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Retail strategies for brands and retailers at the end-of-lockdown

  • Posted on July 6, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Because of COVID-19, retailers have had to urgently adapt their practices and communications at the point of sale. Several billion people on earth are under lock down in their homes in a strict manner depending on the country. The retail trade is expected to experience a decline in turnover of 2.1 trillion dollars worldwide in 2020 (Forrester).

When most shops are closed, retailers distributing basic necessities see a massive increase in the average basket for obvious reasons of subsistence shopping. The average basket increases but customers come less frequently. Customers also buy fewer and larger quantities of a variety of products.

The point-of-sale shopping experience has become a mandatory and anxiety-provoking passage.

Gradual end-of-lockdown has started all over the world. What will be at stake for our merchants in this crisis, which is likely to come to a very gradual end? How can we think about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?

Purchasing is resolutely focused on the notion of necessity and going to the store is often experienced as stressful. Mask, gloves, respect of social distancing, the visit in store can quickly become a nightmare for the most worried. 

There has been a significant increase in internet traffic since the lockdown, the big winners of the shift to e-commerce over the period being the food and high-tech sectors.

Will these new behaviours endure and change the rules of the game, consumer concerns and behaviours in a sustainable way? No one can say yet. So how can we rekindle visits to stores? How can we project ourselves into the future?

Propose a 100% secure contactless route at the point of sale
For now, going to the store can be perceived as an expedition into hostile territory. Let's remember that it's also a totally individual experience now.

Visitors to stores have very quickly learned to assess the level of COVID hygiene and safety that a shop can implement. The prism of consumer analysis has therefore completely changed. The pleasure / practical dimension is no longer the number one criterion of expectations. The more rigid and secure the in-store shopping experience will be, the more it will be welcomed!

A retailer must be able to accompany its consumers throughout the experience and exceed their expectations in terms of safety.

Before the visit
Provide advance warning without causing anxiety, reassure, explain the actions taken (equipment purchases, staff training, reorganization of the store layout, etc.) and make it easier to prepare for the visit. In short, be transparent!

During the visit
  • Set up a route that makes the experience secure and set up contactless payment as proposed by Walmart, for example.
  • Offer a "contactless" experience (one-way, Ikea-style, applicable to both the store and the shopping mall). With innovative technologies to ensure hygiene and security.
  • Transform drive collection points: equip shops with "contactless" pedestrian drive and parking facilities.
  • Adjust its e-shop with a stock per store, so that one can order online and pick up his products on the spot without contact.

After the end-of-lockdown, it is likely that the initiative will persist for some time with a gradual extension of the catalogue beyond basic necessities.

After the visit
Facilitate the evaluation and collect feedback, create dialogue and exchange, favoring benevolence and humility.

In these 3 phases, technologies will undoubtedly invest the point of sale as never before to guarantee a fluid experience, from the intention to visit the store to its evaluation. In any case, they have a crucial role to play in creating a smooth and reassuring experience.

Unless we can "re-enchant the POS experience", we will have to reinvent it.

There is a good chance that Google Maps will soon offer the possibility to rate the COVID-19 security level of a store, post-visit, or even to evaluate the level of traffic in real time. GAFAM will undoubtedly act as an intermediary to provide risk and security evaluation services.

Becoming a business that takes concrete action against the crisis
We are now moving into an era where “doing” will count for more than just “saying”. The solidarity and benevolence shown by the retailers will be the second criterion for evaluating consumers.

Beware of the use of centralized marketing and communications disconnected from the situation (aggressive promotion). This could be very badly perceived.

All retailers must be able to affirm their solidarity, their humanity and their concrete commitment in the face of this major crisis. The economic crisis will be added to the COVID-19 crisis, and in the face of this extraordinary situation, citizens also expect brands to take actions that are out of the ordinary. Many companies have contributed in solidarity in one way or another.

The same will no doubt be expected from the major brands (financing research, free distribution of unsold goods, support for the local communities, etc.) via philanthropic initiatives in parallel with their commercial activity.

Businesses are key players in the economic, social and local incitement. They must contribute to its balance in times of crisis.

Relocation: Integrity in the choice of products and in the provision of services
No one can say at this stage whether globalization, as we have known it until the beginning of 2020, will continue.

Three criteria will now be considered when evaluating a product in the following order of importance:
  1. Price - we are at the beginning of an economic crisis unprecedented in its scope and this element will be even more considered than before the COVID-19 epidemic
  2. Quality
  3. Quality/price ratio

People have understood the fragility of hyper-globalization and will want to focus more on local products. They will therefore be more vigilant about the selection criteria for products available from retailers. Therefore, the latter will have a crucial role to play in guaranteeing the traceability and safety of the products on offer. The short circuits will have several virtues here: controlled quality and safety, and the strengthening of the local economy. The supply of products remains a human chain, which represents even more risk as it involves many intermediaries.

In short, no one knows if this new situation will durably change consumer behavior and in what proportions. What is certain is that businesses must above all else demonstrate their share of humanity and benevolence through concrete actions towards their employees and customers.

Download our retail guide for some ideas on how to be more resilient and sure-footed in the face of an uncertain future.

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