A different kind of shopping
It is going to take time for some shoppers to regain their confidence. This is particularly true of the most vulnerable age groups, which cumulatively account for around half of total disposable income in many countries. Retailers need to be sensitive to their concerns and respond appropriately.
Accommodating click and collect, preferably with online payment in advance to reduce time in store is one option. So is embracing showrooming, giving customers the opportunity to browse in store but have products delivered to their homes, so they don’t need to interact with physical products that could have been touched by countless unknown individuals. Integrating ecommerce with a high street presence, through better in-store signposting, QR codes and integrated payment methods will not only reduce the likelihood of real-world customers shopping with online rivals, but also reinforce customer loyalty built up in one realm to another platform altogether.
Building customers confidence
As stores prepare to welcome back their first customers, staff will need to consider what changes should be made. Those that enjoyed limited business between bouts of lockdown may already have social distancing signage in place, but with regulations changing in response to evolving scientific advice, it is important to ensure that they remain both compliant and relevant. This is not only in customers’ interests, either: shop workers are significantly more likely to die from coronavirus. Employers have a legal and moral obligation to look after them – and a financial one too, as any increase in sick leave could impact their ability to rebuild in the wake of the most recent shutdowns.
Increased stocks of cleaning products, including those that can be used on contact surfaces during opening hours, no-contact dispensers for hand sanitiser and, of course, face masks, are all essential, and should be secured well in advance of re-opening. Likewise, protective coverings for stock that customers should be discouraged from touching unless making a purchase, and in some cases, gloves for staff who will need to interact with customers directly should be considered, along with an increase in disposables. High-end brands may baulk at the idea of offering a complimentary drink in a disposable cup, but it is our belief that the majority of customers will appreciate not having to question whether reusable crockery and glassware has been properly washed.
Small, but obvious changes
Retail has many reasons to thank the world’s vaccine researchers and manufacturers, but responsibility for rebuilding public confidence doesn’t rest on science alone. If retail is to benefit from a return to physical shopping, it can’t simply carry forward the formats that worked in 2019. Those days are over for now – and perhaps for good.
Customers’ expectations have changed. The good news is that retail doesn’t need to make enormous changes to meet them. It just needs to make it obvious that it will never allow the bottom line to trump its commitment to customers’ health.