Future gazing

What’s next for retail after Covid-19?

Can you remember the pre-Xmas shopping frenzy? Black Friday? Getting ready for a store opening? They seem like a distant memory, but one thing was for certain – in the times before the Coronavirus pandemic, the retail space was already evolving. Even after years of work, omnichannel was still a work in progress and brands were fighting against the online giants such as Amazon.

What does a post Covid-19 retail world look like?

So what is next for retail in a post Covid-19 world? We have seen the closure of Oasis and Warehouse in the past few weeks and Germany’s HDE retail association has asked the government to give immediate state aid and tax relief to stop businesses going bust. Will consumers go on massive shopping sprees and be looking for intense, amazing in-store experiences once we are released from our homes? Will feeling safe in-store be more important than what is on the shelves? Or will everything remain as it is in lockdown, with online buying and home deliveries becoming the new normal?

At Worldpack, we are remaining positive when looking at the current Coronavirus pandemic in relation to the retail space. We believe that what the current climate is teaching us is that there is room for every retail offering in all shapes, sizes and localities – community-focused farm shops, online, out of town and for the independent High Street stores too, and there is always room for improvement.

Globally, we have all had a shared experience and have seen the good and the bad that retail has to offer. One of the key things that should be celebrated is the pace at which retail can adapt in a crisis. We have seen retailers dealing with completely different working conditions while maintaining a business and a great customer experience. In fact, those retailers who adapted quickly are ahead of the game, and were probably those that were leading the way in making omnichannel a reality prior to the pandemic.

Lessons learnt

Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The Coronavirus pandemic has been and continues to be a gamechanger. It has set precedents for retailers to think differently, creatively and it has changed the perception of both businesses and consumers forever. There is no going back to continuing as before Covid-19. Anyone who tries to do this is going to be fighting a losing battle.

Instead, it is time to do things differently and learn from the current situation. It seems that some form of social distancing will be with us for some time, so now is the time to review what we have learnt and to start planning for the retail and shopper experience of the future, while we can.

Agility and communication

Retailers have been superb at working with shorter deadlines and meeting the increased demand in the marketplace with agility and foresight being the key skills in play. With a tight turnaround, many have adapted and moved to a completely online business. Retailers and brands that had good communication with all parties in the supply chain were the ones that best coped with a fast-changing environment, capitalising on the omnichannel work already in place and ramping up the online side of their business. But this communication and speed were also key in sourcing products for home workers with printer paper, stationery, headsets and wine on offer, to help keep business running as normal.

Understanding your customer

Now is the time to regroup with the marketing teams and understand your customer base and what it will want in the coming months – whether that is more of the same or something completely different.

In new research ‘Product opportunities during COVID-19’ published by ResearchAndMarkets.com, it highlights that consumers spending the majority of their time in their homes will want something different from digital screens, creating significant sales opportunities for those retailers who can literally think outside the box! For fashion retailers, despite the doom and gloom, there has been significant growth in certain areas. Since the lockdown a month ago, online demand for loungewear - the hybrid between pyjamas and tracksuits - has soared 322% in the UK, according to LoveTheSales.com, a shopping website that aggregates sale items from 850 retailers. And with Vogue editor Anna Wintour sporting casual attire while working in self-isolation, now might be the time to increase the order for chic onesies for the Christmas period!

Listening to customers and meeting demands, or at least managing expectations by being realistic and creative is next on the to-do list. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced us to rethink how we behave, but the retailers who are communicating with customers and asking them what is important to them are the ones who will ultimately come out on top.

Forced to focus more on their online offering due to Coronavirus, more traditional businesses that were reluctant to embrace online have been thrown in at the deep-end. Building on this is a great opportunity for the future, with brands not putting their online offering in competition with their in-store experiences, but instead ensuring they work in tandem with omnichannel moving from a buzzword to a real opportunity to build on brand legacy.

The Coronavirus pandemic has shown and reinforced the need for physical and social connections with High Street shops being one of the main places this can happen. It’s likely the role of the High Street may evolve again and for many stores, showrooming with expert staff on hand will become de facto. What is important is that no matter where the sales transition takes place – online or in store, the customer experience should be consistent.

Future important focuses

As well as the focus on the different channels that retailers will use, there are a plethora of other issues that consumers will have. One of them is sustainability. Top of the agenda before lockdown, the climate was in the news every day and it seemed Greta Thunberg was taking over the world.

As we emerge from lockdown, will sustainability still grab people’s attention, or is getting back to normal at any cost more important? For anyone in the retail business, the question needs to be considered as consumers, who have also been changed by this experience and who are appreciative of the lower emissions and better climate, will be keen to ask more about the environmental aspect of supply when shopping.

What can retailers work on now?

There is hope that because of the way retail has responded to the Coronavirus challenge that it will be given more respect as things return to normal. But again, this will only be warranted as we continue to adapt, and businesses open up again. So, what can you be doing now to make sure you are one step ahead? Despite not knowing exact timings, planning and forecasting for when shops relaunch is vital, and as well as having the right products on view, and creating the right in-store experience, you will need to ensure consumers feel safe when they visit your store.

Additionally, the global population has now fully embraced online shopping and click and collect, so these experiences need to be perfect if you are to outshine your competition. Part of this is reviewing the skills your staff members have and deciding whether you need them to upskill. The expectation of superb customer service, right across the board is going to be one of the things that a retailer is judged on, so get training now.

Finally, continue to be agile. If you need some inspiration for your store relaunch, some advice on sustainable packaging or what you should be putting in place for social distancing in store for when we open up, Worldpack can help. Remember the more we understand your business aims, the more we can support you. If you can take this time to perfect your planning, product offering, in-store experience and customer service, you will come out winning, so give us a call today.

Need our help with planning for store relaunches or sourcing products for online? Contact us on online@worldpack.eu or by ringing +31(0) 88 494 20 80.

David Mines
Business Development Director

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