After hurting from months of closure, offline retailers are progressively being allowed to “unlock.” Are they ready for the Great Reopening?
Retailers are deeply concerned about how long shoppers will take to return in their previous numbers. Will they ever see those numbers again?
As always, there is plenty of advice going around. Blogs, articles and podcasts abound! Many of these are brand-focused and advise the retailers to protect, amplify and promote their brand. Others suggest actions to win back shoppers by following health and safety precautions. No doubt, many of the suggestions are useful and actionable. However, what we are seeing points to different solutions.
Most seem to underestimate the immense impact the past few months have had on shoppers and shopping habits. Here’s what we have observed on the streets and in discussions with retailers and shoppers:
- Even more shoppers have discovered the convenience of shopping online. People who were regular online shoppers, even before COVID, have explored purchasing new items and categories online. Shopping patterns have changed.
- Offline shoppers are concerned about facing strangers and exposing themselves to the risk of catching the virus.
- The economic impact of the past few months and consequent pay cuts has left many with lower discretionary income.
Retailers’ costs have increased due to new requirements like limiting the shoppers in the store, dispensing sanitizers and recording the temperature of every shopper. The inability to access some low-cost vendors due to restrictions on global trade has also resulted in higher prices for customers.
To develop a comprehensive response to the current situation and get ready for the Grand Reopening, offline retailers should look at the post-COVID situation in the context of offline trends visible even before.
This requires retailers to go back to fundamentals. They have to make sure they actually provide the joys that make them attractive to their shoppers vis-a-vis their online competitors. Retailers have to match the expectations of their own tribe of shoppers. To do this, they have to ask the fundamental questions:
- What is my store’s catchment area? Where do my tribe of shoppers live and work? In other words, what are their first and second places?
- How do I get them into my “place”? In other words, how do I increase my footfall?
- How do I move them from Shopper to Customer? Or, how do I increase my conversion rates?
- How do I get my customers to return - again and again? Or, how do I increase my customer loyalty?
To answer these questions, retailers need to identify their tribe clearly. This will, of course, vary from brand to brand. But overall, since we are talking offline retail here, they need to understand why customers visit a physical store.
To put this in perspective, let us recall the key factors that enabled physical shopping to survive the online onslaught:
- Foremost is the “going out” part of offline shopping. Most shoppers enjoy the visceral experience of physical shopping - the magical “third place” that they can choose themselves every time, without compulsions. This has always been the biggest draw for offline retail, especially in metropolitan settings, where shopping is the most accessible “third place.”
- Offline is the place where you can touch and feel the product before forking out the big money. Most of us are familiar with occasions of disappointment with what we receive from online vendors. That makes touch and feel all the more relevant, even if it ends up as “showrooming”.
- Offline also has a strong social component, where you can shop with your friends or family and actually talk to a salesperson.
- Another factor going for offline is the ambiance created by the retailer. You can shop while biting into a bar of chocolate or sipping your favorite drink as you walk about the aisle enjoying music at the same time.
- The final take away (sic) is important too! You can physically carry, or even start using, what you have bought instantly.
What retailers need to do, therefore, is to adopt a four-step approach:
- Identify their tribe of shoppers and where they live and work.
- Remind them of the opportunity to experience the five joys of offline shopping as frequently as possible to increase store footfall.
- Once in the store, use in-store communications to convert them into customers
- Finally, engage the customers, so they visit the store again and again.
Moving Walls’ Retail works with offline retailers globally to deploy cutting edge tools and technologies to help them capture footfall, increase conversion and earn customer loyalty. To learn more,