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Post COVID-19 Reopening and Best Practices Checklist

Post COVID-19 Reopening and Best Practices Checklist

Scroll to the bottom of the page to download PDF versions of the checklists!

After temporary shutdowns, provinces, states, and cities are getting ready to reopen again. Depending on your location and the industry that you’re in, you may or may not be on the path to resuming your operations. Whatever the case may be, there is a lot you can do to prepare your store for re-opening. Reference our checklist below when the time comes to start selling from your store again. 

As the number of new COVID-19 cases slows globally, state and provincial governments have started re-opening the economy in phases. For many places, the first phase involves re-opening stores for pickup only. Depending on where you are located, this can even refer to curbside pickup only if you have an entrance that opens up to the street. In the US, States are managing the reopening of the economy and stores in different ways. Read more about how each of the 50 states are re-opening in the US.

For more information on Canadian workplace safety & guidelines for curbside pickup and re-opening phases during COVID-19, you can visit the different provincial resources below:

Re-opening for Curbside Pickup Only

  • Set up curbside pickup on your e-commerce store. Find out how to easily set up an online store and offer curbside pickup on TAKU eCommerce here. Free access until July 1, 2020.
  • Enable staggered pickup times. Avoid big lineups and crowds by requiring customers to make an appointment to pick up their purchases. E-commerce providers such as TAKU eCommerce allow customers to choose a pickup time and date at checkout. Alternatively, you can use apps such as Eventbrite, Calendly or Acuity Scheduling, many of which are free for a single store account.
  • Install a stand with a transparent physical barrier for protection. Consider installing a stand outside your store with plexiglass to accept payments.
  • Encourage “Contactless” Payments (e.g. tap or Apple Pay) and discourage the use of cash to protect your staff wherever possible. You may even want to increase your “contactless” limit with your merchant processor but remember that you are liable for any potential chargebacks on “contactless” payments.
  • Get creative with window displays and merchandising. Re-do your window displays to show off new or popular merchandise, discounted items, and relevant products (masks, grocery staples, hand sanitizer etc.). 
  • Place signage in the window: Put up signs to let customers know you are open for curbside pickup and/or delivery. You can also use signage to remind customers about social distancing procedures, your updated return/exchange policy, and store cleanliness or sanitation measures. 
  • Offer customers hand sanitizer wherever touch is unavoidable. 
  • Review receipt management procedures to train staff to put receipts directly into shopping bags instead of handing them to customers or, even better, ask if they are ok to receive their receipts by email. Remember that privacy regulations require that you get positive customer consent to save their emails for future use so an email marketing tool to capture consent that will allow customers to unsubscribe themselves. 
  • Encourage social distance outside of the store by increasing the space outside the store where shoppers are waiting to pay. It’s as simple as adding tape on the floor to clearly show where shoppers need to stand. Costco has famously used pallets outside of their stores to enforce social distance requirements in an orderly fashion. Consider assigning an employee to assist customers waiting in line. 
  • Make merchandising improvements at your storefront: Re-do merchandising displays and organize your store to display what you offer right at your storefront.
  • Organize back office tasks: Remember to review your fulfillment processes as your cashiers will need to have easy access to product or curbside orders at the front of the store to minimize their walking around the store. This way, when shoppers arrive to pick up their purchases or buy things, the checkout process will be faster. 
  • Sanitize surfaces: Regularly sanitize high contact surfaces like PIN pads, checkout counters, door knobs, handles etc. Some customers will need to touch your PINpad to pay. Consider wrapping your PINpad with plastic wrap so that you can wipe it down with sanitizer between every customer but still protect the device.
  • Stagger employee shifts. In order to promote social distance, schedule a maximum number of employees per shift (2 or 3 employees per shift etc.) 
  • Implement proper hygiene and social distances practices. Communicate new health and safety procedures to staff. Ensure proper hand washing, sanitizing, and overall cleanliness. Place signs in the store to remind employees to wash their hands, sanitize, and keep at a safe distance from one another. 

Inventory

  • Conduct a physical inventory count to verify inventory amounts. Record losses of inventory that is damaged / expired / spoiled. You’ll want to make sure that the inventory you have counted matches stock levels in your POS or inventory management system.
  • Review your inventory to decide what needs to be discounted and promoted immediately to bring in cash flow and to minimize your most outdated stock.
  • Contact your suppliers and vendors to get an update on order lead times and ensure accurate delivery schedules. You don’t want to sell what you can’t fulfill.

