Small Business Website Covid Help
Even though we are socially distant, it does not mean you need to be distant from your customers.
The world has changed and consumers are more health and safety conscience. The way we do business will be different for a long time.
It's important you convey how your business is handling the current health situation and concerns.
Instead of looking at the changes 2020 has brought to our lives as an obstacle, embrace them and make them opportunities to grow your business.
Because we are staying home and more cautious about patronizing a business websites are more important than ever.
The question is, does your website help your business convey how you engage with customers in your store or office? Are you conveying your updated standards and procedures?
What about attracting potential employees. Can they visit your site and feel like you are a safe place to work?
You site is the first place this information is conveyed. Not having an updated site and capabilities can be the make or break connection to keep your business going.
Today my wife and daughter were looking for information about a local bowling alley. They were deciding if it was safe for a Saturday afternoon of fun.
The alley's website was not updated and not very helpful. In fact it had not been updated in a very long time. The photos and information was stale.
For the record you should make an effort to keep your site content fresh even if there is not a global pandemic. It conveys a pulse not only to customers, but search engines as well.
What can you include in your website to help customers know what to expect? How about making it easy for customers to pre-order for pickup and scheduling times?
This may sound like a hassle, but it can be an opportunity for growth. You can use new site features and content to drive long term digital engagement with customers.
Have you thought about how to leverage online health and safety features to build a long term connection? Offer coupons or rewards for using your site to make in person visits easier?
To goal is to gain customer trust and easy purchasing.
You are going to see how you can upgrade your site to build customer confidence, increase relationships and elevate your business to success.
As a bonus you should upgrade your website to a progressive web application. Your new customer engagement extends beyond that initial visit. You need a platform where customers can engage with you digitally more than ever. PWAs offer that level of engagement without needing and expensive app no one wants to fuss with downloading.
- Create a Helpful Homepage Hero
- Include a Health and Safety Frequently Asked Questions
- Add an Automated Chatbot
- Coronavirus COVID-19 Advisory Notice or Policies Page
- Provide Online Waivers
- Allow Customers to Schedule Appointments
- Pre-Order and Contactless Payment
- Use Features to Improve Customer Lifetime Value
- Call to Action
Create a Helpful Homepage Hero
The hero section is the top, above the fold content. We call it a hero because it is a bold photo or illustration that sells your benefits. These sections are typically the full page width and even the height of the display.
Heroes have a large promotion, offer or call to action statement.
Today you can sell your health and safety policies by using a clear photo of these in action.
A common photo today highlights your staff with a face mask conducting normal service. Take the Starbucks home page hero as a good example of how to use this section.
You can use stock photography, but it works even better if you have a quality photo you take yourself. The Starbucks hero not only shows the employee wearing a mask, they are also delivering the order to the patron's car. A clear sign of new, personal and safe service.
The text also conveys a sense of business as usual, highlighting the upcoming holiday season. No different than if there were no pandemic.
Include a Health and Safety Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions or FAQs have been a helpful resource for a long time. Today they should be updated to answer new questions related to health and safety procedures.
Consider the following topics as an initial set of questions or inspiration for your FAQs.
- Are appointments required or possible?
- Are facemask required and when are they optional
- Do you take temperatures, if so how? What is acceptable?
- Do you require a waiver and how to access or pre-sign?
- What are your entrance procedures? Do I need to call or notify when I arrive?
- Is social distancing and spacing marked off?
Try to think of any and everything a customer may want to know. Don't worry if you don't cover every question. Just add them as they are asked.
Some of these questions above are expanded on as this article. You will see how you can add these features to your website.
Add an Automated Chatbot
Chatbots have been growing in popularity in recent years. Many businesses fear chatbots because they think they need to manned in real-time. This is not the case.
You can include a chatbot on your site with a programmed bot or engine to answer questions. We offer chatbots with intelligent artificial intelligence. They match user intent with supplied answers.
You can create a set of intents based on your frequently asked questions. Don't limit your chatbot to just health and safety policies. You should also include general answers and resources about your products and services.
I also like chatbots because they are great ways to collect real questions your customers are asking. As they are collected you can add unanswered questions to your bot. It also helps you understand your customers better so you can provide services they want.
BONUS: A chatbot can do more than answer questions. It can also take orders or make appointments! Look at upgrading your chatbot integration to automate your business.
Coronavirus COVID-19 Advisory Notice or Policies Page
Having a page dedicated to how your business is and has adapted to COVID and other health concerns can go a long way. It can be a long form article describing your policies and expectations.
