We’ve examined how COVID-19 is currently impacting the retail world, as well as the effects that major retail brands are suffering as a result of the ongoing pandemic. As quarantine measures and other restrictions are gradually being lifted worldwide, though, it may be prudent to discuss the post-COVID retail landscape in greater detail.
Specifically, what changes will we likely see as restrictions are lifted? How may those changes continue to affect post-pandemic retail? Finally, how might customers feel about these new developments as some semblance of “normalcy” is restored? Let’s take a closer look.
What Changes Will Retailers See As Restrictions Are Lifted?
Let’s begin by swiftly recapping what changes retailers have already seen as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Contactless payments have become more common, customer-employee contact has diminished, and the surge of online transactions we’ve seen in recent years has only strengthened. Customers’ demand for goods and services has also fallen as many of them face unemployment or being furloughed.
That last point, demand, is where retailers will see some marked changes as quarantine measures are rolled back. While some customers may spend high sums as a means of releasing pent-up demand (also known as “shoptimism”), those individuals’ appetites for retail goods, particularly luxury items, will remain overall cool to the touch for quite some time (probably well into 2021). Retailers shouldn’t count on that aforementioned pent-up demand to salvage their bottom line.
It probably comes as little surprise that this pandemic has also heightened customer interest in self-sufficiency, and retailers can expect to see that interest impact their post-pandemic landscape as well. For example, customers are now more likely to buy yeast instead of processed bread, a trend that retailers can expect to provide both marketing opportunities and obstacles.
Listening to Retail Customers in A Post-Pandemic World
Customer experience (CX) programmes will be more crucial than ever for brands to implement and adhere to as quarantine measures are eased. With that in mind, let’s briefly examine how the pandemic has likely forever changed customer expectations, what those expectations are, and why it will pay for brands to listen to them carefully.
First, customers will emerge from quarantine hoping that brands take precautions against additional COVID outbreaks. As such, these organisations need to listen carefully to what those individuals hope to see when they return to physical storefronts. Brands can help assuage customer worries by maintaining cleanliness standards contrived during the outbreak, such as wider aisles that allow for more personal space.
Listening to customers and maintaining a safety standard they’re comfortable with plays into a wider strategy of building and maintaining long-term relationships with those individuals. Retailers that make it apparent that their customers are being listened to will have a considerable advantage over brands that don’t.
Finally, customers will also pay close attention to how retailers treat their employees and factor that relationship into their decision to resume shopping with a given brand… or not. Brands should be listening to employees anyway, and not solely for the sake of accommodating their concerns and making them feel cared about. Listening to employees also helps ensure that they return to the workplace advocating for their brand, not against it.
The bottom line here is that the pandemic has spurred customers to scrutinise retailers more now than perhaps ever before, and that brand success in a post-COVID world means rolling with both customers’ new realities (reduced spending power, new/upended interests) and still listening for what those individuals want to see as restrictions are lifted. Retailers that can pull this delicate balancing act off will be posed for meaningful success in a post-COVID world.
COVID-19 presents a formidable challenge to retailers of all stripes, but they needn’t’ navigate it alone. To learn more about how to succeed in the era of Coronavirus, read our article on the subject here.