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By Kerry Needs   |  
June 23rd, 2020

These 6 subsectors in retail are getting safely back to business, here’s how

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Regardless of sector, retailers who will succeed post-COVID-19 are those who can quickly establish and maintain trust with their customer base. Retailers must adapt, or risk industry-wide shutdowns.

As retail businesses re-open around the world, companies must remain flexible, making the shift away from traditional retail methods and moving towards a world of increased demand for e-commerce, social distancing, and stringent hygiene measures.

Every sector in retail has been affected and is adapting in new ways to re-open safely. Here’s how the top 6 sectors in retail are changing:

From physical buying to armchair shopping

Until a vaccine is available or stringent safety measures are in place, individuals will continue to purchase clothes, food, and entertainment online. In America, this seems set to continue as Forbes notes,

“While old habits die hard, trends such as mobile payments, contactless delivery for food and packages, and eCommerce for nontraditional items (think cars and furniture) have a good chance of gaining more traction in the US in a post-COVID-19 world.”

Forbes – 2020

For eCommerce operators, the pandemic has been mostly positive: with more people shopping online more than ever before, and low overheads, online businesses have been clear winners.

As people start to shop in-person again, eCommerce businesses will have to focus on retaining their new customers and offering an experience that is still preferable to in-person.

It’s likely that for a long time moving forward, online shopping is the safest way to shop. Investments in tech, user experience, and online advertising will help customers have an easier time finding what they need online.

One of the more innovative approaches to solving this challenge uses AI and Machine Learning algorithms, such as Kount. These customize every eCommerce consumers’ experience, reducing friction by identifying and segmenting users based on common characteristics.

Many eCommerce supply chains, order management, and fulfillment will be tested and overwhelmed by a surge in new orders.

Online tactics such as optimizing cookies, A/B testing product pages, and making sure top deals are listed out front are primary focuses for a lot of retailers. As online shopping becomes normalized, perks like free delivery or free returns help shoppers feel more confident in their purchases.

Despite the relative safety of eCommerce shopping, there are still measures to be put in place in warehouse facilities, even if shielded from public interaction. A social distancing process for warehouses may include the following:

  • Regular internal communication to all warehouse staff
  • Staggering shifts start, end, and break times
  • Restricting all non-essential visitors to sites/hubs/warehouses

Looking after our health during lockdown

Health is more front-of-mind than ever under the pressure of COVID-19. With many reluctant to visit health clinics, self-care and wellbeing is now firmly in the consumers’ hands, and many are taking this opportunity to take full responsibility for their own health.

Today medical centers have experienced an acceleration of digital transformation, as consumers now have the ability to have phone consultations with doctors and receive scripts remotely.

Protective personal care products are on the rise — there’s a greater demand for masks, gloves, and other hygiene products. With conflicting guidance on the nature of the virus, many are unsure of how these should be utilized, meaning the level of risk in a public situation can be over or under exaggerated and largely is left to individual discretion.

Health from home is fast becoming the new norm, and brands have had to adapt.

For businesses where physical presence is still a must, like the
hair salon, or the dentist — new measures must be put in place to protect staff and customers.

Mandatory masks and cutting sessions into multiple sessions to reduce long appointments are some of the tactics owners are implementing to stay compliant.

Supermarkets and grocers feel the weight of the crisis

Grocery stores and supermarkets have continued to meet high demand, adapting to new buying methods during the lockdown. The use of online and delivery have surged. While consumers have not stopped buying groceries, behaviors have shifted towards delivery services.

For businesses, this means re-allocating staff resources to help with picking and packing, fulfilling online orders, and delivering goods.

As the world re-opens, we can learn a lot from how supermarkets have managed the extreme change in a short time. Grocers have restructured their workforce, and it’s not uncommon to see staff being rostered on “shopping cart and baskets sanitization duty” now. It’s also been a time to re-evaluate the supply chain.

Certain items in grocery stores have experienced surging demand — such as hand sanitizer, masks, toilet paper, and general cleaning products.

Stock levels have needed to be adjusted rapidly to satisfy buyers. As the world changes, different products will take the leaderboard, so it’s more important than ever for grocers to maintain and strengthen their supply chain relationships, keep an eye on consumer trends, and pivot to quickly adapt.

Spending money on home improvements

Aside from improving themselves physically, consumers are also transforming their home and garden with the additional time given to them during the lockdown.

For both large departments and those with small spaces, businesses have to rethink their sense of space. Acceptable distancing measures will need to be implemented across the board, and checklists will need to be owned by all staff in order to comply with measures.

At the moment, many large outlets are ‘showrooming’, meaning that customers are able to come and look at stock such as electrical goods, without being able to touch.

They can ask retailers questions about products, but purchases can be done online or orders placed for home delivery.

This means the relationship between retailer and consumer is more ‘hands-off’ than ever before. It’s important to give the consumers more information, and then allow them to make up their own mind about the purchase, rather than a ‘personal shopping’ type experience many DIY shops are known for.

Buying to entertain ourselves at home

A new way of thinking has already begun since the start of COVID-19. These involve questions such as: How much do I actually need to consume? Can I do more with less? How can I use everyday items and reuse or recycle them in a new way? Can I make art or crafts out of items in my home?

When it comes to hobbies under lockdown, many are finding new ways to stay busy. From setting up tents in the garden, playing video games with friends, to completing puzzles or painting rainbows, many individuals are ordering entertainment products online. According to many countries, there has been an arts and crafts renaissance.

