COVID-19 has changed the way we live, and - perhaps permanently - altered the way we shop. Consumers are loath to enter retail shops full of strangers, some with gloves, some with masks, and some just thinking “it’ll never get me.”
So it shouldn’t be surprising that new research from Shopkick demonstrates that nearly three quarters of consumers have changed their shopping behaviors as a direct result of this virus.
Among their findings are:
60% of consumers are wary about shopping in stores;
85% are taking some action to maintain their health like using masks, shopping at less crowded times, and using self-checkout;
Online purchasing has not increased at a pace that equalizes the lack of in-store shoppers
With some European retailers getting ready to open, and US retailers looking to hit the ground running once various bans are lifted, we have three recommendations for opening effectively, while carefully managing traffic and the safety of your customer.
1. Meet me at the curb
Retail leaders like Best Buy are testing out new models to work within the confines of social distancing.
In March, Best Buy embraced curbside service for all of its stores. The effort was designed to protect both employees and consumers, while keeping revenue flowing. The solution allows consumers to shop online, and pick up at the store location without ever having to leave their cars. The appeal is multi-fold as consumers like the convenience, while retailers appreciate the reduced shipping and packaging requirements, and both appreciate the built-in distance. After the success with this model, stores are considering ways to approach contactless pickup as well.
2. Manage crowd size
Home Depot announced that they’re limiting the number of customers that can be in-store at a single time. They’re also closing early to ensure sufficient time for restocking and enhanced sanitization.
This past weekend, Walmart announced that they too are throttling traffic into the store -- five customers per each 1,000 square feet. They have also embraced other solutions for crowd management, including one way in-aisle traffic to avoid people running into one another, and requesting that people shop alone rather than bringing families. Costco has taken a similar route.
And my local Whole Foods is allowing 10 shoppers in at a time, only allowing new shoppers in as one exits. Who would expect their supermarket to behave like a nightclub?
3. Offer pre-arranged appointments
Retailers looking for solutions to manage footfall are busily evaluating appointment scheduling solutions or planning how to best leverage their current solutions. Innovative stores can offer customers 15-minute slots to check into the store, take care of business, and leave. Pre-arranged time slots eliminate the need to queue outside the store into dangerous parking areas, or stand in the pouring rain.
In the near term, bookstores are combining scheduled appointments with curbside pickup for a pre-arranged pickup time. That way, a bag can be left with a customer’s purchase in front of the store with no need for human interaction.
For some retailers, particularly beauty brands, remote appointments are being leveraged to provide personalized experiences and the ability to purchase online until the stores are open. Because shopping is somewhat emotional, consumers still want the one-to-one personalized experience. If you’ve deployed an appointment scheduling solution, see if your provider offers video appointments for the intimacy of an in-person meeting combined with the safety of a remote one. PRO TIP: The most secure video solutions don’t require integrations with an outside vendor.
We’d love to hear how you’re planning on managing flow into your store, but one trend is clear: The need for social distancing isn’t going away any time soon, so the time is now for retailers to be innovative.