and introducing new technology and restaurant management tools to make the transition from on-premise to off-premise dining seamless.
Now that your business is reopening at full capacity, managing these new channels in addition to your physical location may feel overwhelming. But maintaining an omnichannel experience is crucial to providing your customers with the convenience and choices they desire.
To continue to operate effectively, consider new tools/technology that will help you streamline your business activities so you can deliver a consistent customer experience across all channels. It’s particularly important to choose a technology, such as Square Point of Sale or Square Kitchen Display System (KDS), that serves as a central system and connects seamlessly to other important business arms.
“What’s beautiful about Square Register is that when an order is processed in-store or on our website with Square Online, it’s the same exact timing. That’s how fluid the system is. There’s no distinction of that ticket is this ticket, and this one is that. A ticket comes in, it could be an online order or a third-party order or an in-store order, it all looks exactly the same. What really matters is the food, you know?” says Wally Sadat, owner of The Kebab Shop.
Square KDS allows restaurants to connect back- and front-of-house processes, giving you the ability to fulfill orders from anywhere — POS, online store, and third-party delivery apps like Postmates.
“What we’ve seen in this past year is how important it is to offer customers the opportunity to order online and to order contactless and curbside delivery,” says Sadat. “In the beginning [of the pandemic] it was only representing 10% of our sales. The number has gone from 10% to close to 45%.”
Businesses need to be highly resilient and adaptive to survive the aftermath of the pandemic. As your business reopens, take proactive measures to get your business back on track and plan ahead for future disruptions.
Embracing technology will make the process easier. Use tools that improve and simplify key business processes, from marketing to supply chain and inventory management to customer communication. Whatever strategies your business adopts, prioritize the safety of your staff and customers, and stay on the good side of the law.