As lockdowns lift and vaccinations become more widespread, we can all feel the balance shift. Retail is preparing for recovery.
People everywhere are looking forward to their pre-pandemic behaviors, which include in-store shopping. However, are retailers prepared to meet this predicted increased consumer demand for in-store shopping? Consumer behaviors have shifted, and it’s not clear yet what will stick. After all, retail has been redefining the role of physical stores for years, and that was before an international pandemic hit.
It’s up to retailers, and their front-line store teams, to deliver on that expectation.
We were never prepared for the massive business changes that retail would have to undergo so quickly. In no time, Covid-19 catapulted countless retailers into uncharted waters. Shelter-in-place mandates, health and safety regulations, sanitization guidelines, PPE, curbside and BOPIS, and employee furloughs were just some of the new challenges that were stacked on top of the old ones. Brands were forced to innovate and adapt in ways that we could have never anticipated.
But retail was already changing. Retail stores have been focused on redefining their role for years. Some industry leaders had already made innovative strides to breathe new life into old models, while others have lagged behind.
Fortunately, many successful retailers have had a communications platform in place to easily communicate with store leaders throughout the pandemic. This enabled them all to manage the nearly constant changes that came from furloughs, new ways for customers to pick up products (eg BOPIS, curbside, etc), and health and safety regulations. Communications also provided the support that store teams needed during a tumultuous period.
These retailers not only remained open to provide essential products to consumers, but most were able to quickly adapt to changing customer needs and introduced new services for product fulfillment, including delivery, dark stores, BOPIS, curbside pickup, and more.
Retail success in this new era means making physical locations work harder than ever—in the physical and the virtual worlds.
We learned from our Readying for Retail’s Return Webinar that for both essential retailers Big Lots and Rite Aid, who remained open and agile during the height of Covid-19, enhancing omnichannel strategy wasn’t just important, it was necessary.
Online and brick-and-mortar is no longer an either/or proposition. Retailers must truly connect online and in-store shopping. This is the future of retail: brick-and-mortar stores must be reinvented as part of a true omnichannel strategy. One example of this is Walgreens’ new 2-hour delivery which offers “nationwide, contactless, same-day delivery in under two hours.” Another example is lululemon’s virtual shopping system that lets shoppers video chat with team members to ask questions, get product recommendations and have the sales rep place the order for them—just as they would in the store.
These added layers of complexity require a great deal of flexibility, adaptiveness, and oversight. As omnichannel retail continues to build momentum, brands have to provide a distinctive but consistent experience to get consumers to their stores, make them comfortable, and encourage purchases.
The biggest lynchpin in this “new normal?” People. Employee engagement is crucial for brand success in today’s retail climate. With more shopping options available to consumers than ever before, brick-and-mortar retailers need to master the in-person customer experience to stay competitive. And your customer’s experience is shaped by your employee experience. By setting up your frontline workers for success, they will feel empowered to represent the brand and be the voice of the company.
As you make rapid shifts in strategy and operations, it’s important to keep the entire company in the loop and use communications to align the people throughout your organization. Store closings are painful for employees, and those who remain will be called on to help reinvent their roles. It’s also crucial that people in mid-level management roles understand the rationale behind major changes. The stakes for retail store recovery are higher than ever, and we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.
After all, people are the heart of retail.
We’ve learned a lot in the past year, and know that success amidst a pandemic requires agility (something retail isn’t historically famous for). The only way to stay nimble and move quickly through regulations, policy changes, and unpredictable changes is to fix our communication problems in retail through a constant feedback loop that keeps the entire team aligned.
Fortunately, Zipline was built for this: our software makes it easy to target and personalize comms so that everyone, at each level of the organization, only sees information that applies to them and everyone gets to track execution.
Our unique approach to communication and task management ensures that store teams always have context around tasks so they understand the role they play in the brand’s mission. This feeling of connection drives better customer experiences.
Tune into the webinar to learn more about what retailers should be thinking about as they prepare their stores for increased traffic levels. Are you ready to learn how your stores can remain a vital part of the retail experience? Zipline was built to solve the unique challenges of communication in retail organizations. Reach out to explore more, today.
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