The Challenges Retailers Need To Consider When Reopening Stores
With nearly half of the country reopened or in the process of reopening (while the other half is pausing their plans or reversing them altogether), a lot of store owners are eager to finally flip around their closed signs. For many states, it has been a long few months of closures. This has led to a loss of about 23% in total retail and food sales within the first couple of months of the pandemic alone.
Many business owners are hoping that once they reopen their store, it will be like flipping a switch — their sales will once again return to normal. Unfortunately, the vast majority of experts have agreed that this isn’t what is going to happen. In fact, almost 10% of retail business owners don’t think that their stores will ever be able to fully recover from the damage incurred by the pandemic.
But why is that the case?
The answer might just be that the coronavirus isn’t the only thing holding your store back.
Pre-Pandemic Decline In Shoppers
If your store was having trouble bringing in customers before the pandemic hit, then this isn’t something that will magically get better once you are given the green light to reopen. While it is true that you can likely expect an influx in customers initially due to the fact that they have been unable to shop for things in person for quite some time, this growth is not likely sustainable. This is because there is no ignoring the increasing presence of e-commerce sales, which now accounts for nearly 12% of all retail sales and is continuing to climb at a steady rate.
Up until the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, one of the big pillars that retail stores relied on was an older customer demographic that preferred in-store shopping. One 2016 study (registration required) found that more than 80% of baby boomers preferred shopping in store. However, now that many have been staying at home since late March or early April, many of these individuals have had to rely more on online shopping sites to get items like clothing, furniture, appliances, decorations and even groceries.
And just because stores begin to open up again, these individuals aren’t suddenly going to revert to their old shopping habits. Instead, 60% of online shoppers have said that they are going to continue making purchases online at a much higher rate than they did pre-pandemic.
So before you reopen your store in an attempt to get back all of your lost customers, you should take some time to think about what it is that might be preventing your store from bringing in more customers, as well as the steps you can take to earn your customers back:
Make shopping an experience.
While streamlining a store is a great idea, I believe a lot of business owners attempt to go about it the wrong way. What I’ve observed a lot of people try to do is get rid of any unnecessary features from their store to make it a place where a customer can walk in, find what they are looking for in an intuitive display layout and then bring it up to a counter where they are able to pay for it.
The problem with this strategy is that you will never be able to make your actual store as efficient as sites like Amazon, where someone can type exactly what they want into a search bar and see a selection of products that match the description, which can be purchased with a few clicks. Therefore, you need to double-down on a lot of those “unnecessary” features in order to provide your shoppers with a unique shopping experience that they can’t get from online stores.
One of the best ways to do this is to put an emphasis on the personal service element of shopping in-store. Make sure that your employees are actively approaching the customers to ensure they are provided with assistance as soon as they need it.
You should also put some of the following luxurious elements into your store to help someone feel like you actually care about their well-being:
- Establish a seating area within the store that uses spacious plush chairs.
- Install digital displays that customers can use to search for items and be provided with exact aisle numbers if employees aren’t immediately nearby.
- Have employees posted at the front entrance to immediately greet customers, ask them if they need help and possibly even offer them a nice cold sample-size beverage during the warm months (and a warm beverage during the colder months).
All of these things will help to address any existing problems with your store’s level of customer service. And by doing so, you’re able to appease the 64% of shoppers who find the quality of customer experience to be even more important than price or most other criteria.
Make your beliefs well-known.
There is no denying that customers have begun to base their shopping choices more on a company’s beliefs rather than the price or quality of their products. To see this in action, just look at brands like Nike or Apple. Both have repeatedly come out in support of certain policies or beliefs over the years.
Do both brands make high-quality products? Definitely. But are they always the best on the market? Not necessarily. So why is it that people keep shopping with brands like these so loyally?
It’s often because of a brand’s beliefs regarding important issues that consumers also care about — such as gender equality, natural products, climate change, racial equality, sustainability and more — which are the biggest drivers behind 59% of all retail sales in the U.S. Therefore, you need to make your store’s beliefs well-known to the public in order to improve business during and after the pandemic.
By taking these steps, you can help strengthen your store’s position in the marketplace and hopefully improve your chances of having a successful reopening when it is safe to do so.
We are an Architectural Branding Agency envisioning interiors and furniture for private and commercial environments. We are a team of architects, product and graphic designers, branding strategists, writers, and dreamers. We are creative and pragmatic. We look into the present to imagine a better future.
Originally published at https://www.sergiomannino.com on July 29, 2020.