This article is part of Raydiant’s Re-opening of Brick and Mortar series which aims to provide insights, ideas, and resources to business owners and executives in the retail industry to know how to prepare and what strategies could be implemented while re-opening their businesses in the current COVID-19 context.
We’ve collaborated with different executives, business owners, and thought leaders to crowdsource insights and expertise that will ensure this content is timely, and helpful as possible.
Imogen Wethered, CEO and founder of Qudini
Even outside of lockdown, consumers will be avoiding stores as much as possible, suggesting that to build customer confidence in visiting them, brands will need enhanced customer management processes that ensure social distancing inside and outside of stores.
Allowing customers to pre-book their visits online or managing walk-in customers in virtual queues that update them by SMS and smartphone as their turn draws near can help with this.
Julie Bula, CFO and Co-Founder at Sweft LLC
Retailers need to focus on what their customer expectations are for the experience they want when they walk back through their doors. Is it a personal touch or an expedient purchase? Stay at home has created pent up demand for normalcy. People are creatures of habit. They rationally understand that there will be changes when they enter their favorite stores again, but will still crave some sense of the familiar. Whether or not a retailer can figure out what the key factors are for their customers and make them happen as much as possible will determine their re-opening success.
Anne Mezzenga, CEO and Co-founder of Omni Talk and Third Haus
Think lean. What are the baseline operations you can put in place that allow you to serve your customer, maintain safety of customers and your staff, and allow you to quickly scale up or down as you get more data and information from how your customers are shopping. There should be a strong focus on back of house fulfilling orders quickly and accurately, high inventory visibility to avoid out of stock and dissatisfied customers, and doubling down on the reason that your customers are shopping with you in the first place. Show that you won’t let them down.
Debbie Hauss, Executive Director of Content, Retail TouchPoints
They need to make sure they have the protocol for sanitizing and social distancing in place, and bring the entire internal team into the discussion. There will be stress – both internally and from shoppers – so frontline staff has to be trained to be able to handle any incidents and avoid confrontations that could be harmful.
Retailers with stores in multiple states need to determine, ahead of time, if they are going to follow individual states’ protocols or if they are going to put their own protocol in place for the entire company.
Victoria Peppiatt, co-founder and COO of Phrasee
As lockdown starts to lift, businesses around the world will begin the race to get ahead in the marketing ramp-up and technology will play a crucial role in enabling this. Now is the time to dial up tech investments to amplify digital, be willing to try new things and test out new strategies to stay competitive in the current ever-changing landscape. Crucially, now is the time to reach out to trusted partners who are there to augment digital and can help you steer your brand on a path to long-term success.
Joshua Williams, founding president of Fashion Consort and assistant professor of fashion management, Parsons School of Design
Retailers should be thinking very much about their core customers and the key products and services customers expect from them. Even before the pandemic, retailers were beginning to realize that customers want more focused merchandise offerings and more authentic brand experiences, that tied back to the customer’s lifestyle.
Additionally, retailers should really be looking at their total retail operation, and determine exactly how to optimize digital to decrease “high touch” areas of business.
Charu Thomas, Founder at Oculogx
The faster you can get your BOPIS offerings up-and-running, the better off you are in serving customers. It’s important, more than ever, to think about how to leverage stores as micro-distribution points for e-commerce operations. Omnichannel used to be a buzzword, but it’s becoming a necessity more than anything.
Lynn Xu, Chief of Retail Solution, Clobotics
Retailers should prepare for a big appetite of consumers looking for varieties when they come back to the store.
They’ll look for ‘treats’, not necessarily luxurious but make them feel a little indulged.
Attractive shelf displays, promotion on ‘rewarding me’ type of products and occasions will revive their love of shopping.
Sarah Assous, CMO of Zoovu
Retailers need to be thinking about how to create a true omnichannel experience that is centered around addressing customer’s needs and wants to simplify the buyer’s journey.
Those who adapted quickly to prioritize digital strategy and improving the buyer’s journey to ensure their customers could continue to purchase from their stores during the pandemic will be the winners long term.
Neil Saunders, Managing Director, Retail at Global Data
Retailers need to put in place clear policies and operating routines to keep their customers and staff safe. This includes ensuring stores are configured to allow for social distancing, getting protective equipment for workers, communicating policies to shoppers and associates, and training those who work on the front-line.
How stores operate has changed and helping everyone to understand this is a key part of re-opening successfully.
Cami Zimmer, Chief Business Officer at Glympse
In my opinion, retailers should have already begun strategic planning for curbside pickup strategies, how to keep their employees and customers safe/healthy, build on their e-commerce solutions, as well as put together a plan for if and when another outbreak should happen. I know that safety of employees and customers is number one on their lists, and rightfully so. Consumers will return with a very large concern about personal safety – A report in April stated that 31% of cited this as their number one concern returning to pre-crisis commerce activities.
Marci Weisler, Chief Commercial Officer at Vengo
Retailers need to rethink the entire in-store experience, given both health and safety guidelines and consumer behavior, from traffic patterns, to layouts, to experiences. They need to take advantage of tech-forward solutions to marketing, sampling, selling and stocking.
Many shoppers are antsy to get out but they will be hesitant to touch and feel and spend time in crowded stores. There needs to be engagement, but at a distance.