Ensuring that your customers can shop safely and with confidence needs to remain a priority for retailers

A return to normal? Not yet.

Coronavirus isn’t dominating the headlines in the same way it was two years ago. But with some experts forecasting a COVID-19 and flu ‘twindemic’ on the horizon, ensuring that your customers can shop safely and with confidence needs to remain a priority for retailers.

A report this month from the WHO and ECDC says that Europe is entering another wave of COVID infections and last month (September 2022) the Office for National Statistics in the UK (ONS) found that coronavirus remains a significant concern for many, with around one in four adults (25%) across Great Britain reporting ‘always’ or ‘often’ maintaining social distancing outside their home, and the same percentage reporting using a face covering when outside their home.

Among those who are most concerned are those in the more vulnerable age groups, whose spending dropped dramatically at the start of the pandemic. This drop was attributed to the fact those over 55 are typically more affected by health concerns. More recently there has been higher growth in spending for those in this age group, which could potentially indicate a build-up of involuntary savings during the restrictions period, according to research by the ONS. As the risk of coronavirus increases as winter approaches, retailers need to be particularly sensitive to their concerns and respond appropriately.

Look at your online offering

From the very start of the pandemic, technology has been at the heart of successful retail adaptation, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. This McKinsey insight into emerging consumer trends in a post-COVID-19 world reports: “Credit and debit card data revealed a nearly 20 percent increase in online spending since January 2020, and this pandemic-induced surge in ecommerce was no hiccup.

“The digital future is here to stay. Some 92 per cent of consumers who tried online shopping in 2019 became converts, cementing an emergency response into an indispensable habit. Ecommerce also redefined convenience, with even traditionally tactile shopping experiences such as grocery shopping enjoying a notable surge.”

Ship from store is a pandemic retail trend which is set to continue, and click and collect remains a popular option for those keen to minimise the time spent in store, and those who simply appreciate the convenience. Showrooming allows retailers to offer exclusive products that can be displayed in their stores and made available for purchase on their website. This allows customers to get the best of both worlds — the convenience of online shopping and the ability to physically view the product.  

Mobile-driven purchasing has boomed across Europe in the last two years with the help of social shopping. Ecommerce Europe reports that online spending has grown by 13% last year and in the UK, research has revealed that over 55s contributed to a 42 percent increase in social shopping, with targeted ads and influencers driving sales on channels such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.

Back to bricks and mortar

For retailers to encourage shoppers into physical stores for their festive shopping, they will need to respond to their changed expectations and put themselves in shoppers’ shoes. Integrating ecommerce into your physical store can reduce the time people need to spend inside the store, though not reduce their financial spend. QR codes, for example those used in shop windows, can signpost your customers instantly to your products online, even outside of opening hours, if they’re unwilling to enter the shop, or if you are unable to open in case of a lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move away from cash, which we wrote about back in 2020. Two years on, we’re closer than ever to a cashless society and retailers who have introduced app-based payments in their stores are reaping the benefits, while consumers are enjoying friction-free, reduced-risk shopping through their phone or watch.

Keep it clean

Retailers have a duty to keep both their customers and their staff safe when they’re in store. Increased stocks of cleaning products, including those that can be used on contact surfaces during opening hours, no-contact dispensers for hand sanitiser, face masks and gloves are all worth investing in. By taking these measures you’re not just protecting people, but your bottom line too - any increase in sick leave can seriously impact on keeping your business financially sound.

One thing’s for sure – COVID-19 has changed the world of retail immeasurably, accelerating the shift towards a digital world and sparking big changes in online and in-store shopping behaviours. There’s no going back, but there are lots of simple steps you can take to ensure that you’re meeting your customers’ expectations while keeping them safe.

For more advice on getting your retail environment in the best possible shape as we approach peak season, speak to our team on +31 (0) 88 494 20 80 or email us at online@worldpack.eu.

David Mines
Business Development Director

Do you have an odd request? Call us to challenge us!

Contact us directly
+31(0) 88 494 20 80