Staff

  • Contact your employees: Confirm readiness to return to work and good health. 
  • Communicate shift schedules with employees once you’ve confirmed who is ready to return to work. 
  • Inform staff of health and safety procedures going forward. Health and safety will be the top priority of both employees and shoppers for now. If it is not possible to always maintain the required distance from customers, you will need to look at both re-designing the layout of your store, the checkout procedures and supply masks, gloves and hand sanitizer where required for everybody’s protection.
  • Implement proper hygiene and social distancing policies: Post signage throughout the store, in break rooms, stock rooms, and the bathroom reminding staff to wash their hands and stay at a safe distance from other team members / customers.
  • Review loss prevention and security policies with employees. Don’t forget to review your POS access rights to make sure the staff permissions are still accurate.

Store Exterior and Interior 

  • Ensure the storefront is clean by washing windows and doors, sweeping the sidewalk, and getting rid of any debris/garbage outside your store. Any areas of high traffic will need to be cleaned repeatedly throughout the day.
  • Place signage in windows and doors: This includes reopening signs, any promotional/sales signage, and health and safety or social distancing policies. 
  • Sanitize doors knobs, handles, countertops, PINpads, etc. Any areas of high touch by employees or customers will need to be sanitized repeatedly throughout the day. Consider wrapping your PINpad with plastic wrap so that you can wipe it down with sanitizer between every customer but still protect the device.
  • Ensure the store interior is clean by sweeping and sanitizing floors, walls, fixtures, surfaces, displays, shelves, and windows. 
  • Verify product tags and pricing and print new tags if necessary. Ensure all products are accurately priced and discounted items are tagged. 
  • Have the store’s new merchandising plan and products tags ready for staff/merchandisers. You’ll want to ensure staff are scheduled to help merchandise the store before you open. 
  • Fill shelves and displays with stock. 
  • Place promotional signage around the store. 
  • Hang health & safety and social distancing policies around the store so that customers will be able to easily read and understand the new procedures. 
  • Re-stock employee equipment: Receipt papers, tags, printer paper, hand sanitizer etc. 
  • Re-stock washroom equipment: Soap, toilet paper, towels, and hand sanitizer

Security, Technology, and Utilities 

  • Ensure that your utilities are working properly: This includes heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), phone, internet,  electricity, and plumbing etc. If any of your utilities were disconnected while you were closed, it’s a good idea to call the utility companies to make sure they are working before you re-open. 
  • Check all surveillance and security cameras to make sure they are working properly.
  • Ensure alarm systems are working and consider updating alarm codes if needed. 
  • Verify that your POS system, credit card terminals, and scanners are ready to process sales. Before opening, ring in a test sale to make sure your POS is good to go.
  • Make sure that your payment terminal (PINpad) is capable of accepting contactless payments. Know what your contactless limits are and increase them if you are comfortable with the higher risk (contactless “tap” payments are subject to chargebacks).

Post COVID-19 Health and Safety Measures

  • Install plexiglass barriers at checkout counters to protect cashiers who are ringing in sales. Look at merchandising display stores for pre-made versions designed for retail as it may be more costly to install and/or cut your own. The cost of standard plexiglass sheets has gone up significantly. 
  • Promote physical distancing by placing shelves and displays 6 ft. apart and by placing signs around the store. 
  • Purchase non-medical protective equipment (gloves & masks) for employees: You may want to encourage customers to wear masks as well. This is particularly true if you serve a demographic that is considered high risk.
  • Use signage and social media to communicate physical distancing policies: Place signs both inside and outside of your store so customers are aware of the measures you are taking.
  • Review your fitting room policy if you are a clothing or apparel store. Many stores are no longer allowing fittings and instead relying on better descriptions or even fitting technology.
  • Modify your return and exchange policy: You may want to put a hold on return and exchanges for the time being given the hygiene concerns.
  • Limit the amount of customers allowed in-store: To promote physical distancing, have a limit on the amount of shoppers allowed in store at a time. This can be handled manually at the store or by offering online bookings for specific time slots through apps such as Eventbrite or SimplyBook.me for scheduled shopping solutions with personalized check-in.
  • Regularly clean and sanitize all surfaces, especially your PINpads which can be wrapped with plastic wrap so that they can be wiped down with sanitizer between every customer while still protecting the devices.
  • Make hand-sanitizer available to customers.
  • Adjust your store hours: Consider shortening your opening hours to help staff keep up with the extra cleaning required and to give them time to replenish stock.

