The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. More livelihoods than lives have been lost. While waves of the pandemic continue to hit us, one thing is certain, that it is getting increasingly more challenging for the retail industry to find its footing in the New Normal. And that is anything but normal. Frequent lockdowns also mean that shops, stores
are shut, malls are closed, and that is not a good sign for the economy. Even from a health perspective, consumers have become wary about stepping outside and entering business establishments. In these times of uncertainty, here are a few things that might help you if you are in the retail industry and want to bring your business back to normal.
Go where the consumer is
Perennial fear has led to a drastic change in consumer behaviour. During the last one year, online retail has accelerated its growth. The gap has narrowed between offline and online shopping and trends indicate that e-commerce will continue to grow rapidly. Consumers aren’t stepping out, and they like room service. So, as a retail player, it is imperative that you follow the consumer. Go where the consumer is, track them down, find out what has changed in their needs, and serve them your new and improved offering. And help them buy it. Work with a logistics partner to help you deliver your goods to their locations. It has become easier to use a single logistics partner to deliver across thousands of pin codes today. Update yourself regarding the players in this space, close deals and inform your consumers that you are open for business once again.
Establish contact-free payment options
For those of your retail businesses who still enjoy walk-ins, please make it convenient for your customer to make payments. Social distancing is critical for business, and it is absolutely critical you adopt online payment mechanisms to ensure a contact-free experience for your customers. After all, they like shopping at your store, make them feel safe about it. Doing business in a contact-free manner is good for business.
Sort your back-end
When demand changes, supply needs immediate attention. You know this. And you also know that you need to start projecting demand as per the dynamic environment we currently are doing business in. You need to plan for the demand accordingly and try and make your back-end as nimble footed as possible. After all, things will not always be this bad and when they improve, you should be ready to capitalise on renewed interest from consumers.
Know your customer
If you are a business that kept track of your customers, get in touch with them, talk to them and offer them your new services or products on messaging apps. Customers who bought from you earlier and had a good experience, will value your attempt to connect and revive the chance to do business with them.
Secure your spaces
Once lockdowns are far and few, consumers are bound to start visiting your store. What you need to provide at that time is assurance that you keep your environment clean and sterilised. There are several traditional methods of doing this. Sanitisers keep surfaces
clean and ensure that customers feel safe when they walk-in. But today, there is a new category of devices that protect your surroundings called Viral Defence Systems. These are electronic devices that are backed by revolutionary technology. For example, the Shycocan neutralises the Coronavirus inside your premises and reduces the transmission of the virus with up to 99.9% efficacy. It is absolutely the need of the hour to abide by the new safety guidelines that will be implemented and changed from time to time for the retail business.
New in-shop experiences
Store designs will need to be revisited. Given the current context and the what we expect to see in the foreseeable future, commerce spaces need to be redesigned. It is better to get a head start and start thinking about this so that when lockdowns are lifted and consumers are back in store, they experience the new design in a safe and reassuring manner. If you are a restaurant, you might have to revisit seating, if you are a supermarket, you might have to change the way the products are stocked so that there is linear movement from aisle to aisle. These time tested ideas will need to be challenged and changed.
What is clearly evident is that traditional retailers will need to up their game to update themselves about the latest technologies available and view their business from a new dynamic lens. Optimisation of spends is critical and being nimble footed is essential. The retail landscape will change to accommodate a future where safety will be at the top of consumer requirements and it is a win-win for both, them and your employees.
Alok Sharma is CEO, Shycocan Corporation, the Company behind a breakthrough new technology, the Shycocan. A virus attenuation device that can disable the entire Coronavirus and Influenza family of viruses with 99.9% efficacy in enclosed spaces as per multiple virology test reports from accredited laboratories globally. He’s the former MD of Apple India, an angel investor, entrepreneur, dad and eternal optimist.