5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Queue Management App

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season

The ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic is creating numerous conundrums for retailers during the busiest time of the year - the holiday season. As individuals try to cope with the consequences of a Pandemic Holiday - Halloween without trick-or-treaters, Thanksgiving without large gatherings, and December without parties - retailers are struggling to determine how to turn a profit during Black Friday and the holiday season without encouraging large in-person crowds. Fortunately, technology can help. Below is a list of five actions retailers can take to keep shoppers safe and spending money during this crucial time of year.

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Virtual Waitlist AppHow to Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season in the Time of COVID-19

Eliminate crowded waiting rooms and long lines without forcing customers to wait outside in the cold

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Online Waitlist AppRetailers are faced with a catch-22 this year. Due to social distancing capacity limitations, you can't allow large crowds in your stores. However, sending people outside to wait in the cold for an indeterminate amount of time is as good as sending them to your competitors that don't have long waits. How do stores eliminate long lines without turning customers away, or losing them? One of the best ways to do this is by utilizing a virtual waitlist platform, such as NextME, that allows customers to join the waitlist either at your store (in-person or by scanning a QR code) or online from your site before they arrive. This system can then text notify patrons where they are in line, thus allowing them to wait wherever and however they want. No need to wait in the snow in a queue, or even arrive at the store before their turn.

Keep track of customers while serving at limited capacity

As stated above, sending a customer outside to wait in the cold is as good as sending them to another store. The key to making limited capacity work is to effectively keep track of and communicate with your customers who are waiting their turn to enter your shop. NextME's SMS-based platform provides a number of ways to communicate with and keep tabs on your guests. Specifically, the platform automatically texts them important updates, and also gives them access to a virtual waiting room (discussed in more detail below) that provides more general updates. You also can easily filter your waitlist by curbside pick-up versus in-person customers and tailor your messaging to each group. Finally, NextME makes it easy for you to export customer data for COVID tracing purposes.

Make use of virtual waiting rooms to engage with customers

NextME's virtual waiting room is a great tool for filling some of the customer service void that's been created by COVID's social distancing protocols. Retailers can customize their virtual waiting rooms however they want. For example, a great use for this feature is to answer common questions guests have, such as: Are your most popular products in stock? Where to find the more popular products in your store? What discounts and specials are you running? By making effective use of the virtual waiting room, you keep guests informed, happy, and safe.

Allow for online shopping and ordering ahead

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Waitlist App

The internet is a magical thing. If your online ordering and shopping system is really streamlined and effective, you may be able to make your holiday profits without a single customer entering your store. Creating a stellar online shopping experience goes beyond building a great eCommerce site (although this is a critical first step). You also need to effectively enable curbside pickup and mobile ordering / communication. Again, NextME to the rescue. Our platform seamlessly integrates the entire process of a customer browsing and ordering online for in-store or curbside pick-up, then receiving SMS updates to let them know when to pick up their order. They can even check their position in line in real-time from their phones!

Use technology to improve operational efficiency and throughput

One of the few silver linings of the Coronavirus Pandemic is that it has given businesses an opportunity to streamline their operations and improve efficiency. And the more efficient you are, the easier it is to follow social distancing guidelines. This is where NextME really excels. Our platform is proven to increase guest throughput and help clients retain up to 35% more customers. One key to this is displaying accurate wait times, which reduces the number of calls from customers asking how long the wait is. Another important aspect is our predictive analytics, which help clients staff effectively during the busiest times of the day.

 


A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19

As the nation’s economy reopens, it’s time for your retail business to do the same. And NextME can help make that transition smooth and easy. With guidelines that vary from state to state and a long list of to-dos, it may feel overwhelming. We’ve simplified the process with this step-by-step guide to help your business reopen with confidence during COVID-19. 

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist AppTips on Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19, and Essential Tools that Can Help

#1 Use a Digital Reservation System

Space is of essence during social distancing, yet we are all craving a bit of normalcy and the opportunity to shop at our favorite stores. To make this possible during COVID-19, retail stores can now turn to technology and implement a digital reservation system  to help control their customer intake process. 