Marketing

  • Promote on digital channels. Take advantage of digital channels such as social media, email, SMS etc. to let your customers know that your store is re-opening. Mention how your store is implementing health and safety procedures and physical distancing. Shoppers will still be hesitant to leave their homes. Give shoppers peace of mind that your store is safe. 
  • Run promotions. It will take time for things to return to normal. Incentivize shoppers by offering promotional deals or by highlighting relevant products (e.g. face masks). 
  • Update Google My Business. Make sure to update your Google My Business listing and let customers know you are open for curbside pickup or delivery. If you are planning on shortening your store hours, you should also adjust your hours of operation on your listing. 
  • Get added to local directories. Adding your business to local directory listings (Bing, Yahoo etc) will make it easier for shoppers to find you online. Directories like Support Retail were created during the pandemic as a free tool to help connect local businesses to shoppers in the area. 
Retail Reopening Checklist
Reopening for Curbside Pickup Only

We hope you found this article helpful!

For more information on how to take orders online and offer curbside pickup, click here.

What is Local SEO and how can it Benefit your Retail Store?

What is Local SEO and how can it Benefit your Retail Store?

Reaching a local audience is critical to the success of any brick-and-mortar retailer. This is why local search engine optimization (or local SEO) is so important. 

Local SEO helps store owners promote their retail business to local shoppers.

In this article, we’ll go into detail about what local SEO is and how it can benefit your retail business – from increasing your online visibility, driving foot traffic, and ultimately growing your revenue. 

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO stands for local search engine optimization. It is the process of “optimizing” your online presence so that your store can appear as high as possible in search results. By focusing on local SEO, you can attract more business from relevant local searches.

Essentially, the purpose of a local SEO strategy is to ensure that users can find you – both online and offline. 

The Importance of Local Search

shop local flag

According to Google: 

  • 4 in 5 shoppers use a search engine to find local information.

  • 50% of shoppers who conducted a local search on their smartphone, visited a store within the same day.

  • And 34% of users who searched on a computer/tablet did the same. 

Having said that, the amount of users that are conducting local searches is also growing at a significant rate. 

Over the past several years, there has been over a 500% growth rate in “near me” mobile searches that contain the phrases “can I buy” or “to buy”. 

For shoppers, search is no longer about finding a specific business. It is about finding a specific product in a specific place and in a specific period of time. 

The challenge for store owners then becomes giving target shoppers the answers they are looking for at the exact moment that they are searching. And by doing so, capturing both their interest and the sale. 

This is where local SEO comes in. 

The Benefits of Local SEO 

local store

We know that the modern shopper prefers to conduct product research online before making purchases in store. So it makes sense that retail businesses with the greatest local online presence (or a strong local SEO strategy) will capture the majority of sales in a certain area. 

Listed below are the key benefits of a local SEO strategy. 

Local SEO Strategies

seo strategy

As a local store owner, you may feel that investing time into your Google search ranking is useless as it means competing with larger retailers like Amazon and Walmart. But this isn’t the case for local search.

Google recognizes the benefits of local business and it knows that shoppers do too. So in order to determine how your business ranks in local search and if it is geographically relevant, Google takes a certain set of factors into consideration. 

With that being said, there are key elements to ranking well in local search – which can be broken down into the following three components: 

  1. Optimizing your Google My Business listing: Google My Business is a free online listing service offered by Google. It is a powerful yet easy tool that retailers can leverage to drive local foot traffic. To learn more about Google My Business, click here
  2. Optimizing your store’s website for on-site SEO: Increasing your on-site SEO involves updating your website to optimize for several ranking factors. This includes improving internal linking structure, building local content, optimizing for keywords (website URL, meta descriptions, titles, headers etc.), and ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly. 
  3. Optimizing for off-site SEO: This involves everything you should be doing across the web (other than your own website). Key strategies to focus on include NAP consistency, inbound links, and local directory listings. 

If you would like help implementing a local SEO strategy for your retail business, hiring a local SEO consultant is a good place to start. Click here for an informative and thorough guide on how to find the best local SEO company for your retail store. 


Keep an eye out on our blog for more SEO tips. 

