Before the Covid-19 pandemic had the UK firmly in its grip in March, many retailers were already struggling due to consumers’ increasing shift to online and/or a growing preference for customer experience over basic transactional shopping.
With non-essential stores being forced to close for almost three months across the UK, online retail has been thriving. Despite the government giving the go-ahead for non-essential shops in England to reopen from June 15, speculation was rife that shopping would not return to the way it was pre-lockdown.
The reopened retailers are not only faced with the challenge of having to keep up with new health and safety measures – such as deep cleaning, closed changing rooms, limited in-store customer numbers, perspex screens at tills and the two-metre distancing rule – but they also have to find ways to encourage customers to shop with them regardless of the changes.
“The opening of non-essential retail is a big and positive step in the UK coming out of lockdown, but there is no doubt it will be a long term commitment to get the high street moving properly again,”
“Open doors are by no means a guarantee of returning footfall, and the retail industry will be holding its breath to see how shoppers react to the reopening of stores, and how social distancing is managed.”
Online retail will likely remain an attractive alternative provided the in-store experience is restricted.
“As consumers adapt to returning in store, the combination of bricks-and-mortar and digital channels will be vital,” particularly for fashion retailers.”
Before lockdown, consumers used both online and offline shopping, turning to websites, social media and reviews to inform purchases in store – and this is likely to continue post-lockdown.
But retailers could capitlise on this by encouraging more customers to share experiences of products through ratings and reviews to drive confidence among shoppers and entice them back into stores.
“The ‘new normal’ will come further down the road, when Covid-19 is no longer a threat,”
“They must adapt to this unique scenario, making themselves flexible enough to respond to changes in shopping behaviour, while also keeping staff and customers safe.”
Without a doubt, retailers need to consider how they’ll manage limited physical interaction with shoppers and what the impact would be on items being placed in quarantine for a number of days.