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Stores re-opening – business as usual?

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As the rate of Coronavirus infection declines across Europe and Asia, many retailers are beginning to re-open their doors. Most are finding the resumption of in-person commerce as anything but business as usual. Extremely long queuing seen at re-opened stores like IKEA, starting as early as 5.30am, will be one of the many challenges retailers must face in the ‘new normal’.

Retailers are being asked to implement more stringent health and safety measures with far less available capital than before the crisis began.

And these new measures are not only a reaction to ever-changing government guidance, but also a way in which to restore consumer confidence in shared public spaces. Daphne Howland, a reporter at Retail Dive, noted ‘the intensity of the disease outbreak means new rules for physical stores, which will have to meet expectations for cleanliness and social distancing that are likely to persist well after the pandemic subsidies’.

Meeting these growing expectations around health and safety will be critical in incentivizing weary customers to return to brick-and-mortar shopping. The key to adapting to this new normal is likely to be strengthened store communications and compliance monitoring byway of embracing smarter tech-based solutions.

Clear and simple store communication

As our understanding of the virus and the measures required to contain its spread continue to grow it is important for every retailer to remain up to date on the latest government guidelines. Equally important is the communication of this information from company headquarters across entire store portfolios. Retailers must be able to cascade information quickly, reliably, and directly.

LUSH, is embracing smart tech in their daily post-lockdown communications. Carmen Ip, the Communications and Operations Manager for North America, recently stated, ‘at the moment with things happening so quickly we are finding ourselves evolving our messages daily, even sometimes hourly. Rather than send emails every couple of hours we can just update the message within [our comms platform]’.

Without clear and simple communications retailers risk falling behind on important measures that ensure the safety of their stores and their employees, which could ultimately erode trust with their customers.

Instant Compliance Monitoring

Direct communication is important, but it is not enough. Retailers need to know that every message is being received, read, and then implemented. Upon re-opening, store teams are faced with new kinds of tasks, from erecting sneeze screens, implementing the quarantine of returned products, staggering employee arrival times and enforcing internal social distancing. Retailers must be able to verify that each set of tasks are being completed in every store within the required time frame.

Meeting consumer expectations through rigorous compliance monitoring will be more important than ever before. A recent survey found that nearly half (45%) of Brits ‘plan to buy from certain brands and retailers less in the future specifically because of how those companies have responded to the current pandemic’. The smallest slip up in compliance could have severe effects on brand image.

Embracing smart tech solutions

Retailers are being asked to do more around health and safety during a time of economic decline where cash-flow issues are common. Cutting costs does not have to come at the expense of sacrificing oversight. In fact, embracing smart tech solutions can offer greater reward with far less associated costs.

Some retailers are better poised than others in this regard. The past few years have seen a massive increase in the embrace of retail technologies. Aldi, for instance, has successfully trialled an automated traffic light system in their UK stores to comply with social distancing measures.

Yet, many still remain dependent on outdated methods and fragmented sources of online communication whereby important actionable information is often overlooked. In the post-lockdown era such oversights in store comms and compliance monitoring will become far more costly and untenable.

StorIQ is the retail ops platform that streamlines store communications, task management, and compliance monitoring – all on one easy-to-use dashboard. The platform acts as a single source of truth for each and every store. Critically, in the post-lockdown era it is a cost-effective tool that can be utilized to ensure retail stores re-open with confidence.

If you need any assistance with store communications or brand compliance, then please get in touch – we’ll be happy to help!

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