How can retail stores thrive and survive the second wave of COVID-19
Stellar’s Co-founder Anna Brettle discusses her top tips on how retailers can guide themselves through the impending second wave of COVID-19
The lockdown period has presented the retail industry with a multitude of challenges. With the likes of John Lewis converting 45% of its flagship store into office space, major brands and retailers have found themselves evolving their retail offering amidst the global pandemic.
From virtual retail experiences, innovative methodology and enhanced health and safety measures, their accelerated actions in recent months have been nothing short of remarkable.
However, with the impending second wave of COVID-19, the retail industry will need to further adapt in order to survive and thrive. But how will they do that?
Well, that’s exactly what we’ll be investigating in the below article.
Don’t shy away from technology
Technology has been a saving grace for many brands in recent months and, with the imminent second wave of COVID-19, we’ll need to remember their positive impact and look to capitalise on their assistance.
Retailers will need to recreate the experience of a physical shopping trip but via remote means. Of course, this can now be done through virtual platforms and with the help of immersive and innovative methodology – from virtual product demonstrations and online masterclasses to video first technology.
And whilst these virtual methods can never fully equal the physical experience, they can certainly provide consumers with a shopping event to remember. Brands will be able to fully demonstrate all elements of a product with demonstrations and masterclasses to ensure that their audience enjoys an all-access, transparent relationship.
What’s more we can additionally look to further improve consumer engagement – opting for subtitles or audio description functionality to open up communication for all audiences.
Bring the retail experience home
To survive in this new retail environment, brands need to evolve their offering to suit the shopper of now and the future. With many counties in tiered restrictions across the UK, some people are unable to visit their local high street or department stores so how can brands and retailers still deliver a branded experience that shoppers are so used to?
It’s simple. Bring the in-store retail experience to the consumers location, whether that’s their home or place of work. From our most recent survey, we know that 59% of shoppers would not buy a product costing more than £250 without testing it and understanding how it works first-hand, so brands should look at how they can evolve their retail experience for consumers who can’t physically visit a store.
By providing an innovative concierge service that brings customers a selection of products that they want to buy directly to their home or preferred location, delivered by a product expert to talk them through the products they want to buy, will allow shoppers to still engage with brands, learn about products and give people the choice to try before they buy as they’d normally do within a retail store.
Prepare for altered staffing teams
An obvious, and pivotal, element to take in consideration will be preparing for smaller, or remote, product expert teams. The second spike is likely to leave more workers, across every industry, exposed to the virus due to colder weather and increased rates – meaning that our product expert teams may not function at their usual capacity.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that our staff will be unsuccessful when facing the oncoming challenges. Instead, we must look to adapt our methodology to fit with the scenario. As we have explored above, a rise in coronavirus cases will likely see more consumers engaging with brands and retailers via remote means and, as such, we should make the best of it.
By enlisting the help of knowledgeable product experts, consumers will be able to partake in product demonstrations, masterclasses and Q&A sessions both in person and online – so they will be able to make well-informed purchases and staff can prioritise their own safety as well as the safety of customers.
In short, brands may prepare for staffing changes by ensuring that every team member actively and passionately reflects the core brand ideals. To ensure that this is the case, the retail industry must prioritise training – whether this be virtual training or socially distanced classes – to ensure that each team member can work independently and efficiently.
The team at Stellar have just finished a two day immersive virtual training session with over 80 product experts across eight different countries accommodating a number of different languages. This virtual training session allows our product experts to develop highly knowledgeable, engaging and resilient skills – Three attributes that every consumer is looking for.
Continue to proactively enforce health and safety measures
This precaution may seem an unnecessary one as most high-street retailers have become all too familiar with enforcing health and safety measures in-store – such as social distancing techniques, one way structures and sanitisation stations at both entrances and exits. However, it’s never a bad idea to regroup.
With the impending second wave of COVID-19, the industry will need to ensure that these measures are upheld to the highest standard to decrease risk for customers and staff alike. So keeping a healthy stock of hand sanitiser, disposable masks and gloves is on the agenda for the entire high street.
Maintain transparent communications
As lockdown measures increase, it’s inevitable that consumers are overwhelmed by uncertainty. As a result, the retail industry will need to maintain constant and transparent communication with its audience – ensuring that they understand how they can engage safely and reliably throughout the period.
To do so, brands should not shy away from their social channels or email marketing efforts. By building up your social media presence on platforms such as Youtube, you will help develop a community around your brand and product.
There is no question that a second wave will provide the retail industry with a fresh set of challenges, however, it’s also safe to say that we’ve developed resilience that will guide us through it.
Let’s be the architects in creating the new normal, not bystanders.
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