What do customers want?

Lessons for the best in-store experience post-COVID.

As countries emerge out of lockdown and stores start reopening, many retailers are asking what customers want and how they can deliver it.

The restrictions designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus are having a profound impact on the way we live our lives and how we all view the world. Retailers are having to think one step ahead all the time as they refit and update stores for welcoming customers back.

But it is not just about ensuring safety guidelines have been put in place. For many consumers, the ‘back to the shops’ trip is one of their first outings to a new world. What they want is far more than retail therapy. It is a connection with the brands they know and love and to feel safe in their future experiences with them.

For some retailers, this is easy to understand, and they have already been thinking about how omnichannel can work alongside the in-store experience. For others, it is a challenge to face.

Retail futurist Doug Stephens has said previously that: “Brands and retailers would be wiser to build their value proposition to address deeper, more universal human needs. The need for security, recognition, belonging, entertainment, inspiration, purpose and respect etc. — these are things every human wants and needs. If more retailers focused on mastering these broad human needs, as opposed to buying into demographic and psychographic profiling, we'd have a much lower failure rate in retail.”

Post Covid, this has never been truer.

Consumer confidence

In Germany, stores have opened their doors again, but people are staying away saying they do not feel comfortable in enclosed spaces. Precautions such as masks and hand disinfection help to contain the virus but, very few people feel genuinely comfortable in shops, and for now at least, the traditional shopping spree is a no-go, says the German Retail Federation (HDE).

In new research by mobile advertising company, TabMo, which canvassed UK consumers the week before non-essential retail outlets were allowed to restart trading, 74% of respondents said they would go back to stores they frequently visited before lockdown as soon as the government said it is safe to do so.

However, key findings from the research showed that 48% thought purchasing in-store would be less enjoyable than before the pandemic, and that while many survey respondents were unsure about their future shopping habits, 48% said they are more likely to browse online first and then purchase in-store.

Chris Childs, managing director for TabMo, UK, who ran the survey, said: “Retailers, brands and advertisers need to prepare for people heading back to the shops. As well as the offering itself, that means getting communications right – encouraging people to visit retail outlets in person while being sensitive to the high degrees of anxiety and uncertainty that still exist and recognising that, while lockdown has eased, the pandemic is far from over.”

Getting the omnichannel mix right and putting in place clear signs that retailers have really thought about the customer experience will be important to maintain the sense of security and trust between them and consumers.

Our advice to retailers

Alice van der Westen, Worldpack’s Business Development Manager, adds: “A lot of the advice we are giving customers currently is to take a physical walk around the store to ensure guidelines at key customer points are in place, whether that is the entrance, the one-way route around the store, fitting rooms or at the pay point.

“But while you are doing this, ensure the tone of messaging, signage and the products that are in place fit with your brand’s tone of voice and will make customers feel that their safety and experience is front of mind.

“It may be little things that you put in place, but it will make a world of difference to someone who is wary of being back at the shops. The last thing a retailer wants is for word of mouth marketing to be warning people away from stores, when everyone is wanting to get back to normal as soon as possible. Then do the same for your online channels and check your customer journey in the digital space. Retailers are usually fantastic at understanding their customers’ needs and many are working on an omnichannel strategy, linking in-store and online messaging with renewed passion, but there is always room for improvement and post Covid, if you’re not delivering with any of your customer touchpoints, you are missing out.”

For advice on getting your retail environment in top shape for consumers, speak to our team on +31 (0) 88 494 20 80 or email us at online@worldpack.eu

David Mines
Business Development Director

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