To say that the current COVID-19 crisis represents a major change to the way we live our lives is, at this point, probably a bit of an understatement.
This is especially true in terms of how we do business, as the pandemic is already having a negative impact on restaurants in particular across the board. A lot of restaurants have seen sales decrease by as much as 70 percent in a lot of cases, with no end to the current situation in sight.
It isn't just that a lot of websites weren't ready for this. In my experience as a Google Certified Partner with over 15 years behind me in this industry, I'd go as far as to say that a lot of websites are actually slowing their respective businesses down – even though their owners have yet to realize it.
But thankfully, all hope is not lost. Not too long ago, we helped one local restaurant decrease their bounce rate by 18.5 percent in just one update and a lot of the techniques used in that situation still apply in this COVID-19 world we're now living in. It'll simply require a decidedly unique approach in these troubling times to help get you there.
Create Strategic Content Reflecting Your Response to COVID-19
Because things are changing so quickly, you need to create a multi-part strategy to address the proverbial "Elephant in the Room" head-on.
First, create a page dedicated to your unique response to COVID-19 as a business. It should contain all the obvious items like the extra sanitary practices you're going through, your adjusted hours of operation, and an overview of any special services you're offering like curbside pickup or no-contact delivery.
You should still use it as an opportunity to go the extra mile, however, by including special menu items on this page. You could offer family packages with all the ingredients to "create your own pizza at home" for households with kids, for example. It's a great way to build support with customers AND give them something to do with their little ones while everyone is stuck indoors, too.
You should also link to all of your various social media channels so that people can stay connected. If you've made an effort to donate to local heroes like firefighters, first responders or hospitals, post pictures and updates on your page regarding those activities as well.
Email Marketing: Keep People Informed
Along the same lines, you'll want to have a crystal clear and effortless way for customers to sign up for your email newsletter. Be sure to give people an incentive to sign up, too. It doesn't necessarily have to be a discount – you could give new customers a chance to try a free appetizer or even a free dessert.
Be sure to send everyone on your list at least two email blasts per week to keep them up to date on what you're doing. Likewise, be sure that the email contains a personal letter from you to create a more emotional response. After all this is over, you'll stand a much better chance of retaining this new business – thus helping you get "back to normal" as quickly as possible.
The Power of Mobile-First Design
It's no secret that millions upon millions of people own smartphones, tablets and other types of mobile devices these days. What you might not realize is that even if you're a primarily a dine-in restaurant, the chances are high that the majority of your orders and/or reservations are still coming from these mobile devices.
Therefore, you need to make sure that your menus are easily readable on any mobile device a customer happens to be using. PDF menus run contrary to this goal, so get rid of them as quickly as possible.
In no uncertain terms: if it isn't super easy for someone to see your menu on their phone, they aren't going to order. Don't give someone an opportunity to run straight into the arms of one of your competitors.
Represent the Kids
According to one recent study, a massive 40 percent of all households in the United States had kids under the age of 18 as of 2019. To take that one step further, this means that at least 40 percent of your orders are going to be serving kids, too.
Therefore, one of the biggest opportunities you have to really generate excitement and interest via your website is to represent your kid’s menu and all related special options whenever you can. You could even include a fun testimonial or two from kids to really seal the deal.
If you also offer kid-friendly coloring kids or special items of that nature, be sure to feature it on your page so people know they can take advantage of it. You'd be surprised by how much of an impact this alone can make.
Sell Those Gift Cards Online
In an era where people want to support their local businesses but can't actually leave the house to do so, gift cards have emerged as one of the best ways to accomplish exactly that. Therefore, you need to set up a super simple form or cart item so that your own business can get in on the action.
Once someone places an order, simply mail the customer the gift card so that they can use it at a later date. Not only is this easy and fast, but it also gets cash into your pocket TODAY. To really incentivize people to take this step, you could even put gift cards in your online ordering system and include it in the order. You may even want to offer gift cards at a discount – like a $50 valued gift card available for only $40, for example.
Beyond that, don't forget to use this opportunity to make sure that your Google My Business page is as optimized as possible. Google is now letting customers add to the title of their page, so you could do something like "[BUSINESS NAME HERE] – Still Open for Delivery!"
Not only is this an additional way to keep people informed, but it also makes you more viewable on Google, too. Additionally, you should know that Google has suspended new reviews for the time being – so again, this is one of those situations where you need to leverage every opportunity to stand out to your advantage, regardless of how small it may seem.