New Rule #1: Personal Safety is Now Shoppers’ First Priority

Earlier this week, we looked at the broader challenge to retail from the COVID-19 pandemic, and began to look at the ways retailers might not only survive but thrive in this new normal.

Today, I want to take a look at the first of the new rules of retail in that new normal: personal safety is now shoppers’ first priority.

A recent McKinsey & Company survey found that consumers’ top priorities when deciding where to shop in-store now include cleaning and sanitization (31 percent), masks and barriers (25 percent), and physical distancing (15 percent.)

“Concerns about health and safety have never loomed larger for stakeholders across the value chain,” the researchers wrote.

For Hi-Touch retail in particular, that’s a massive shift.

What’s more, WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan told the Financial Times last month that she expects COVID-19 to be under control “in a four to five-year timeframe.”

Four to five years.

If that’s the case, it’s crucial to take a hard look at what you can do to make sure your stores are still around then.

One thing is clear: if you’re not very transparent about what your safety and cleanliness practices are, you’ll lose. That means everything from cleaning your store publicly during business hours to providing masks to guests and staff — but it also means some more fundamental changes in how you interact with your customers. Shoppers still want to shop and interact with your brand. It’s up to you to show them how they can while still feeling safe.

The things you’ve relied on in the past, like setting up displays so shoppers can use touch to explore your merchandise, are no longer helpful when touching potentially contaminated surfaces is seen as a risk. Similarly, conversations with salespeople can now be fraught with safety concerns about appropriate physical distancing. Yet, you have a beautiful shop that was designed for touch and conversation. With just a few edits using proven technology, it again is.

So how do you create attractive substitutes for touch and dialogue? There are several ways digital technology, we like to say digital distancing, can bridge that gap.

As retailers, we talk a lot about using technology to optimize our supply chains, but we don’t talk enough about doing the same for the front of house. Amazon puts as much money on the front of their website as they do on making sure your package gets delivered — and you need to do the same.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to continue to look at some other transformative changes we’re facing in Hi-Touch retail, along with several ways you can leverage technology to shrink the physical distance that must now exist between us.

In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me directly here, or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Andy Austin

A geek with a retail operations and customer experience background