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 what to expect in the current COVID-19 landscape.
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.
Victoria Peppiatt, Co-founder and COO of Phrasee
It’s clear that the retail industry will never be the same again.
Everything has changed, whether it is the abrupt digitalization of experiences, the consumer behavior shift towards social distancing and restricted living, or the e-commerce growth versus in-store footfall decline. Retailers will need to embrace new approaches and technologies in order to have an opportunity to earn customer loyalty in the short term and stand-out from the crowd in the marketing ramp-up. Now is not the time for average marketing, brands will need to think differently as to how they adapt to the “new normal” and how their marketing resonates with their audience over competitors.
Debbie Hauss, Executive Director of Content, Retail TouchPoints
E-commerce retail never closed and the companies that have embraced that are going to be ahead of others. Stores will re-open, but digital transactions are going to ramp up even faster than predicted a few months ago, so all retailers and DTC brands should be accelerating their digital efforts.
That said, stores are starting to re-open. As that process unfolds, retailers and consumers are going to have to be patient and considerate. Retailers need to make sure they clearly communicate their efforts to keep employees and customers safe.
Imogen Wethered, CEO and Founder of Qudini
Right now the government is grappling with how to reopen stores in a secure way that protects the public, but if more stores reopen, this could lead to excessive queues outside of stores that could risk public safety.
The majority of consumers will not be willing to return to stores if they believe they are putting themselves at risk. It’s up to retailers to restore consumer confidence by ensuring adequate social distancing processes are in place.
Neil Saunders, Managing Director, Retail at Global Data
In the short term, the reopening of retail will be slow and patchy, and the experience will not be like it was before. Almost all stores will operate under some form of restriction and some will operate by appointment only.
Consumers will be more cautious about shopping, especially in enclosed malls. Trading will eventually transition to a more normal state, but it will take a long time for that to happen.
Lynn Xu, Chief of Retail Solution, Clobotics
Traditional brick and mortar shops will see a strong rebound. Although more consumers joined online shopping during the lockdown, they have done so without much choice and they experience lots of frustration of lacking choices, having to wait very long, cancelation of orders or wrong delivery. They’ll re-embrace physical shopping even more that comes with appreciation of the freedom and the authentic ‘see is believing’ experience. Retailers that provide better online-offline holistic service are the winners.
Joshua Williams, Founding President of Fashion Consort and Assistant Professor of Fashion Management, Parsons School of Design
Slow and cautious. While retailers are anxious to open their doors sooner than later, they also want to assuage customer fears, and ensure they are not opening themselves to liability. This is an opportunity to also really rethink the customer experience in brick and mortar, including store flow and customer service. Retailers will need to thoughtfully connect touchpoints between online and brick & mortar.
Cami Zimmer, Chief Business Officer at Glympse
We are already seeing the phased approach to re-opening in retail, where stores are starting with curbside pickup and now some are moving to temperature checks before customers enter the store, as well as limiting the number of customers to 20% to start. I believe that we will see this continue throughout the summer. Curbside pickup is here to stay, so we will see companies continue innovation in and around curbside pickup.
Ronen Luzon, Founder of MySizeID
The last few weeks have been a trying time for the retail industry. We have seen retailers file for bankruptcy, furlough thousands of employees, and start the process of closing their doors for good. In the next month, I believe we will see a great deal of businesses transition to the e-commerce space and prepare for what the future of the in-person customer experience will look like. This preparation will be crucial to determine which retailers succeed post-COVID.
Sarah Assous, CMO of Zoovu
Re-opening of retail will require technological advances to ensure customers can find what they are looking for with ease, whether they are interested in click and collect or going into the store. The adoption of conversational technology on retail sites can help bridge the online and offline experience by allowing customers to make appointments with store associates who have been given information on the needs and wants of the customer to streamline the in-store buying experiences.
Anne Mezzenga, CEO and Co-founder of Omni Talk and Third Haus
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.
Sanford Stein, Founder of Retail Speak
There will be reticence on the part of many consumers to be among even small crowds in confined spaces. For many that will further be impacted by new financial realities of unemployment, focusing spending on basic essentials. Discretionary shopping for others may mean expanding their search in Target to include some new leisurewear. I fear malls and department stores will be the slowest coming back, many won’t. Those folks that are venturing out for retail therapy are likely to want to support surviving independent retailers.
Julie Bula, CFO and Co-Founder at Sweft LLC
Retailers will struggle with figuring out how to keep their customers safe, healthy and happy while not eating though all of their profits with increased overhead costs from additional staffing and sterilization needs. Consumers are also going to be fickle about what they are and aren’t willing to leave their homes to buy and how long they are willing to wait to get into a store and make their purchase until all social distancing restrictions have been lifted. Even then, it will be a real challenge managing the masses and their comfort levels surrounding a return to “normal”.
Charu Thomas, Founder at Oculogx
Many retailers have already taken huge steps to promote social distancing and sanitation, and many of those initiatives will continue for quite a while into the future. Many retailers have also opted to build or continue growing their BOPIS and e-commerce presences. When retail stores open back up again, those BOPIS/eCommerce services will continue to thrive.
Marci Weisler, Chief Commercial Officer at Vengo
Stores will take a phased approach, continuing to push on online ordering, curbside delivery and then getting people back into the store, at distance and with new guidelines and experiences. Store layouts, in-store experiences, testing, tryons and even traffic patterns will be reassessed and reinvented. While this is a huge disruption and challenge, it gives new creative license to break away from the tradition and experiment with new and more innovative ways to do things.