While many retailers have been focused on the fundamental necessities just to keep operations running over the last few months, as we start to look towards a world in which stores are open again, the question arises, what will be waiting for us on the other side?
We went out to some of the finest practitioners, thought leaders and experts working in retail today to ask just that. We received a fantastically varied response, so there should be something for everyone in these 13 takes.
Retailers must welcome back customers with open arms… socially distant arms. We’ll have a new way of retailing. We must not only compete on product and service, but now a new kind of trust. Our customers must trust that in addition to what we sell them, we’ll keep them safe during the process.
What it means to be a responsible retailer has changed during this pandemic. For a long time, retailers have been asking for brand loyalty from the customers they serve. But this situation has demanded that retailers alter their business model to serve customers in pivotal ways – making masks and hand sanitizer, offering delivery where there wasn’t the option before, quickly building out remote call centres and even halting production on non-essential merchandise. Going forward, customers will trust retialers who demonstrated they having staying power. The retailers that made customer and employee welfare a priority during COVID will benefit from consumer trust (and patronage!) when the world reopens.
3. Don’t get distracted by ‘normal’ – Seth Godin, Author, Entrepreneur, founder of the altMBA
The short answer is looking for a quick route back to normal is probably a distraction. The opportunity is to get to work making something better.
Nobody really knows anything about how retail will be after lock-down; there is however one certainty – when people are able to exercise choice again, they will do so! This has been a ‘choice economy’ controlled by customers, not retailers, for a decade or more now. When choice returns the absolute imperative for all retailers will be to best understand why customers might chose them instead of a rival vendor and plan strategy around that insight.
5. You have two stores now, physical & online – Kizer & Bender, Retail Anthropologists and Consultants
A challenge for retailers after COVID-19 will be dealing with the need to continue to sell online while reopening your physical space for business. You cannot back off online selling – you have to have two stores now.
If your organization is customer-centric and if you have been working to improve the customer experience and deliver a great experience every day, then today (or whenever businesses open) should be no different in terms of your focus. In other words, don’t prepare for a crisis during a crisis. If doing what’s right is at the heart of your strategy, today and always, then emerging from this crisis will be much easier for you, than for the brands who don’t operate in this way.
Whilst many retailers have claimed to be ‘customer centric’, we’ll see that those that truly are, or can quickly transform themselves to be, will have the opportunity to thrive in the post-coronavirus world.
As retailers and businesses in general begin to re-open to customers, it’s critical that they keep in mind how communication is more important than ever when it comes to supporting customers. From processing sales to maintaining a healthy and sanitized work environment to offering alternative payment and delivery options will be among the priority’s businesses need to keep top of mind. Consumers have heightened expectations when it comes to where and why they decide to spend money amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Offering clarity to the new ways of your business and listening to your consumers, as well, will be beneficial to regaining profit and rebuilding businesses.
9. Capital is King – Richard Kestenbaum, Forbes Columnist and Partner, Triangle Capital
Retail, especially fashion, is going to be tough. The most important thing right now is having capital. The companies with capital will have a good chance, the ones without will struggle.
This crisis is proving to be the ‘great acceleration’ – whereas many initiatives around improving logistics & supply chain, that were only going to be undertaken 2-3 years from now are today a top priority. There will be no turning back from that level of convenience. What the greater challenge will be is making it sustainable in the broadest terms (economic, social & environmental).
In the modern, 24/7 new cycle era, the first major pandemic will leave an indelible mark on the collective psyche. So, building trust in the post-pandemic world will be the essential task for retailers. The shelter-at-home experience will leave a sense of lingering distrust among shoppers for businesses, workers and products they must handle. Even more important than empathic messaging, retailers most focus on implementing new shopping experiences, employee protocols and product handling methods to win back the trust that was shattered by the coronavirus outbreak.
Dig deep into your well of knowledge, and make sure you truly understand your customers. Make sure you have your data house in order and that you speak to your customers face-to-face. You need to be able to listen to them without fear. Your voice, how you show up, the authenticity of your tone and communications – these are the things that customers will remember about you after this crisis.
The post-COVID-19 world will be characterized by a further bifurcation of outcomes among retail’s winners and losers. Acceleration of most pre-pandemic trends; protracted Contraction of spending in most areas and in retail space, Reallocation of that spending to more essential product categories and services and Consolidation around the most powerful brands. It’s a brave new world where the pressure to be more remarkable is only growing.
For more insights, we recommend following each of the thinkers included here on social – just click on the names of each to go straight to their Twitter feeds.