Reopening after lockdown? 4 must-do tips to get the customers back in

This month, thousands of retailers across the UK will be able to reopen their doors to customers again. Although the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown looks increasingly shaky given the rise of the Indian variant of COVID-19, hospitality businesses are set to follow them and return to full capacity next month.

After so long not trading, or trading under the various restrictions imposed during the pandemic, business owners will undoubtedly be both excited and anxious about the prospect of reopening to the public and getting back to business.

With so many businesses reopening at once, and large swathes of people still understandably wary of returning to shops, cafes and restaurants due to the persistence of COVID-19, one of the key challenges facing business owners as lockdown ends will be getting customers back through their doors.

With that in mind, here are four steps that every small business owner should take in order to ensure that they get the public into their business this summer and beyond.

Reassure your customers
The first step to getting customers back in won’t be a showy window display or eye-catching discounts, it will be getting basic hygiene and safety measures right. Concerns over the virus will be the main thing stopping people from returning to small businesses and companies that disregard these concerns are likely to suffer accordingly.

Basic steps like staff wearing masks (even after this is no longer required by law), hand sanitizer stations throughout your business (including prominently at the entrance) and plastic screens at check-outs will all help to instantly demonstrate that your business recognises and is taking steps to address the concerns customers may have.

Social distancing has obviously been devastating for many businesses and many will be glad to see the back of it. However, it is still something that will be important for many people to feel safe. So, while you shouldn’t necessarily continue with the most stringent restrictions, taking some measures such as slightly reduced capacity, plenty of space for people to move around and good ventilation will all go a long way to reassuring customers.

Promote your reopening
Whether you’re looking to get your old, pre-lockdown customers through the door, or trying to get new customers you might have got through online retail or delivery during the pandemic to come and visit in person, getting the word out will be vital.

As mentioned earlier, thousands of businesses will be reopening at once as lockdown eases and a strong promotional campaign that lets customers know about your plans will help you stand out from the masses.

Get out there and publicise the fact that you're back in business. Posters in the windows of your business are one thing, but taking your campaign to social media, or even local radio or TV, will add another level to your efforts to re-engage customers.

Make sure to include plenty of detail about your exact reopening plans, the safety measures you are taking, any special reopening offers you’ve got on and what changes you’ve made, for example, new products or services that you’re offering.

Incentivise customers to return
There’s a simple rationale behind this one. Most of your rival companies will be offering some kind of incentive, such as promotions or discounts, to tempt customers back to their businesses, so you can’t really not do it.

Considering how widespread offers like this are going to be, yours needs to really stand out. If you settle on one core promotion, make sure it’s eye catching and that it forms a core part of your reopening promotion.

The ideal post-lockdown incentive will be exciting and well-promoted enough to play a role in convincing people who, for example, see it on social media to pay you a visit, whilst also being able to attract passersby from the street.

Offer something new
If there’s one thing that lockdown has done, it’s change customer tastes and habits. A year of grim headlines and a life spent largely at home have shifted what people want and what their values are.

Consider how your business can reflect the changes wrought to people’s lives by COVID-19 and what you can offer that’s different to what you previously did. That may be a new product line that responds to new customer needs or just something completely different to help take their minds of the pandemic.