While the powers that be decide when we’re officially out of shelter-in-place mode and back to business as usual, the time is perfect to begin planning your return. Businesses are thinking about all of the details:
- Do we open all at once, or location by location?
- Do we open with full staff or skeleton staff?
- What changes need to be made to the hygiene and sanitization of our facility?
- And most importantly, how do we alleviate any customer and employee fears?
There’s no correct answer, and each business’ path will differ based on location, number of storefronts, financial security and any number of other factors. While we have no crystal ball, we did pose the question to a number of JRNI partners and asked them for their best advice on getting back to business:
Transition the magic of the in-store experience remotely
- Ensure your teams are equipped with the tools to enable your teams to service the customer remotely. Lockdown periods may become the new norm, so act now so that you can service the customer from wherever your teams happen to be.
- Break down traditional barriers associated with "working from home" and allow your teams to engage and interact personally with their customers. It builds trust and nurtures the customer relationship.
- Allow your teams to send personalised edits and product recommendations and find ways to enable seamless payment options via text or social messaging.
Cathy McCabe, CEO, Proximity Insight
Proximity Insight’s digital black book and outreach capabilities empower customer-facing teams to build powerful connections with customers and make it simple for brands to transition the magic of the in-store experience remotely.
Concierge services come into play
Retailers will need to put the safety of their employees and customers front of mind, so I would expect to see a more concierge-type service. The winning retailers will be the ones that offer pre-arranged visits to limit numbers in-stores, and deliver a more consultative and personalised experience, giving customers peace of mind whilst in-store.
Dan Mortimer, CEO, RedAnt
Red Ant’s pre-integration with JRNI allows store associates to manage the consultation process from appointments and customer preferences, order history, wishlists and communication to drive an exceptional in-store experience.
Offer multiple fulfillment options
When retail stores reopen, social distancing guidelines are likely to remain. Consider offering multiple fulfillment options such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store as well as buy-online-fulfill-in-store as well as giving visibility on real-time inventory availability via your website and/or mobile app.
Lee Cash, Sales Director, Europe, PredictSpring
PredictSpring provides omnichannel retail technology, from mobile apps to full POS, to enhance customer and store associate experiences and facilitate modern retail use cases.
Consider your employees
As much as businesses rely on things going back to normal as quickly as possible - it’s important for employers to be cautious in hastily attempting to return to a pre-COVID routine. Employers need to put their employees first - by being both flexible, and ensuring that they provide a safe and supportive space for individuals who have gone through a very difficult and uncertain time. Although there will be some staff members who will be excited to go back to work, there are others who may be anxious about being exposed to colleagues and customers and it is up to managers and company leaders to ensure that the wellbeing of their staff is at the core of how they move forward and through these unprecedented events. Listen, be transparent and understand each individual employee’s situation; it is likely that some employees may have lost family members, know individuals exposed to the virus or even contracted the virus themselves at some point.
Tara Dunham, Account Executive, Rotageek
In a time of uncertain trade levels, Rotageek allows 1-click notification of schedule changes and a seamless workflow for broadcasting extra shifts to find cover if people fall sick or if trade levels are higher than anticipated. We are also lucky enough to be a fast-moving company that is flexible in our offering and how we assist our customers; as a result of COVID, we’ve released some functionality that aims to reduce and contain the exposure risk inherent in customer schedules by updating our algorithms to take this into account.
Provide the answers your base requires
In the wake of this ongoing global crisis, consumers are more dependent on accurate and up-to-date online information than ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, ushering out the more acute crisis and bringing in new phases, all new questions will accompany this shift. The true strategic insight for brands to take away from this moment isn’t how to develop a battery of specific answers to a finite list of COVID-related questions — the real insight is how important it is to make your brand answers-ready at all times in all the places your customers are asking questions.
The key is understanding what exactly a customer wants to know, or what action they are ultimately looking to perform. To do this, you must make sure your website’s search functionality is optimized for discerning a customer’s true intent when searching.
Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights, Yext
Yext Answers is a revolutionary site search product that understands natural language and delivers answers on your website to help consumers convert — right in the search results.
Let’s get rolling
The US is not ready to go back to business just yet, but when it does Anthony Fauci, NIAID director said to expect a "Rolling Reentry" where specific areas return to business at different times and at different levels. Meanwhile, specific states like Michigan are placing local only restrictions on what items retailers like Target, Walmart, and Costco can or can't sell. Conveying these nuances to customers will be key in making reopening successful.
Sandeep Bhanote, Co-Founder & CEO, Radius8, Inc
The Radius8 Welcomer is a geo-targeted, mobile-first, digital solution for your website that provides businesses a quick way to deploy and manage hyper-localized content based on the consumers physical location. As the pandemic evolves, up-to-date communication will be paramount. As businesses begin to reopen at the local level, we enable you to effectively get back to business as usual in every local market. For more information on their offering, please visit https://www.radius8.com/covid19response.
Adapting to new behaviors
The retail industry will face a new consumer with altered behaviors post COVID-19. There will be pent-up demand, however, it may be tempered by a new appreciation for consuming less, especially as the economy slowly bounces back.
The pandemic will accelerate structural and behavioral changes we've been witnessing across retail in the last few years. As stores start to reopen slowly, we’ll continue to see a strong shift towards direct-to-consumer and omnichannel interactions. As best practice, retailers will need to stay closely connected with their customers and adapt to their new needs and habits. Providing associates with the technology and devices to continue communicating and servicing their customers, such as clienteling and web chat, will help bring the in-store experience into the homes of customers. Successful retailers will be those that invest in the right technologies and infrastructure to support their associates and provide hyper-personalized customer experiences across the entire connected store.
Pouneh Hanafi, VP Marketing, Tulip
Tulip’s new clienteling features, Web Chat and Remote Pay, help retailers stay connected with their customers through the entire shopping journey, and capture incremental omnichannel sales remotely during temporary store closures.