For a local or small business this page can help give you another point of contact for local search engine results. I also suspect it can serve as a quality signal to search engines. They are always looking for quality signals to rank sites.
Today, a Corona or COVID-19 policy page fits into the same category.
A good COVID policy page should include at least the following:
- The impact on customers
- How employees are being protected through social distancing
- How customer service will be affected
- The location of changes to service
- A minimum time the action will be taken for
- list cleaning and health policies
- include real photos of you and your staff being safe
Having written content and photos are great. Also consider recording a video and posting it on YouTube. You can include it on your policy page. A business owner, manager or trusted employee connecting with visitors can go a long way.
BONUS: Create a series of short YouTube videos. We don't like watching long videos, 10 minutes seems to be the max. Consumers are looking for different answers. A series of short 1-2 minute videos focusing on a specific topic can give you even more points of contact.
Provide Online Waivers
Back in late May my gym was able to open up for outdoor classes. They had all of us sign a long waiver, indemnifying them from liability. It also stated what my responsibilities were to keep my classmates safe.
I don't know about you, I like filling out paperwork online more than I do in person. Having this sort of stuff out of the way when I get there is so much easier. It also reduces time and potential contact exposures.
You can add a simple form with the details of your waivers online. Customers can fill those out ahead of time and you have a record of them signing the waiver.
Allow Customers to Schedule Appointments
This is a big one. My gym and dojo both want us to sign up for classes ahead of time. Today classes have attendance restrictions that previously were loosely enforced. Now they are strictly enforced.
Having an online schedule or appointment book can make you and your customer's life easier.
A good appointment system should also provide confirmation and follow up notifications. This can be done through email, SMS or push.
Don't forget to provide an appointment card that can be added to the customer's calendar.
After the class or appointment it can provide follow ups. You can use these to get feedback and provide the customer additional information. For example a doctor may provide information about medications, side effects or what to expect.
An appointment book is a way to organize your businesses capacity and connect with clients. Plus it is automated, reducing the load on your employees.
As a bonus you may even be able to connect your online booking system with your accounting software for automated billing and invoices.
Pre-Order and Contactless Payment
I love being able to order before I go to the store. My meal or products are just waiting on me when I arrive. I am in and out, often in less than a minute.
Ordering online has been around for 25 years. Amazon started taking orders for books back in 1996!
Setting up an online store is easier than ever before. We can setup a custom store in as little as a day. This includes online payment through Stripe and PayPal.
For in store pick up be sure to include clear instructions on pick up policies and procedures. Also give the customer the option of when they will arrive. Most stores give me the option of ASAP or up to 5 more specific times. Your order policies may vary, which is why you want a solution that allows you to control what is offered.
Also consider your through put. If you have been to Chic-fila you know how busy they get. If you are at or near capacity consider pushing pick up times so your staff is not overworked.
Use Features to Improve Customer Lifetime Value
You may be frustrated with all the new requirements our new way of life requires. Let's turn those lemons into some tasty lemonade.
To reduce physical contact customers are more digital then before. This means they need to register, providing contact information. Use this as a way to extend the relationship beyond the initial contact.
Offer coupons, discounts and even a reward program. Now you can continue the relationship with periodic emails, SMS or push notifications.
Be sure to get the customer's permission.
Having a website that is more than a website is what you need. Progressive Web Apps are websites that offer app-like functionality. The main difference is the consumer does not need to go to a store and download a bulky app. You also are spared the expense of developing and maintaining a native app.
When someone visits your site they have your application. Beyond visiting they can install your PWA and unlock even more features and convivence.
Some features the web offers include:
- Native Push Notifications
- Camera, Voice, Audio, Video
- Direct Linking
- Online payments
Basically anything a native app can do a progressive web app can do, just easier.
Call to Action
Most likely you have already compiled a list of business procedures and policies related to the pandemic. If you have not integrated those on your site, now is the time to do so.
Even after the pandemic is over, the way we do business has changed. The residual affects will remain and you should act now.
Don't stop with your website either. Be sure to post some or all your content on your Google My Business, LinkedIn, Facebook and other online profile pages.
Other standard practices for your small business' online profile are to include ways for customers to contact you. Make sure you have a contact form on your site. I like having the form on every page, typically in the footer.
For most businesses phone calls are important. Display your phone number in the header and footer. To make it even easier, make sure the phone number is a link that automatically dials your number. You can do the same for Skype, WhatsApp and other messaging channels.
Does your website sell your modern, safe business environment? If not how do you plan to inform your customers how you have adapted.