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about how you can increase foot traffic and store sales, click here

 
What is a Retail Point of Sale System and why your Store Needs One

What is a Retail Point of Sale System and why your Store Needs One

A point of sale system is demonstrably the most important tool you can have when running a retail business. 

In fact, retail stores that invest in a strong POS system are quick to see a huge return on investment. 

A retail POS can help you save time and money by streamlining repetitive tasks, maintaining business records, and reducing human error. Even better, it can even help grow your retail business with useful data and marketing integrations.

Keep reading to find out more about how your retail business can benefit from a POS system.

What is a Retail POS?

grocery store checkout

Traditionally POS stands for “point of sale” – which refers to the place where a customer transaction occurs. Or in simpler terms, the point at which a customer hands over money in exchange for a product that they’ve purchased. 

For many retailers, this usually means the area surrounding the checkout line. For retailers who adopt cloud POS or mobile POS solutions, their whole store essentially becomes a point of sale. 

What is a Retail POS System?

pos system

To better manage in-store checkout, retail POS systems were created. The original POS systems were a combination of hardware and software that retailers used to manage their sales operations. Because POS systems are the only source of all detailed store sales, they eventually expanded to include everything from tracking customer history and taxes reports to advanced marketing and inventory management. 

Retail POS Software

Today, there are 2 main types of retail POS systems in the market: on-premise software and cloud-based subscriptions.

On-premise POS software: This type of software is installed on specific devices and usually does not rely on the Internet because the data is stored on the same devices. Because the database is stored “locally” in a specific server computer in your store, you can only access the data when you are in the store.

Cloud-based POS software: Cloud software stores data in an off-site cloud server (often hosted by a major cloud hosting service such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) and is accessed via the Internet. You can compare it to writing a report on Google Docs. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your report from anywhere. While there may be some limitations without Internet access with cloud systems, there are major gains in remote accessibility, cost-savings and real-time data accuracy. Click here for more information on the benefits of cloud-based retail POS software

There is also a 3rd type of “hybrid” retail POS system which combines a hardwired local connection with access to data in the cloud. While this type of solution reduces the reliance on Internet, it is often a more complex system to maintain and more commonly used by larger operations. At the same time, because it is designed to allow for longer offline use, there is greater potential for issues with data quality during “synchronization” of online and offline data.

Expert Tip! It’s also important to note that offline usage and “data integrity” actually work against each other. While it is key for operations to have usable salesscreen functions (or alternative ways of processing sales) when the internet or network is down, the quality of the pooled data is lower and less accurate the more often the stations in a POS are “offline.” So if getting accurate, accessible business data from anywhere is a major priority, it’s important to consider a system which prioritizes real-time data accuracy with fast and reliable data sharing and considers offline usage for emergency scenarios only. Systems that prioritize offline capabilities over the data sharing functionality will be designed for infrequent synchronization. While this may not be a concern for certain types of businesses, the reality is that omnichannel retailers that need real-time stock quantity and even restaurants that take online orders need accurate POS data to make better operational decisions. After all, customers now expect real-time information when they intend to shop or order something. It’s another reason why smart POS is now able to automatically help merchants update correct store information or product stock levels in real-time.

cloud POS

Retail POS Hardware

POS hardware includes all of the physical components of your POS system. It is usually comprised of the following items:

1. POS terminal: This is the hardware or device (computer, laptop, desktop etc.) that the POS software runs on.

Traditional, on-premise systems have limitations when it comes to hardware. This is because most on-premise solutions can only operate on certain devices and operating systems (such as Windows or Mac). 

To use on-premise POS software, a license must be installed on each device that a merchant wishes to operate on. At the same time, licenses are often tied to the hardware they are installed on and can be difficult or costly to transfer to other devices.  

For newer, cloud-based POS software, merchants can use any device with Internet connectivity to access their data – laptops, tablets, desktops and even mobile phones. Cloud POS software does not require merchants to pay per device, rather merchants often pay per active station (or users logged in at the same time). Transferable access offers multi-channel merchants a lot more flexibility when managing store operations.  

2. Cash Drawer: A cash drawer is an important yet simple part of a retail POS system. This piece of hardware provides both security and organization to retailers. It is where cash, coins, checks and credit card receipts are stored. 

