With non-essential retail gearing up for that all important re-opening from 12 April, we caught up with Visual Merchandising Consultant Kat Maclennan to find out how retailers can make sure that their customers are safe, secure, and ready to shop, and most importantly, how to keep customers coming back.
There are 3 key things to keep in mind with the return to retail: the world of retail has changed dramatically, customers are craving human connection and 'real world' experiences, and that physical retail needs to exceptional to encourage people to shop, and give customers a reason to shop in-store instead of online. Your in-store experience includes everything, from window displays, store layouts, product assortments, VM principles, and training of store teams to implement and maintain store standards.
So, how can you encourage people to leave their homes and visit your store?
1. Take Care of Store Teams and Customers
Space, physical distance, hygiene and groups of people are now perceived differently, and customers and your in-store teams will now have different expectations than they did pre-lockdown.
Stores need to be clean, but also feel clean and fresh – clean or paint scuffs, simplify your displays and VM principles, and create sharp minimal window displays that feel clean, fresh and new.
Remember that your store team is the face of your brand, and they need to be and feel safe in order for your customers to be and feel safe.
Things to consider:
- Hand sanitiser at the entrance and till, and investing in a quality dispenser/station
- Face masks, and gloves if appropriate
- Cleaning of high-traffic areas throughout the day such as card readers
- Perspex screens at cash desk – these are available to buy off the shelf
- Risk assessments, consulting and training store teams. For example, consider how you will manage sickness and leave, staggered start times, and working in bubbles
2. Create a Flexible Space
To ensure your store is as safe and secure as possible, there are a number of things you can do by being flexible and adaptable.
Assess the maximum number of staff and customers that can be in store at any one time, and be ready to change this. Customer is key, and if you sense that your store feels too busy be prepared to lower the number of customers you allow in at a time
Controlling the customer journey, for example introduce a one-way system, and make 2 metre markings will help customers and your store team to maintain social distance.
Try to create a feeling of spaciousness, especially around high-traffic areas such as the cash desk, by moving displays, and consider removing seating areas. Implement clear, straightforward VM principles, and. Consider lowering your stock capacity and displaying less product on the shop-floor.
Adaptability on the shop-floor will help to get customers in and returning, and excited to see what’s ‘new’ on every visit. By curating your collection, and rotating stock if you have the storage space, you can ensure all product gets seen while maintaining a positive in-store experience.
3. Adapt to New ways of Shopping
As well as the short-term quick wins, there is a lot of long-term opportunity in the rise of online retail. E-commerce grew massively during lockdown, and that’s not a ‘nice-to-have’, every retailer now needs an online presence.
Being flexible and creative with how customers connect with your brand can also help with your in-store experience, for example, if you don’t have something in-stock a customer can order it online, or vice versa, on your website you can show what stock you have in your physical store.
While ecommerce is rapidly growing, localisation is another key consideration and opportunity, especially for independent retailers. Customers are keen to stay local and support their local high street.
Ways to adapt:
- Cohesive branding on ecommerce and physical retail store
- Click and Collect
- Flexible delivery options, such as free local delivery
- Contactless payment, and consider becoming cashless
- Emailable receipts, which also encourage people to sign up to your newsletter
- Shopping by appointment, 121 service, virtual consultations, live streams for example of new collections, flexible opening hours
Retail has changed rapidly and extensively over the last 12 months, and some ways of shopping and how customers want to interact with your brand will stick. New ways of working have been forced onto retailers in order to survive – those that can adapt, be agile and make changes quickly are the ones that will win.
If you’d like to learn more about Kat’s work with brands or get in touch, please do so via
www.dottodot.work or @kat_maclennan on Instagram.