Retail Stores Create The New Normal As Businesses Begin To Open Up. The future retail environment is weighing on the minds of companies, shoppers and employees. People want to feel safe, get their lives back to normal and start shopping again. While shoppers are anxious to get out of their homes, the return to normal may take time. However, it will be a new normal.

There is not a unified reopening strategy across all states as both government and business owners make decisions based on a variety of factors. Some states have begun reopening businesses but regulations vary greatly. Retail stores are preparing to serve shoppers but demand remains questionable as people are reluctant to leave the safety of their homes.

Physical stores will transform from experiential, social-interactive gathering centers to places of commerce and cleanliness. Social distancing is already commonplace for the U.S. population. Understanding how other countries or industries are handling the reopening process may help retailers create safe shopping environments.

Lessons from China as the retail environment opens in the U.S.

As the Chinese market has slowly opened up, practices learned can be applied to the U.S. market. In the live event, The Frontline with Retail Store Tours, Chinese retailers are requiring face masks and temperature scanning before shoppers enter a grocery store, department store or shopping mall. Daniel Hodges, CEO & Founder of Consumers in Motion, states, “Almost all retailers are offering home delivery which is a deal-sealer to many shoppers.”

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Kevin Peng, Secretary-General of China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), shared in an interview with Consumers in Motion, statistics showing the opening rate of China’s supermarket industry reaching 95 percent, while department stores and shopping centers have recovered to 85 percent open. Although enterprises have begun to fully resume business, it takes time for consumer confidence to recover, and the traffic and sales of department stores and shopping centers have only recovered to 30-40 percent of normal as of April 2020.

Hodges continues, “While comparisons to China are valuable, the U.S. is a unique case with a highly wired and massive mobile workplace.” The U.S. has 76 percent of its population online and 73 percent of homes with broadband capabilities. Hodges is optimistic about the infrastructure in the U.S., estimating that because of these factors and prior positive economic conditions, the U.S. will see never before growth in the third quarter and going into the fourth quarter.

Retailers will need to create a new normal environment

Retailers are shifting their existing business models to create in-store practices that provide safety and comfort for shoppers and employees. Mark A. Cohen, Director of Retail Studies and Adjunct Professor, Columbia Business School, says “Post pandemic, stores have to quickly repatriate their furloughed organizations and create an immediate now and future operating strategy to navigate recovery; adopting a ‘same old same old’ strategy could be a terrible mistake.”

Kroger KR has shared a blueprint for business outlining what the company has learned while moving through this global crisis in the U.S. market, giving them a leadership role in helping other industries with recommendations, insights, best practices and creative assets. A pulling together of cross-industry leaders is just what is needed for the retail landscape to navigate these difficult times.

Marshal Cohen, NPD’s Chief Industry Advisor, Retail, advises that being prepared to open and not waiting until opening to ramp up, will be key; “Stores need to be ready from day one of their opening to service consumers in a fresh, clean, healthy environment.“

Geolocation can help retailers meet shopper expectations

Retailers can use analytics to better understand their loyal customer base, however, adding geolocation data around consumer shopping patterns can help brands shift their business practices. Grigorios Reppas, COO, Advan Research, states, “Store owners can use a wide variety of data to understand buying habits from before and during this crisis and apply this data to track the recovery and adapt their business models.”

Reppas advises a variety of different industries about the use cases for geolocation data; “By using foot traffic data, retailers can look back and view where their customers were coming from before the arrival of COVID-19 (their True Trade Area).” Comparing foot traffic data over time, during the period that social restrictions came into place and once again as stores reopen, can help identify where the more loyal shoppers are located, impacting many business decisions.

As occupancy restrictions are put in place, retailers will be focused on making each shopping trip more productive. Shoppers will be more selective in choosing which stores to visit and the ones that satisfy their shopping needs while providing a safe environment will be at the top of the list. Retailers will focus more attention on getting their existing customers to spend more money than acquiring new ones.

Retailers are making decisions about which stores to open across states as government restrictions begin to be lifted. Reppas points out, “For owners of retail chains with store locations across the country, foot traffic data can also be used to compare movement between the different states which can inform decisions about which store locations are likely to see visitors return most quickly and therefore which to open first.”

The retail environment has never experienced this level of uncertainty

Collaborations across industries will help America rebuild a safe environment for shopping malls and for urban and suburban retail locations. Lessons learned from essential companies that never closed, countries that have begun to open and past historical events can help inform decisions about creating spaces that shoppers and employees are comfortable sharing. Government mandates and recommendations will play a significant role in what the future of retail will look like for the next few months.

Courtesy: https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleykohan/2020/04/26/retail-stores-create-the-new-normal-as-businesses-begin-to-open-up/#4a85dd495827

Author

Amin Lalani is a subject matter specialist in Internet Retailer with several articles and research paper published so far. He has done M.Phil from IoBM in Marketing with emphasis on Internet Retailing. Besides academia he has various other certification like SAP, Google Analytic, Microsoft Small Business Solution Provider and more.

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