This article is part of Raydiant’s Re-opening of Brick and Mortar series which interviews top retail industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the sector, how retailers should prepare for the re-opening and what trends, challenges and changes are expected over the next few months.
What will the re-opening of retail look like?
AM: I call it “Shopping Lite.” Stores will be operating with minimal staff, for as few hours as possible until they can start gathering enough consumer data on traffic patterns, curbside pickup demand, and operational requirements of their staff. Pre-COVID, and especially now as we emerge, more digital shopping-savvy than ever, retailers will shift their focus and staff on back-of-house operations, making sure that my reason for coming into your store, or shopping online with you is serving me on every level, prioritizing convenience and safety, then getting me to come back and do it all again.
What should retailers be doing now to prepare for the re-opening?
AM: 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 stocks 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.
How will COVID-19 impact consumer behavior over the long term?
AM: I think consumers will have a heightened sense of loyalty in the long term. They’ll remember the retailers who provided the best experiences during these times, those who kept food in their stores, kept products arriving on their doorsteps, and continue to patronize those places. I also believe that there are some habits that have been formed during this time, like increased confidence in online ordering, that will continue to accelerate.
What will be the lasting effects of COVID-19 on brick and mortar retail?
AM: I think the physical footprints of many stores are going to change. Things like packing and staging stations for curbside pickup and delivery orders, will find a more permanent place in many physical stores. We’ll see more space dedicated to back of house fulfillment as stores move to serve the shoppers in their physical stores and online, and also changes to parking lots and store exteriors to simplify the pickup/delivery of goods.
What retail technologies will see adoption accelerated due to COVID-19?
AM: Several, but I think the top technologies on everyone’s mind are: Contactless Payment and Micro/Hyper Local Fulfillment Centers.