The Impact of COVID on Brick and Mortar

Strategies for retail and restaurant businesses to weather the storm.

By: Ryan Dobrin

It’s no surprise that brick-and-mortar businesses are among those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Google Ads data suggests that in-store conversions tied to advertising were down 90% across the board for the last half of March compared to just a month prior. Restaurants and retail shops are feeling the negative impact and looking for ways to maintain business during this time — and ensure that they are ready to serve their customers once we are all on the other side of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. Here are some of the best strategies we’ve seen.

Maintain communication with fans and customers
Let your loyal followers know you are still here. Through social media, email and other marketing channels, let them know what you are doing for them during this time and what you are doing for yourselves and your employees. This is a rare situation that is affecting everyone in some capacity, which also means that everybody has different levels of impact to their lives. So be authentic, sensitive and honest as you find a way to connect your brand to your customers and your customers to one another. Columbia Sportswear has done a great job of being open with their community and coming up with creative campaigns to maintain and connect their fans during this time.

Find new ways to do business
When your business loses its ability to serve people in person, an obvious solution is to send your customers what they want and need or to meet them where they are. For retail stores, this could mean increasing your e-commerce focus capabilities (or finally launching that e-commerce store that you have been meaning to set up). Many e-commerce platforms are offering special deals during the coronavirus pandemic—like Shopify, which is offering 90-day extended free trials—so make sure to take advantage of these deals. Additionally, restaurants are increasing their online functionality, expanding delivery options, highlighting pickup options and proactively sharing safety precautions being taken with their food. Local and nationwide delivery services are taking extra steps to support restaurants during this time as well, with reduced commission rates, increased marketing options and more.

Launch gift card campaigns
E-commerce and delivery options may not be as feasible for some as others, so another way to maintain cash flow right now is to offer gift cards (or bonds) to customers to be used at a later date. Loyal fans are looking for ways to support their favorite local businesses, and this is a great, mutually beneficial option. Companies across the country are promoting offers like “Buy a $100 gift card now and redeem for $120 when we open again!” From New York, to Atlanta, to Los Angeles, restaurants in particular are seeing success with this strategy, and you can too.