We’re not going to sugar coat it: local businesses across the country are seeing their sales decline because of the coronavirus. As a business owner, the uncertainty of the long term effects on your bottom line can feel scary and overwhelming.
Here’s what we are confident about: local businesses are resilient fighters, and even in this time, people are still shopping local without having to visit in-person. Everyone still has to eat, shop, and feel good about themselves. The level of downturn we see can be mitigated and eventually overcome with well-structured messages and promotions to give your customers the ability to do business with you from home.
Here are eight ideas, as well as some real life examples from local businesses across the country, to send to your own customers using email or text message promotion tools.
1. Communicate how your business is keeping visiting customers and employees safe
Are you following CDC recommendations? If your business is still able to accept visiting customers, reassure them that your business is safe and tell them what precautions you and your employees are taking. Food spaces and salons are monitored for safety all year, so if your business has a high health grade, let your customers know about it for additional reassurance.
2. Offer customers ‘Buy One Get One to Go’
People are still going to restaurants to eat but may want to limit frequency and/or only do takeout or delivery. To continue to get your customers to spend money with you, give them a great deal on a takeout order to bring home. A local business in the Fivestars community used their Fivestars promotion tools to text message their customers a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer so that their cupcakes wouldn’t be wasted. They immediately saw their in-store traffic and sales jump! Here’s the message they sent Jeff, one of our account managers:
3. Offer safe and easy curbside pick up or delivery service
Let your customers know they can pre-order over the phone and drop by for curbside pickup outside your business. If you’re a restaurant, there are lots of options to get your food orders delivered to your customers for you by business apps like Doordash, Seamless, etc. Many of our Fivestars local merchants have used our tools to send out a text message and email to their customers letting them know they now offer delivery in-house or via app.
4. Offer in-home services when available
If you’re a salon & spa, some customers are starting to push out that nail treatment or haircut. However, if your customers are nearby and you’re able to travel, let customers know you’re willing to service them in their home so they don’t miss out. And many people would love to get some in-home pampering during this stressful time.
5. Offer free shipping as incentive to purchase items online or over the phone
We’ve seen lots of local retailers offer free shipping incentives to get their customers to make purchases online or over the phone. If you don’t currently have an online shop, check out quick online shop builders like Shopify or Squarespace. Or take pictures of your retail items, post them on your social media accounts, and let customers know what phone number to call to make the purchase over the phone to be shipped to them from the comfort of their homes.
6. Encourage customers to purchase gift cards
If customers are unable or uncomfortable coming out in person, ask them to buy gift cards! Mention that gift card purchases allow you to continue to have cash flow to pay employees and rent, and that customers can come back in and spend when this crisis eventually winds down. We’ve seen some businesses offer an additional incentive like “buy a $50 gift card and get $5 extra!” Don’t have an online gift card purchase link? Tell customers they can call in and purchase a gift card over the phone.
7. Flash sales on retail items
While people may stop window shopping, shoppers never want to miss out on a bargain. Take a popular item (or even essential non-perishable items) and do a flash sale promo, allowing people to pay over the phone and pick up curbside.
8. Use social media to keep your customers informed and stay top of mind
Again, your loyal customers want to support your business and keep it alive. On top of using your Fivestars emailing and text messaging tools, use your Facebook and Instagram (both your business and personal accounts!) to talk about what you’re doing during these uncertain times. Social media doesn’t have the same effectiveness as directly emailing and texting your customers (text messages have a 99% open rate), but it’s still worthwhile to post as some customers will seek out your social media profiles to see if you are still open for business, accepting online orders, etc.
Need a refresher on how to use your Fivestars Promotions and AutoPilot tools?
If you’re part of our Fivestars merchant community, here are some quick how-tos on navigating your Fivestars Dashboard and some best practices.
- How to Send an Email Only Announcement (Fivestars Announcements)
Fivestars Announcements are email-only messages.
- How to Send a Multi-Channel Promotional Announcement (Fivestars Promotions)
Fivestars Promotions are shorter messages (under 200 characters) that are delivered by text, email, or push notification depending on your customers’ communication (channel) preferences.
- How to Edit Your AutoPilot Automated Campaigns/Offers (Fivestars AutoPilot)
Fivestars AutoPilot automatically sends short promotional messages (under 200 characters) based on critical moments in your customer’s journey. Be sure to update or pause your current AutoPilot offers if you are only taking delivery orders or temporarily closing.
More people care about you and your business than you know, and during times of national crisis people come together and lift one another up. Have you or other businesses you know sent out promotions or messages to customers that helped their business drive sales and stay afloat? Let us know in the comments or via @fivestars on Instagram or Twitter so we can share it with local businesses everywhere – we will all weather this storm by working together as a community.