Retail strategies for the New Normal

7 mins read

The rules of retail have changed. It’s a high-stress business, running a shop these days. Just as dangerous as an activity such as shopping. Customers don’t walk in anymore like they used to, and you don’t want them to crowd around in your retail outlets.

People are scared of being infected when they come to your shop, and you’re scared they’ll bring it to your shop and shoppers. But business must go on, so you have to come up with some strategies that will work in these dangerous times.

To help you deal with this new normal, here’s a list of retail strategies that are helping businesses keep their doors open, let your customers know it is safe to walk in and out, and maintain safe distancing for everyone.

1. Digital as a portal to the Store of the future

Retail strategies for the New Normal

Deirdre Quinn, CEO of Lafayette 148, has some insights on what the store of the future will be like. Lafayette 148 operates four stores of its own, but Quinn now says that opening a chain of functionally identical stores is a waste in the new normal.

They’re now focusing on personalization and a private shopping experience. One way they’re doing this is at their downtown Manhattan store is by allowing elite shopping through prior appointments.

Former Holland & Barrett CEO Tony Buffin has likewise implemented a Covid era vision of the store of the future more contactless and digital.

He thinks of their store as more digital, as a portal to digital, and digital in turn as a portal to their store.

2. Safe entry, contact tracing, digitisation, and sanitisation.

Retail strategies for the New Normal

One key reason that Singapore has been able to reopen its economy is that the government has made it mandatory for businesses to implement safe entry procedures and contact tracing.

This means temperature checks, contact tracing apps such as SafeEntry, and digital tools such as queue management systems.

Similarly, procedure for sanitisation of the entire store on a schedule has to be put in place. In fact, some businesses are turning their sanitisation process into ads for marketing their locations and products as safe.

Here’s an example of an ION Orchard ad that is “Going the distance for your safety.”

3. AI and robotics as your new store assistants.

ai and robots

What if your customers came to your shop, and did not have to face an army of store assistants placing products on racks? Some retailers are using AI-powered robotic material handlers to move goods from their warehouse to the shop racks. See this autonomous delivery tug created by Brain Corp., UniCarriers Americas Corp., and Dane Technologies.

4. Social endorsement to label your business Covid-safe.

It’s a trend of the times we live in. People want to feel safe about visiting your retail outlets, and they may not believe you or your messaging. They must hear it from someone they know, or look up to. It can be someone from their social network, or perhaps a celebrity or famous personality they know.

Nordstorm, for example, has hired influencers to talk about how safe they feel in Nordstrom stores. This is an influencer marketing campaign they’re running in partnership with marketing agency Captiv8. Here’s an example of how this works - an instagram paid posting by Wendy Nguyen, which has got over 10,000 likes. The Wendyslookbook instagram account has 1.1 million followers.


A post shared by Wendy Nguyen at (@wendyslookbook)

Apart from adopting some of the strategies elaborated above, things that retailers can do to adjust to the new normal include training staff on how to make sure there is no build up of crowds and long queues, and redesign the aisles to offer more space for customers and staff to maintain safe distancing.

Making use of a retail queue management system will solve many of these issues - no crowds and queues means less waiting space. Staff can be easily trained to make use of a contact-less QR based queue system.

You can also offer contactless payment options, and take orders on Whatsapp and do home delivery.

By Neel Padmanabhan

August 14th, 2020 ·

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