The receipt printer will send signals to the cash drawer, prompting it to open when necessary.

cash drawer

3. Barcode Scanner: Barcode scanners are an important part of most retail stores. Compared to restaurants, retailers carry a lot more inventory and need to use barcode scanners to make checkout an easier and faster process for both store employees and shoppers. Scanners use lasers to read barcode numbers unique to each SKU and enter these numbers immediately in the POS software.

While most retail POS systems should be designed specifically for barcode scanners, it is important for there to be other search methods should barcode tags get damaged or lost. Without scanners, cashiers should be able to quickly search by product codes or keyword for each item in the store.

Expert Tip! Unless a retail store has a very low number of inventory items (e.g. coffee shop), the default salesscreen mode should be designed for barcode scanners. The picture gallery touchscreen mode commonly found in tablet-based POS was traditionally designed for restaurants where the number of inventory items is very low and is generally not efficient in retail stores with more than 500 unique SKUs. While some POS providers will serve both restaurants and retailers, if the default salesscreen is designed for touchscreen picture gallery, most likely the company that developed the original software started with a restaurant POS and later retrofit it for retail.

barcode scanner

4. Receipt Printer: Once a customer pays for the items that they have purchased, cashiers will usually hand them a receipt to confirm payment. While email receipts are increasingly popular, the majority of receipts are still printed based on the data received from the POS software. 

receipts

5. Credit Card Terminal: This is the hardware that store staff use to accept debit and credit card payments. Increasingly, shoppers prefer and make the majority of their purchases with credit and debit cards. 

There are three ways that credit card terminals can accept credit or debit payments: 

1) Using chip & PIN cards: Where shoppers insert chip & PIN cards to make a purchase. This type of payment is EMV-compliant and the most secure of the 3 types.

2) Swiping card magstripes: Where shoppers swipe their cards in order to make a payment. This type of payment is not EMV compliant and opens the merchant up to chargebacks on all payments processed.

3) Near-field-communication (NFC): Where shoppers use their devices (Apple or Google Pay) or simply tap their cards to pay. This type of payment is the fastest of the 3. While tap is not as risky as magstripes (it is generally only allowed for individual payments of up to $100), in a busy store, this can be costly as the merchant is still fully liable for any chargebacks.

credit card terminal

3 Reasons Why Your Retail Store Needs a POS System

1) Faster Checkout 

checkout line

Slower checkout speed often leads to abandonment. In fact, long lines and poor checkout experience are major contributors to low shopper dissatisfaction.

Adopting a POS software that is designed for checkout speed will help speed up store operations and improve shopper satisfaction. This is especially important for busy multi-lane stores as they often deal with long line-ups.

Faster checkout is also key to increasing revenue during high season or rush periods. The longer your customers wait in line, the slower your turnover and lower your sales.

Here are some checkout features to look out for when choosing a retail POS software designed for fast checkout:

Easy navigation: Look for a software that is designed for checkout speed and minimum clicks. You shouldn’t have to leave your salescreen in order to complete a transaction.

Fast scanning speed: Retail POS software should be designed for quick barcode scanning with easy recall of your last search. Make sure that the system you’re looking at is able to handle multiple barcodes per SKU as every retail product commonly has an internal code, a shortcode, a vendor code, a manufacturer code and possibly several carton codes.

Advanced inventory search: Besides barcode scanning speed, a retail POS software designed to handle high volume inventory or a large number of transactions quickly needs to be able to have smart search functions including keyword search by description, barcode or tag should labels not be scannable, etc.

If you want more information about adopting a line busting retail POS software that is designed for checkout speed, click here

2) Increased Mobility 

POS mobility

Retail POS systems – cloud POS software in particular, provide retailers with more flexibility and mobility. As data is stored in the cloud, store owners can access their business information around the clock from anywhere – even if they are not physically in the store. They can view inventory levels, tax reports and sales data right from the comfort of home or even on vacation. Well-designed cloud POS software can also function on any device – from tablets, laptops to smartphones. 

3) The Ability to Use the POS Data for Retail Marketing 

POS data

POS data is critical to the success of any business. This is because data provides retailers with the tools to effectively manage inventory, sales, and finances.

Besides standard sales and inventory reports, modern cloud-based retail POS systems help store owners sell more using their own POS data. Because cloud POS are particularly good at integrating with other cloud solutions, real-time store data can be shared other solutions such as e-commerce platforms, shipping services or listings such as Google My Business, which help improve SEO and drive more local foot traffic to stores.


We will be posting more POS tips in the upcoming weeks. 

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