In light of the current pandemic, many retailers are being forced to take a more in-depth look into their operations and strategies as they prepare to reopen their stores.
The retail industry has been one of the most heavily affected industries, in both positive and negative ways. Although the grocery industry and e-commerce have been able to thrive in these specific conditions, others, such as brick and mortar retail businesses and live entertainment, are facing crippling financial situations as a result of pausing their operations. Many of these businesses are being forced to make tough decisions such as layoffs or closing their doors completely.
From sanitizing, changing their supply chain models, and reassessing what the likely consumer demand will be, to the overall customer experience, many aspects of the industry could look vastly different within the next few months of operations. The question many are asking, however, is what will the new normal look like, and how can retailers prepare for this?
Safety is likely to remain a top concern for shoppers
How stores prepare to make their in-store experiences as clean as possible will need to be a well thought out focal point of their reopening strategy. Many retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Best Buy have already begun planning these changes.
A few things consumers can expect when visiting these stores are:
- Fewer or no dressing rooms being open
- Returned items being held in a sanitary space for an incubation period
- More frequent sanitization of shelves, products, and doors
- Fewer patrons being allowed in the store at a time
- Increased usage of contactless payments
- “No touch” beauty consultations and other services being suspended
Consumers will likely be more self-aware regarding their actions and hygiene during future public outings. Because of this, retailers must do their best to accommodate customer sanitation needs. This may require hiring an outside cleaning service, installing hand sanitizing stations, or limiting the number of customer interactions in a store.
Online sales will continue to thrive as social distancing practices are maintained
Fifty-eight million Americans reported spending more money during this time in a recent WalletHub survey. Consumers have been spending their money online when purchasing clothing, items for a newfound hobby, or ordering food for delivery.
Essential items such as food and cleaning supplies will likely continue to be top-selling products, even after brick and mortar retailers are given the green light to resume operations. However, it’s also likely that many will be ready to shop for other desires that they’ve been lacking during the last few months.
Because many won’t be rushing out to stores immediately, online sales can continue to be a substantial opportunity for retailers to capitalize on. Whether consumers wish to have their products shipped straight to their doors or decide on curbside pickup, online shopping offers an unparalleled level of convenience for today’s safety-conscious shopper. Consumers will be looking for ways to connect with brands in a personalized way, like being able to contact a local store associate to ask a specific product question or request an appointment (in store or virtual).
As these trends in e-commerce hold steady while consumers continue to social distance, retailers should advertise their online product offerings and services to broader target audiences who may desire their products. They should also focus on their current customer base and ensure associates are able to nurture one-to-one relationship with their clients.
The supply chain will be shaken up for the foreseeable future
During this period of isolation, we’ve seen a considerable shift in supply chain trends. Many stores have had trouble keeping certain products on shelves, and limited quantities of supplies have been available from vendors. This is due mainly to global supply chains being partially halted or completely shut down in various locations around the world.
Companies like Amazon have had to temporarily suspend shipments of non-essential items to consumers. This has forced many customers to wait several weeks to receive their packages, and has forced third-party services that would usually fulfill these orders to pause their operations. Additionally, we’re already being warned of disruptions to the food supply chain in the months ahead after outbreaks were confirmed in multiple poultry factories.
This change has caused many of the leading essential retailers to take an introspective look at their own supply chain during this time to find the most efficient means of continuing operations. Their redeveloped strategies could likely shape the future of their company.
Retailers will need to create a robust strategy that prevents disruptions within their own supply chain when planning to phase into operations. When making these preparations to resume, companies should lean on their supply chain systems to make accurate inventory calculations and updated, appropriate sales forecasts. Relying on current, nuanced data to make well-informed decisions can help companies continue to serve their consumers best.
Consumers will be loyal to brands who did “the right thing”
During these times, individuals have been finding creative ways to be kind to one another, showing signs of appreciation for friends and family and all of the essential front-line workers. These signs of encouragement and support are also affecting the way retailers are rethinking their brand sentiment.
Through advertising and community outreach, many brands are showing their commitment to overcoming the situation at hand with their customer’s safety in mind. Whether encouraging their customers to stay home and shop online or donating safety equipment and resources to those on the front lines, messages of positivity can go a long way.
A recent study shows that 6 in 10 consumers feel their view of certain brands has been changed by how they have reacted to this situation. More than half are pleased to hear about brands that are helping others or the community. Because of this, we might see individuals favoring certain brands during this time.
No matter what the future looks like for retailers, it’s likely that it won’t be the same as before. With changing consumer perspectives and priorities, the retail industry will be facing an entirely new landscape. The most important thing that retailers can do during this time is to consider all scenarios and make strategic decisions for how they will phase into this new normal.