The daily pressure on physical retailers around the world to meet the expected demands from consumers has never been greater.
The bar to compete has been lifted higher than ever before with the ongoing rise of digital commerce from eCommerce websites, Apps, Social Media, 'Social Commerce' and of course now Covid.
For many retailers that bar has proven to be far too high as retail casualties appear in our headlines on an almost daily basis.
We are all consumers of someone else's business, every day we make an unconscious bias in our decision to shop with one company/brand over another.
Yet it seems that those sat in privileged leadership roles seem to forget that the first place to look at how your business might be changing is to focus on consumer behaviour, not tech.
The job of retail leaders is to inspire the consumer first and foremost, ensuring you can do this whilst maintaining a commercially competitive advantage.
Given that in the western hemisphere we are now waiting on the arrival of Autumn and Winter which is usually a time of opportunity and profit for many pre-pandemic, but this year is clearly going to make things even more difficult as local lockdown restrictions are likely to prevail.
During the summer months we witnessed some creativity of thought form retailers who have been trying to get us to leave the safety of our bubble and spend in-store with them.
Building community on the sidewalk. With CDC guidance on limited occupancy, many retailers are having to make shoppers wait at 6’ intervals by using stickers on the sidewalk. According to Dave Bruno on the Aptos blog, London’s Notting Hill Fish Shop has set up folding chairs to let people sit and socialize while waiting in line. “Shoppers have taken to the idea and fallen in love with the ability to socialize while social distancing.”
So, what will we see for Autumn/Winter when those sidewalks are a cold, wet and miserable place to be?
I'm currently working with a great company in the travel retail space who are not only creating great consumer experiences, but are very much aware of the commercial pressures on retailers due to the lack of footfall.
They have an asset tracking platform that has been used internally for years and is now being used by some premium brands they are also working with.
In plain english most retailers have invested in some form of 'visual merchandising' which consist of displays to entice and capture our attention, along with the investment and production of in-store merchandising kits.
They recognised sometime ago that most retail businesses don't have the ability to be able to audit the real estate based on prior investments in the visual merchandising space so they came up with their own solution - check it out here
Whilst its proving popular with their 'travel retail' clients it can help other sectors of retailing to help deliver lower cost experiences from display assets that for many are sat idle, or in locations unknown.
I came across an article (below) that highlights some of the ways 7 different retailers are taking a consumer centric approach to getting people back to physical stores.
Most of them like the above are low cost, innovative, and sustainable long after Covid has subsided.
Sure, trying to get your landlord to sympathise with you and let you negotiate a rental structure fit for the chaos we find ourselves in is one thing but.........
As retailers we need to get creative, generate theatre, excite with experiences and 'leverage' what you already have to 'build' a solid reason for consumers to leave that 'bubble' and shop with you.
If you get the idea right and your customers are on 'social media' let them know what you're doing.
The department store giant recently hired Instagram influencers to visit and take photos inside its New York City flagship store. Wendy Nguyen, one fashion influencer, told followers that visiting Nordstrom was refreshing because "everyone was wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and were incredibly kind. Even shoppers, strangers as we were, stopped and had meaningful conversations."