The wellness trend is here to stay, so businesses should think about which product lines are important to promote (at home gardening kits, art for the kids), and which will have a beneficial effect on our health for the long-term. For example, avoiding the busy public transport systems has led many to take up cycling as a recreational activity and for transport purposes.

As we start to re-introduce socializing on a smaller scale, businesses need to be prepared for our need for human connection. Events will become more important for recreation; even though these may be on a small scale at the moment.

Fashion makes the world go ‘round

Fashion retailers have been hit the hardest from COVID-19, closely followed by furniture and electronics retailers.

Customers have been focused on buying essentials, so it’s little wonder that items that require a ‘try before you buy’ have been put to the bottom of most people’s shopping lists. For those clothing stores that are reopening, safety is paramount.

Many brands have started to introduce strict new measures, particularly around customers wearing clothes. For example, changing rooms are expected to remain closed, or customers will be encouraged to wear face shields when trying on clothes. Meanwhile, customers will be encouraged to avoid touching the merchandise, with extra sanitization options, or reduced stock on the floor.

“Staff will potentially have to just walk around spraying shelves.”

Mr. Lim from Retail Economics

The automotive industry responds to the pandemic

When it comes to vehicles, there are many measures retailers must make to keep customers safe.

Retailers must incorporate strict cleaning regimens within the consumer shopping journey and make sure employees and shoppers can care for their car in a way that keeps them safe.

Test driving is a popular tactic to convert customers in automotive sales. Thanks to the pandemic, this approach may not be safe for either employees or interested buyers.

Providing a deep-clean checklist after each test drive, and gloves for test drivers and staff maybe just a couple of ways you can help introduce safer measures. Overall, fewer people are investing in cars, and some are turning to less risky forms of transport.

One online retailer reported bike sales increased by 192 percent since lockdown. So how do retailers meet the need for this change in consumer behavior? The post-COVID-19 customer is likely to be more risk-averse, more cautious, and therefore require more of a persuasive customer experience.

One way to build trust is to show how you are eliminating the threat of a potential health or safety hazard. This may mean hand sanitizer in every vehicle, hygiene guidance in every app, and protective screens at customer interaction counters.

How retail leaders can get safely back to business

Getting safely back to business is now the number one priority in the retail
industry. In order to stay on top of your game in a post-COVID-19 world, staying cautious and measured is key.

SafetyCulture has digitized the world’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines into a simple digital checklists that any team member can use in minutes from their desktop or mobile device. During COVID-19, iAuditor is currently being used 75,000+ times a day in over 80 countries to keep people safe and healthy.

Make safety your edge

If you’re a business manager, owner, or operations manager, iAuditor can help provide the foundation of safety within your team. It’s helpful admin features mean that you can implement accountability within your teams. Review checklists, assign actions, and monitor dashboards to see real-time information on safety standards.

By integrating iAuditor with your teams, you can pave the way to win more business as you build a strong edge with safety.

Install checklists that help you identify items such as:

  • Does everyone have the correct PPE?
  • Are social distancing and hygiene processes being observed?
  • Are my teams protecting themselves in customer interactions?
  • Updates to the pick-up or delivery process of goods

Put safety first by using checklists

Safety checklists are imperative to utilize in a post-COVID-19 world. Retailers might implement checklists such as our Return To Work – Managing Your WorkPlace checklist, or our Store-Reopening Checklist.

As health and wellbeing is on everyone’s minds, it’s important to elevate products that speak to value, health and wellness, children and family time, community, and home.

Retailers can rebuild their proposition by being flexible to needs, delivering great value and customer care, and gathering data about what customers now consider an ‘essential’ purchase.

Balance commercial growth and public safety

Safety has to be part of any retailers core proposition, but this doesn’t mean that commercial growth has to be compromised. Business continuity checklists can help you weather the crisis quickly and efficiently, with guidelines for both staff and customers.

Getting back to trading safely is top of everyone’s agenda, despite concerns about an additional ‘second wave’, or even the chance that the pandemic could be transmitted in your store. It’s now necessary for businesses to forward plan for this possibility, covering roles and responsibilities should the crisis hit.

In order to make your experiences trusted and ‘sticky’, offer your customers convenient and personalized add-on services. For example, you might offer a free gift that the user can decorate their home
with, or free contactless delivery.

Now is the time to build trust with your customer throughout every layer of messaging. This will cement your brand as one of the forerunners emerging out of this crisis.

With iAuditor, you can draw up an inspection checklist for every facet of your operations. This means problems can be tracked, reported on, and resolved much faster. iAuditor lets your team collect consistent data, standardize operations, send reports, identify failed areas, and get problems resolved with easy to use checklists. You can share your retail inspections immediately, at the touch of a button. Check stock levels, manage customer suggestions, and create to-do lists for team members.

Build a robust safety culture

It’s now time for every business to have a genuine safety culture, and this is of the utmost importance in the retail sector.

It can all start with your organization, by getting the right procedures implemented for your staff and customers.

With iAuditor’s actions features, you can spot a task that needs to be completed, assign it to a team member, and alert them with an email, SMS, or a push notification. It also allows you to track and report.

We have a wide variety of checklists for getting safely back to the retail industry. Processes and checks to incorporate into daily safety and quality practices could include:

For more about how retailers can get safely back to businesses and keep customers safe in a post-COVID-19 world, read SafetyCulture’s new comprehensive report for retailers.

Important Notice
The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your specific needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are based on our interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. We are not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article. SafetyCulture disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article, any site linked to this article, and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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