Andrew Busby, CEO of Retail Reflections

Preparing for retail re-opening: Be ready and waiting

Andrew Busby, CEO of Retail Reflections advises on what retailers should be considering or putting into place as the current lockdown restrictions finally begin to ease

 They haven’t seen a customer for months, and if reports are to be believed, it’s likely that other, unwanted visitors have likely moved in.

But, for now, let’s assume that the local pest control have done their job, spring and summer lines are on the rails, and the windows are screaming, “come in and buy!”, what else do retailers need to consider before the curtain goes up once more, in front of an expectant audience?

Because, all the while stores have lain dormant, an online predator has been on the rampage, greedily devouring the market as rapidly as possible. It’s time for a physical fightback.

Well, not quite, because of course, with a few notable exceptions, retailing today is all about a joined-up proposition. Easy and convenient, providing a seamless journey whatever the start point and whatever the destination.

So, just what does a successful reopening look like?

Safe Stores
If we don’t feel safe, we’re not going to return. It’s that simple. And while supermarkets have inexplicably relaxed their Covid safe measures, we need to do our grocery shop, so will apply a different level of risk assessment in that instance.

However, for many of us, shopping is all about browsing, the complete antithesis of stocking up on the weekly grocery. So, we’re going to want to browse in safety.

Just how seamless is your multichannel offering? Can you effectively manage all your offline and online orders? Automated ordering fulfilment and shipping has never been as critical as it is now.

Reducing order processing and delivery times by automating repeatable order management tasks takes the uncertainty out of multichannel operations and allows ecommerce firms to get items out of the door faster. Brands like Shopify and Brightpearl have grown tremendously over the last year because of their ability to support retail automation.. And, additionally, are you offering different delivery options? Because kerbside collection has just gone mainstream.

Know Your Stock
Or rather, where it is. Let’s face it, the last time it saw the light of day was many weeks ago. Is it in the right place? Do you know how long it’s been there? Are you on top of your online returns? Because, things are about to take off once again.

Digital Levelling Up
Time to take a fresh look at your stores. Shrewd retailers will quickly realise that the journey from ‘safe’ to smart’ stores is a logical path to tread. Time to really understand how your customers shop your stores. Time to exploit the work from home generation and offer live video streaming.

For years we’ve talked about digitally enabling the business and it often felt like it was a solution trying to find a problem. Covid-19 is that problem, and is the perfect reason to reimagine the entire store experience.

Above All, Make It Memorable
After a year of lockdown and social distancing restrictions, we’ve become a cynical, judgmental lot, and not only that, we’ve become rather accustomed, after just a few clicks, to stuff simply turning up on our doorstep the next day.

So, yes, we’re going to venture out of our bunkers and into the shops, but in so doing, casting something of a critical eye on all that we encounter. And if the experience isn’t positively memorable, we’ll simply revert to clicks once more.

Even before the global pandemic hit us, retailers were facing a myriad of challenges from all quarters; consumer confidence, shifting behaviours, online promiscuity, lack of loyalty, rising costs – the list goes on and on. Well, it just got even longer, but simultaneously, many opportunities are now presenting themselves.

It would be too easy to label stores as an expensive overhead in the face of an online tsunami but the truth is rather different. It all depends on the lens through which you view them. Sales driver and brand enabler? Or a costly anchor holding your business back?

Those who see the former are the ones more likely to succeed.

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