Is Retail Ready for the Post COVID-19 Age?
“To reopen or not to reopen?”
That’s the million-dollar question running through the minds of thousands of businesses affected by government-enforced lockdowns.
During the last few months of quarantine, people have been trying to adapt all of their daily activities typically associated with the ‘outdoors’ to stuff they can do, well... indoors. This includes working, attending meetings and conferences, hanging out with friends, going to school, and even grocery shopping.
As the period of hibernation comes to a close, businesses are gearing up to reopen. It can be a risky move, for obvious reasons. But there is a silver lining—there are effective business practices which you can implement to provide a secure shopping experience for your customers, and a protected workplace for your staff.
Here are six strategies for retailers to create a safe retail environment in the post-COVID-19 age.
Customers are the sun around which businesses revolve. Effective communication of the store's new safety rules is quintessential to a successful reopening. Here are ways to inform your customers:
Create a list of rules and regulations to advise customers on how they should behave while in the store. Use digital displays to update them about the latest regulations and guidelines in real-time.
Post banners on your store's website and social media accounts to inform customers of the new rules before they go into the store.
For customers who have already scheduled an appointment to shop at your store, send them a copy of the shopping guidelines through email or text.
Display a checklist of essential safety steps while shopping at the entrance.
Have signs that clearly display how many people are allowed inside.
Screening customers for symptoms of fever as they enter the store is another way to mitigate risk. This can be done by use of handheld laser guns that can check body temperature in seconds. Equipping the screening staff with protective equipment such as face shields, gloves, and masks will ensure that they are protected as well.
For stores that only accept customers by appointment, require them to answer a short questionnaire and sign a waiver. Their information will be useful in case there's a need for contact tracing.
According to Tom Peters, an American writer and speaker on business management practices, a company can be quickly judged by how much it values its customers by the appearance of its restrooms and how well they are maintained. Commonly, many managers exclude cleanliness from their priority list. Here are tips to keep your store sanitized:
If your staff calls in sick, do not let them come to work.
Enforce a rule to staff wash their hands as frequently as possible.
Provide hand sanitizers for customers to use at accessible locations, particularly at the store's entrance.
Regularly clean surfaces that are often touched, such as trolleys, shopping baskets, and counters.
Set up Queueing
To keep customers away from each other in a reasonable distance, retailers must place floor markings at queueing points, such as checkouts and restrooms. Larger stores must inform customers about the queueing stations even before they enter. This will force retailers to pay constant attention to the number of customers in their stores and limit the number of customers allowed.
Maximize Contactless Payment
Contactless payment allows customers to pay using their smartphones or pay-enabled cards, minimizing the need to pass cash or cards from customer to teller. This payment method also helps ease the long lines at checkout, thus reducing the customer’s exposure to the virus.
The workforce is the foundation of a business. Create open lines of communication with your staff. Get their opinions on your store's reopening, be transparent in communicating the possible risks they may encounter, and show them your strategies to mitigate these risks. Here are some tips:
- Plan efficient scheduling for the whole team. Consider factors such as timing and traveling issues, health status, financial liabilities, and binding regulations.
- Set clear expectations. Explain how they will be compensated, how many hours they're going to work, and how things will change in the working process.
- Evaluate factors that compete with an employee's ability to return to work, such as family care responsibilities or unemployment insurance benefits.
- Hear them out if they have suggestions concerning the store's sanitation process and organization of drills. It will help them adapt to the new working method.
- Remember to see things from their perspective. Think of a setup that will benefit both your staff and your business.
COVID-19 has infected more than 3 million people in the United States, and more than 250,000 people in the United Kingdom, affecting how in-store shopping is perceived—the way its operation can be a risk for consumers. As stores slowly get back on their feet, shopping will have a different way of providing consumer needs for a while.
Now is the right time for retailers to redefine how they run their stores—it's a chance to show your customers how your business can be a beacon to help your community rise.