As more and more states and cities inch toward a post-COVID existence, many considerations are falling on the shoulders of retailers. So much changed for people during quarantine, and how they shop is likely at the top of the list. Retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, have to rethink their customer experience so that people are still connecting to their brand.
Of course, one of the most significant changes we all experienced is the requirement to shop online. For some people, this was a new experience; for others, it was simply a change in the type of products that they purchased online. It's fast, easy, and people can avoid sickness and crowds. Retailers can’t avoid the fact that shopping preferences have changed — perhaps for good.
Embrace That Things Have Changed
What's one of the most significant changes that retailers will have to face post-COVID? The fact that many people now prefer online shopping. The increase in online shopping directly correlated to the shift in work-from-home requirements. Because many companies have now learned the benefits of allowing employees to stay at home, this is likely to be the new norm for many positions. This dynamic will lead to the continuation of online shopping. On-site retailers may want to consider how they can digitize their store in order to get a piece of the online shopping pie.
Consider Consumer Behavior
Don’t underestimate the new shopping behavior of people who have been on strict quarantine for several weeks. According to an article from Deloitte, people are less likely to browse and more likely to get in, get out without interacting with people, or touch products unnecessarily. Because of this, retailers should consider product placement and the simplicity of the shopping experience. People are more likely to avoid a store if the layout is complex, or if everyday items are further toward the back of the store.
Be Willing to Make Adjustments
The truth is, as a society we’ve never been here before. Retailers will need to lean into their ability to be flexible and make adjustments to their entire market strategy. Making adjustments in real time will provide consumers with the peace of mind that they have the most relevant product information at all times. In many ways, doing this will help consumers regain trust in shopping with your brand.
Technology is a Critical Factor
While some stores may be able to survive, it's essential to have a strategy for going digital. According to Supermarket News, retailers must listen to what consumers are saying they need. Even as restrictions lift, many people are still wary of going in-store, and some people simply no longer prefer it. In order to survive the post-COVID era of shopping, retailers have to consider their long-term digital plan and how they will keep and attract online shoppers. It may take some time before people shop like they used to — and they may never do so. Rather than trying to hold on to what used to be, it may be time to transition and evolve.
While some retailers may be nervous as they transition their stores toward the new “normal,” the primary focus should be on the consumer. Consider their change in mind-set, their shopping habits, and what makes them most comfortable right now.
We have no idea what the long-term effects of COVID will be on consumer preferences, but we now know that many people prefer online shopping and easy access. Retailers must take note if they want their doors (or websites) to remain up and running.
Ronn Torossian is CEO and founder of 5W Public Relations, a top 10 independent, full-service PR agency in the U.S. known for cutting-edge programs that engage with businesses, issues and ideas.
Ronn Torossian is CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations, a top 10 independent, full-service PR agency in the U.S. known for cutting-edge programs that engage with businesses, issues and ideas.
He is a crisis management expert who has more than 20 years of experience working with national and international brands that go through disruptive and unexpected events that threaten to harm the organization or its stakeholders.