Best Practices to Alter Your Retail Store to Reopen
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, brick-and-mortar retailers had learned how to compete with the disruption of e-commerce. Stores evolved in the face of a challenge that many believed would wipe out the industry entirely. Instead of folding, retail rose to the challenge.
Today, those stores continue to welcome consumers through their doors, but the spaces customers visit will soon undergo another major change. Where e-commerce changed the dynamics of communication and distribution, the pandemic mandated physical distance as a condition of continued operations. As the reopening of retail ramps up, physical brick-and-mortar spaces will adapt to meet the needs of a more cautious wave of customers.
Reviewing the Data on Retail’s Reopening
In May, Raydiant conducted a survey of more than 400 brick-and-mortar retail business owners to find out how they plan to adapt to the pressures of the pandemic. As part of that survey, we asked participants how prepared they felt to reopen, what steps they planned to take, and how they expect their retail spaces to change.
At the time we conducted our research, three-fourths of retailers felt prepared to reopen. Those who didn't feel prepared often named regulatory compliance as their primary concern. Of our survey group, 34 percent said they were most worried about compliance, while 24 percent were more worried about a lack of customer demand. Supply chain delays and complications came in third place at just under 20 percent.
When we asked about physical store spaces, most participants expected to make changes. Some planned to close their physical locations to go online, but most wanted to redesign their existing spaces to accommodate the needs of COVID-wary customers.
Some retail stores will close because of the pandemic. That's a given. Retail itself, however, will remain a vibrant and essential part of the global and local economies.
Stores plan to change their spaces in a variety of ways. The largest group, 29.3 percent, said they will remodel their spaces to encourage social distancing. Others plan to downsize their physical spaces to move into a smaller physical location.
Even retailers that do not expect to alter their spaces physically will likely change the way they use those spaces. New conveniences like delivery and curbside service will endure beyond the pandemic as customer expectations shift. People may not always fear this virus, but they will always reward retailers that offer the highest levels of convenience and the most customer-friendly experiences.
One final note on our research: experiences will make the difference in where people shop. A whopping 85 percent of survey participants believe in-store experiences are an important part of retail success and will continue to be in a post-pandemic world.
How Should Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Prepare Their Spaces?
As customers return to stores, many will avoid locations that do not take safety seriously. Others who have become used to the conveniences of self-service and other perks will continue to give their business to places with better experiences. As you reopen in a changed world, consider some of the following best practices:
- Communication is everything. How you communicate to your customers and to your employees will determine whether your audiences know about your safety procedures, your product offerings, and your new practices. Consider investments in tools that improve communication, such as digital signage, to ease the minds of people in your stores.
- Do the heavy lifting. Some customers may feel comfortable entering stores, while others may not. Provide options for both groups by incorporating services like curbside pickup and delivery. If delivery costs are unsustainable due to third-party fees, either bring the service in-house or focus your communications on bringing customers back into your physical stores.
- Build for the real world. Don’t stick stubbornly to your existing space just because it’s already there. Listen to customer needs and adjust as necessary. Build your aisles to facilitate one-way shopping lanes, reduce person-to-person contact, and use signage to make it easy for people to navigate the store.
- Consider curated experiences. People like to shop, but not everyone wants to shop close to other people. Think about out-of-the-box experiences, like shopping appointments for customers to come visit with salespeople who can help them make the right selections. Maintain occupancy limits so visitors feel more comfortable spending time in the store.
- Redesign and showcase cleaner spaces. Don’t let all your efforts to provide a safe environment go unnoticed. Make a show of your cleaning processes so customers see that the carts they use and the spaces where they walk are safe. Keep cleaning products and stations visible to associate your brand with cleanliness and care. You could even use signage to display cleaning process information throughout the day.
As retailers rethink their physical spaces, customers will remain selective about how and where they shop. Earn your share of the reopening of retail by creating spaces that make customers feel comfortable and prioritized.
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-store experience, and reinforce brand messaging.
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant Screen Signage, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-store experience, and reinforce brand messaging. Prior to joining Raydiant, Bobby served as the COO of Revel Systems where he worked on the front lines with over 25,000 brick and mortar retailers. Bobby has held leadership positions including CEO, CRO, and VP of Sales at companies such as Highfive, Limos.com, EVO2, Verizon Wireless, LookSmart, ServerPlex Networks, and Sprint/Nextel. When Bobby's not spending his time thinking about the future of brick and mortar retail, you can find him traveling, reading, or tending to his vegetable garden.