West Center recently read the following article that appears in the May 2021 edition of AllBusiness.com. If you have a small business, check out these tips for creating a comfortable post-pandemic shopping experience.

From ramping up online offerings to implementing new health and safety protocols, the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way people do business—especially for physical retail stores navigating the future of post-pandemic shopping. While it can be challenging for companies to pivot their operations based on customers’ changing needs and expectations, it can also serve as a unique opportunity for growth.

To help you thoughtfully transform your in-store experience, 12 members of Young Entrepreneur Council answered the following question:

Especially with the pandemic changing how people do business, what’s one way a business owner can transform their customers’ in-store experience for the better now and moving forward?

1. Properly staff your store
In my experience running a business with both an e-commerce and a retail component, customers who shop in-store now want to experience your physical products and/or want their hands held while meeting face-to-face. Now is the optimal time to refocus on providing a customer-centric experience, and ensuring that you have enough in-store reps to fully engage customers. —Adam Mendler, The Veloz Group

2. Offer the option to buy online and pick up in-store
Customers still want to be able to have a hands-on experience, while at the same time feel safe. Give customers the option to purchase online and pick up since most people want items immediately instead of waiting for shipping. If you can even meet them in their car that is a plus. Also, set up private times for people to come in and shop by themselves or with a friend. —Daniel Robbins, IBH Media, Bintana Sa Paraiso, His skincare

3. Implement Covid-friendly safety measures
As an e-commerce business, the pandemic has not presented the same challenges to me as to others. However, for an in-store experience, I would focus on restructuring my setup to accommodate safety measures. I would provide disposable masks, hand sanitizer, and temperature checks. I would space out my most popular displays or consider doubling them so that people could explore the products while social distancing. —Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

4. Adopt touchless technologies
Most credit card terminals offer touchless, but there are other technologies for smaller businesses, including iPay and PayPal, that are operative from iPads, etc. Making your customer feel safe is your first priority, and the second is making the transaction as easy as possible. Only offer email receipts to avoid further potential contaminations. —Matthew Capala, Alphametic

5. Start the customer relationship before they arrive
One clever way to transform the in-store experience is to start the process before they arrive. You could let users fill out a consultation form or order products for pickup, just to name two examples. People are going to continue to keep their distance, so minimizing interactions is still essential, especially when it comes to in-store environments. —John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

6. Prioritize health and safety for post-pandemic shopping
Add a glass or plastic cover on the cashier area between the staff and customers to avoid infection. This will also help protect the cashier staff against thieves. Another suggestion is to put disinfectant in the store to practice hygiene, even after Covid. —Daisy Jing, Banish

7. Develop a community experience
Make your store more than a place to stock products. Create a community with your target market around topics they enjoy. This is where online analytics can help with offline marketing. Facebook data, like what your typical buying audience finds interesting, can be used to make your store a beacon for that topic or thing. A good example can be food or music. —Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS

8. Offer real-time insight into your inventory
Many people are afraid to visit stores and don’t want to spend much time inside them. Give customers web- or app-based resources to see your real-time inventory on a virtual map of your store. This way they can see what you have in stock and pinpoint the location in the store, minimizing their time inside. These resources will create a safer shopping experience now and a better one in the future. —Shaun Conrad, Guitar Repair Bench

9. Plan a pop-up experience
Learn from the success of pop-up shops. Both retail stores and restaurants have looked to pop-ups as a way to keep in-person shopping and dining alive. Pop-up shops can transform in-store experiences without huge overhead expenses or costly touchless infrastructures. They still give customers the personalized experience they crave, but do so in a safe way that is cost-effective for the business. —Jordan Conrad, Writing Explained

10. Add personalization
With the pandemic forever changing the retail industry, it’s important to find ways to transform your in-store experience. There are still customers who enjoy walking into stores and making purchases. You can transform the experience by personalizing it for subgroups of your target market. This will show them relevant offers and products that encourage them to buy. —Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

11. Give customers space for post-pandemic shopping
People have changed the way they think about shopping because of the pandemic. Many shoppers who visit stores now will be doing so after months of staying home and isolation. The days of pushy sales representatives are over. People will still want their distance, so make sure you are giving customers space so they enjoy the wonders of shopping in stores again. —Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

12. Simplify your store design and product availability
Business owners can transform their in-store experience by simplifying the design of their stores and product availability. We’ve seen a dramatic shift in simplicity in the digital landscape and that trend is beginning to shift to physical locations. As restrictions are lifted and businesses get back in action, we will see an emphasis on orderly and functional design. —Chris Christoff, MonsterInsight