Three ways retailers can ‘reset’ their operations post-COVID-19

Deena Amato-McCoy
SPECS Program Director
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Retailers are inching closer to reopening stores, but they will need to appeal to a consumer’s “mind” and “body” if they want them to open their wallets.

Television personality and entrepreneur Jon Taffer shared this advice during the webinar “Resetting America.” Taffer explained that retailers have to pivot their businesses for survival. This includes changing how they operate, communicate, and motivate customers and associates. 

“We don’t want to restart America — that would mean just going back to doing things the same way,” Taffer said. “We need to consider how this pandemic has impacted our companies, and use this information to reset operations with a new business model. That means engaging a consumer’s mind and body, if they want what’s in their wallet.”  

Here is what needs to happen to appeal to a consumer:

*Mind. Moving ahead, retailers need to be transparent about all safety precautions and policies they are enforcing at store-level. Stores should play audio messages promoting hygiene guidance, and reminding customers to follow social distancing rules. Signs should be posted at entrances notifying customers about occupancy limits, as well as usage of protective gear, including masks and gloves.

Since consumers associate cleanliness with their preferred brands, retailers need to rethink their cleaning and facilities maintenance strategies. “[Cleaning] processes need to be transparent to customers if companies want to maintain their trust,” Taffer explained. 

During store hours, employees should be frequently sanitizing high-touch areas like restrooms, fitting rooms, doors, payment device PIN pads, and common areas. Cleaning materials, such as sanitizing wipes, should also be in full view and accessible. 

It is equally important to feature signage that keeps customers abreast of store-level sanitizing efforts. 

“Customers want to see the policies that will keep them safe,” he said. “This includes highlighting the new processes being implemented behind the scenes, as well as those that will change customer behaviors. If these policies are not visible, customers won’t trust your brand.”

*Body. Retailers need to keep their customer relationships intact if they want long-term survival. However, “client relationships that were based on closeness now need to happen from a distance,” Taffer explained.

As a result, retailers need to rethink their physical spaces and floor plans to support social distancing of customers and employees, alike. Occupancy limits are a must for companies about to reopen their doors. A good rule of thumb is no more than five customers per 1,000 sq. ft. of total store square footage, excluding employees, according to “Open for Business – A Blueprint for Shopping Safe,” from Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF). 

Retailers should also feature in-store signage at check-out lines that denotes six feet of spacing. This will benefit customers, cashiers and baggers. Some companies are also enforcing signage to create one-way traffic through aisles — a move that eliminates crowds on the sales floor. 

*Wallet. Once customers are ready to open their wallets, make it easy — and safe — for them to pay. In-store, step up the sanitation practices at point-of-sale (POS) systems, self-checkout equipment, and credit card terminals. This is also a great opportunity to upgrade POS systems with solutions that can process contactless and mobile payments during checkout.

There are also new opportunities for retailers offering buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) services. For example, curbside pick-up options and contactless deliveries reduce customer contact and promote safety. 

To hear more about how to reset retail operations in a post-pandemic landscape, register here for SPECS 2020, August 2-4, in Grapevine, Texas.