Welcome your guests with a reservation and/or appointment. Let them know you’re taking their health and well-being seriously by minimizing crowds and maximizing their shopping experience. Gain insights into your day-to-day operations so you can spread out customer visits, streamline your staffing requirements, and prepare for a safer environment from open to close. Although this form of preparation may be newer to retail stores, it’s proving to be successful in other industries, such as the restaurant and healthcare spaces, during this transition into the ‘new normal.’ 

#2 Make Use of Virtual Waitlist Software and Virtual Waiting Rooms that Enable Contactless Check-In

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist Software and Virtual Waiting Rooms

At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than reservation platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps retail stores and other organizations stay connected to their guests at all times, thus enabling flexibility in scheduling. Unlike digital reservation systems, NextME doesn’t create expectations that customers are entitled to a specific appointment time. Rather, they're joining a virtual waitlist for same day service on a first-come first-served basis. This gives you more flexibility on when to text notify your guests to check in one-by-one versus having guests walk in assuming they're ready to be serviced. 

NextME enables contactless check-in for guests. This can be accomplished via your store's website through a customized widget, or by scanning a specialized QR code placed on your storefront. While waiting within their cars or outside, they can use NextME’s virtual waiting room to see their position in line or interact with your store’s online content. Whether you have a hot item that people want to purchase, or your store is regularly at capacity, NextME’s virtual waitlist software gives you the chance to communicate real-time status to ensure your customers never arrive disappointed! As soon as it’s safe for guests to enter, they receive a text message notification. The waitlist functions on a first-come first-served basis, yet is designed to offer same-day service. 

Already have a preferred appointment or reservation system? No problem. NextME’s virtual waitlist can easily work as an added feature in conjunction with your existing system. As an added bonus, since our platform is SMS-based, your guests don’t need to download a separate app to use it! 

#3 Establish Regular Employee Health Screening

Healthy businesses start with healthy employees. By establishing regular employee health screening before each shift, you can support the overall well-being of your staff and clientele. 

Ask your employees how they are doing. Check in with whether or not they have been feeling even the slightest bit ill lately. Encourage them to take their temperature or screen for symptoms prior to entering the premises. This will let them know you care about their well-being, while also giving them the confidence to be honest with their current state. Set the example and be dedicated to keeping everyone safe as you reopen your retail store. 

#4 Restructure Space to Allow for Social Distancing

Social distancing is our new reality and can be encouraged by restructuring your retail space to create healthy boundaries. Whether you move all the furniture, space out the clothing racks, or mark the floors with tape to specify a safe distance and flow of traffic, your customers will notice your responsible efforts. 

Physical barriers are one of the easiest ways to assure social distancing, however you still want people to move freely around your store. Mark designated browsing spaces for customers that are 6 feet apart and place arrows on the floor that follow a one-way route. Since many grocery stores have already started implementing these practices they won’t feel too restrictive or odd to your customers. Instead many will appreciate the safe direction. 

#5 Require Face Coverings for Employees and Customers

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist AppAnother form of a physical barrier that is incredibly important is a face covering or mask. Require both your customers and employees to wear face coverings while within your store. This will help protect everyone against the spread of potentially infectious germs and is in alliance with the CDC safety guidelines

#6 Implement Accessible and Frequent Sanitation Procedures

Lastly, implement accessible and frequent sanitation procedures to keep your business safe. Set up sanitation stations upon entry and throughout your store to encourage their use. Instruct your employees to pay special attention to high traffic areas and commonly used surfaces so they can disinfect them regularly throughout the day. Sanitize equipment between each use. These somewhat small practices will have a positive effect on your customers’ experiences while also encouraging businesses such as yours to remain open.  

The key to reopening your retail store during COVID-19 is effective communication and creation of a welcoming environment.

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist App

The key to reopening during COVID-19 is making sure your business is a welcoming and safe space for all. Utilizing new virtual tools, such as NextME’s waitlist software, will help eliminate crowded waiting rooms, enable contactless check-in and virtual communication, improve your customers’ experiences, and provide you important insights around actual wait times and guest retention rates using real-time data. Establishing regular employee health screening will support necessary safety measures. Restructuring your space will prevent overcrowding and promote healthy boundaries. Requiring face coverings will protect everyone. Implementing accessible and frequent sanitation procedures will give both your staff and clientele the confidence to keep coming back. 

If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can help your store operate safely and efficiently during the COVID pandemic and beyond, follow this link to reach out. Together we can make the difference in your clients’ new shopping experience.