Although we are still in the middle of this pandemic, restrictions have now begun to lift, allowing some businesses to reopen their doors. But in this crazy post-coronavirus world, reopening your store isn’t as simple as flipping your open sign.
In fact, even with these rolled back restrictions, 67% of people still aren’t comfortable with visiting a retail clothing store and 78% are not comfortable with sitting down at a restaurant. So how do you overcome these hurdles?
Make safety your main priority.
This pandemic has shone a spotlight on the way that companies treat their employees. The health and financial security of employees is now one of the top concerns for 90% of consumers when they decide which brands they use. Anyone who is caught not supplying their workers with completely safe conditions or is seen as not doing enough for their well-being could be quickly publicly shunned.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the backlash from failing to meet proper employee safety recommendations is going to dissipate anytime soon. Experts agree that what your brand does now will have long-term consequences that could leave you in a difficult situation for months or even years after the pandemic has subsided.
Therefore, you need to make sure that you are prepared to take the proper steps to help safeguard the health and safety of your employees before you think about reopening.
But what exactly does this entail? My clients are asking this every day.
In China, some retailers are making sure employees always work with the same group. This way, if one gets sick, they just quarantine the group, they don’t shut down the entire department store.
Provide a hands-off experience.
It used to be that companies strived to provide their customers with a comprehensive hands-on experience. Instead, retail spaces are now trying to make sure that they provide an experience that is as hands-off as possible. This means doing everything that you can in order to make sure that there are minimal physical interactions between customers and employees.
A lot of clothing stores are taking steps to help achieve this. For example, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap have all either closed most or all of their fitting rooms and will begin to hold returned merchandise for 24 hours or longer. By doing so, they help to make sure that employees are not having to go in and frequently help customers with the process of trying on clothes. Instead, they can safely direct the customers to wherever their desired clothes are located while safely maintaining a safe distance.
Use the right materials.
One of the most frustrating things about COVID-19 is that it can continue to infect people even when they avoid contact with anyone else. This is due to the fact that it has been shown to be able to live on various surfaces like cardboard, plastic or stainless steel for anywhere from 24 to 76 hours. So even if an infected person is long gone by the time another customer enters the same area, they could touch something they breathed on and consequently become infected themselves.
By using the right materials, this risk can be diminished. For example, copper is able to kill the virus within four hours of initial contact. By including more copper surfaces throughout your store, you can help ensure that germs pose a much smaller threat to employees and customers.
There is also the option to use antimicrobial materials to help further protect against coronavirus. You can make floors, walls, countertops, shelves and a lot more out of antimicrobial materials. So by preemptively stocking up on these antimicrobial structures, you can create one of the safest stores in the city.
In the Medly Pharmacies, which we are designing now, we created the Shiro chair that allows people to sit back-to-back, minimizing the chances of spreading the virus. They are also large enough to maintain the proper distance while allowing you to sit next to your kids if they are with you.
Make sure your store projects a sense of cleanliness.
If all employees are constantly wearing masks and encouraging or requiring customers to do the same, then not only are you helping to reduce the chance of the disease spreading, but you also send a clear message to your customers that you care.
Another strategy that is becoming more popular is using ultraviolet light to kill coronavirus. This technology is being experimented to disinfect clothes and dressing rooms after they have been used, according to The New York Times (registration required). Stronger and wider UV lights will kill almost any virus, but since they are harmful, the entire operation needs to be performed behind closed doors. That’s not an easy task to implement quickly, especially for small retailers.
You should also consistently perform thorough cleanings of your shopping area. While it might seem like this would interrupt shoppers as they attempt to make their purchases and make them frustrated, it actually tends to have the opposite effect. When customers see that you are taking cleaning seriously, it can help them trust your store more, which will increase the chances of them coming back during this pandemic.
While no one has the perfect answer on how to successfully reopen a store during this pandemic, following these tips can make success more likely. The big question remains: Are customers interested in your brand? In the values it represents? If customers were not excited to go into your store before the pandemic, they will be a lot less likely to do so now. Stores need to connect with customers at a deep emotional level. If the magic isn’t there, start connecting with your audience.
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 6, 2020.