How 7 Retailers Are Responding To Covid Five Months In

retailers responding to covid

iStock-1263570093-covid storesWith the prospect of the pandemic continuing for the foreseeable future, many retailers are looking for clues to how other retailers respond to Covid.

And that’s important because when you have physical stores, you are subjected to unrelenting stories about how department stores are dinosaurs, small businesses are closing, requiring masks, and everyone is shopping online and will remain there.

Those kind of doom and gloom articles may get clicks, but online selling is not the magic pill it is being billed as to combat the Coronavirus Retail challenges.

Besides the 30-40% returns, the expensive shipping both ways, and fleeting loyalty, there's new evidence that customer expectations are not being met.

Thomas Robertson with the Wharton School, said 66 percent of consumers complained about at least one issue on their last online shopping trip this last quarter, up from only 10 percent in the first three months of the year.

Chief among the complaints were having to purchase an item online and pay for shipping to return it. Customers also complained about difficulties navigating websites and apps, not being able to return items without the original receipt, and about being able to only purchase the item they wanted online instead of in a nearby store.

Prof. Robertson issued a caution to retailers regarding customers who participate in loyalty programs based on shopping online. “Members of loyalty programs tend to have higher expectations and therefore experience more problems than that of non-members,” he said. “We believe that this is because members typically are more engaged and have higher customer lifetime value than non-loyalty members. Losing loyalty program members may lead to long-term degradation to the brand and may have significant financial impact to the retailer.”

But there are still new and inventive ways to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic to stand out in your physical store. 

Here are 7 ways retailers are adapting during the Covid pandemic:

  • 1. Using QR codes in new ways. Jonny Cota, the winner of Amazon’s Making the Cut in Los Angeles, has visitors scanning a QR code upon entering. It launches a friendly welcome video by Cota which tells shoppers about their brand and Covid rules. He also lets customers shop a gallery-like space via a virtual tour or in real life, using their phones and QR codes as a guide to scan styles, see them on models, and add them to a digital cart that can be shipped or fulfilled in-store.
  • 2. Adding In-house contact tracing. Every retailers’ nightmare is having to close due to someone testing positive for Covid. On a Coresight webinar this week, Tractor Supply’s Glenn Allison spoke about how they are providing contact tracing for their 1700 stores, distribution centers, and their support centers. They want to quickly know who someone came in contact with so they can pickup where government has left off.
  • 3. Removing doubt. One of the problems with curbside and BOPIS is finding ways for the consumer to know what to do. Target has easy to follow instructions that are everywhere including how to download their app right on their sign.Target Curbsde Pickup on Instagram

Location-tracking alerts the retail stores' associates as the shopper approaches and an employee is waiting in the reserved space with the order as the car approaches.

    • 4. Curtailing orders. Shoppers will be frustrated with out-of-stocks this holiday season; you can bet on it. But retailers don’t want to have to keep the discounts they’ve been using to unload spring merchandise, to continue into the holidays.  Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh said, “I would actually rather leave a sale on the table — miss a sale — because we don’t have product, than to have a glut of product that you then would have to mark down.”
    • 5. Building community on the sidewalk. With CDC g;uidance on limited occupancy, many retailers are having to make shoppers wait at 6’ intervals by using stickers on the sidewalk. According to Dave Bruno on the Aptos blog,  London’s Notting Hill Fish Shop has set up folding chairs to let people sit and socialize while waiting in line. “Shoppers have taken to the idea and fallen in love with the ability to socialize while social distancing.”
    • 6. Hiring influencers. In an effort to convince more shoppers to enter its stores, Nordstrom has debuted an influencer campaign that promotes its in-store coronavirus safety precautions.The department store giant recently hired Instagram influencers to visit and take photos inside its New York City flagship store. Wendy Nguyen, one fashion influencer, told followers that visiting Nordstrom was refreshing because "everyone was wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and were incredibly kind. Even shoppers, strangers as we were, stopped and had meaningful conversations."

       

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  • 7. Expanding markets. Katz’s deli in NYC was featured in a recent Business Insider video sharing how they looked to their heritage and expanded their markets during the crisis from just one local New York icon to reach direct-to-consumers across the country.The options to reach new markets has never been easier to scaleStores are also pivoting to get associates to text and email their local customers about new products and services.

 

It doesn’t matter what size physical store you are, there are options for success even during a pandemic that seems to have stopped  the entire world in its tracks.

See also, 10 Reasons To Be Optimistic About Retail After COVID-19

In Sum

A renewed focus is needed on the store experience, one that gives shoppers a reason to put down their remote, get in their car, and venture out. And that goes whether you are considered among essential businesses or not.

It will happen, but retailers need to move beyond being omnichannel and to being omnipresent in their customers’ lives – especially in their physical stores.

Online is scoring big-time, but customers will still want to return to brick and mortar stores once we receive word of a vaccine. Many want to return now and are venturing out as fear recedes. They are watching your conspicuous safety measures too. 

Now is the time for the retail industry to pivot or reinvent to deliver a better experience.

Once the mass of shoppers return, you'll be too busy with the high demand of increased foot traffic. You will feel you dodged a bullet and revert to bad behaviors that can bankrupt you.

Use these seven retailers’ stories to help you grow your business during Covid and beyond. 

And to learn how to sell more in your store, checkout SalesRX below. 

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