While life will not be anything close to “normal” this summer, states are beginning to gradually reopen—each with its own distinct definition of what that looks like. Currently, the news is that most retail businesses will be able to reopen soon, at least with curbside pickup and/or in-store social distancing practices.
The J months, a notoriously slow season for retail, may end up being some of the best-performing months in 2020. But just because you flip the “Open” sign doesn’t mean consumers will flock in. Shoppers are likely to instinctively avoid crowded, seemingly unsafe spaces for months.
So, how can retailers reopen amid the uncertainty? How can they make the most of a potentially small window of opportunity, if restrictions return in the fall?
We have identified five ways retailers can prepare for the “crowdless summer”:
1. Get your delivery and curbside pickup game rolling.
Local restaurants have been an inspiration during these times. They have quickly retooled and ramped up their delivery/pickup game to provide a sense of community and continuity. Retailers should follow suit. Can your store provide delivery/curbside pickup with current staffing? Should you pursue a partnership with Postmates or Deliv?
To get ready:
- Have clear messaging about safety and safety procedures on your website
- Leverage local staff/store inventory for buy online, pick up at curbside (BOPAC) and delivery
- Ensure online orders have multiple day and time window options for pickup or delivery
- Enable two-way texting for arrival/order-ready communication
- Set up a staging area for curbside pickup
- Provide protection (masks/gloves) for workers
2. Foot traffic flipped: offer time-slot reservations and mobile ticketing.
People have quickly become accustomed to capacity limits at grocery stores and find reassurance in less crowded spaces. But consumers are also longing for something from the past—a chance to browse in a bookstore or take the kids to buy a well-deserved toy.
Mobile reservations and ticketing can fulfill both emotional needs; they guarantee more space while also turning shopping into an event to look forward to. Museums have been offering mobile ticketing for years, and retailers should adopt the model.
In order to do this, you will need:
- A digital reservation system
- A mobile ticketing app that enables schedule changes
- Priority for loyalty members
- Clear messaging about the process and safety procedures
- Walk-in options
- Protection (masks/gloves) for workers
3. Consider outdoor markets for “pop-ups.”
While customers are apprehensive about shopping indoors, they feel more at ease outdoors where it is easier to keep social distance and transmission risk is lower.
Cities have been experimenting with closing down some streets for foot traffic, and the warmer climate model of outdoor markets makes sense during a pandemic. Imagine the center of New York City’s Broadway filled with tables from Sephora, Crate and Barrel, Michael Kors, and REI where people can shop more safely.
For this model, you will need:
- Data insights for selecting the best merchandise, because booth space will be limited
- Location promotion on website/social media/directories
- Mobile/touchless payments
- Integration with next-day BOPAC/delivery
- Protection (masks/gloves) for workers
4. Recast your merchandise in terms of what we can do this summer.
European vacations are unlikely this summer. Barbeques, boating, swimming, and driving to a nearby destination will be the norm.
Every brand should assess its merchandise in terms of what will fit consumers’ lives this summer. By sorting and scoring merchandise with this criteria, in addition to applying the usual algorithms around views and buys, brands can do a better job of promoting “nonessential but relevant” products. They should also develop relevant content to drive SEO.
To merchandise for summer 2020, you will need:
- Human merchandiser input to guide decisions
- Merchandising based on new seasonal tags in addition to existing algorithms
- Content geared toward outdoor entertainment and road trips
5. Enforce mask rule for shoppers and workers.
Some states are requiring that everyone wear face masks in public. And regardless of the law, some grocers are requiring patrons to wear masks. It is a great way to protect consumers and workers.
As stay-at-home orders phase out, retailers should continue this requirement. This practice is good for your workers’ health, and it makes cautious consumers feel safer. Consider offering branded masks for those who forgot one. Be sure to include messaging across all channels about why you are doing this: staying safe helps us stay open longer.
Think Outside of Your Footprint
The winners this summer will be the brands that try new things—the brands that bring their products to consumers instead of expecting consumers to come to them, and those that literally and figuratively “go outside.” Just as consumers quickly innovated to create drive-by parades and Zoom happy hours, retailers can and should quickly learn to operate within the new normal.