Retail Reset: Best Practices for Engaging Cautious Consumers  6/25/2020

The team at WSL Strategic Retail is known for their "in-the-trenches" analysis of retail where the rubber meets the road – in the store and online – and they have scouts in major cities around the world gathering intelligence to  evaluate how retailers are engaging with shoppers. 

As retailers are beginning to open up for business, these scouts have been checking out how they have adapted their stores and operations to this new environment, where shoppers are cautiously starting to make their way into stores again, whether to browse the aisles or to pick up an online order.

During this intervew, I speak with WSL Senior Consultant Elizabeth Gretkowski and Consultant Analyst Kaci Floyd about what they and their scouts have witnessed among retailers and some restaurants located in Texas, Florida, London, New York and New Jersey. One thing is for sure: Everything that retailers have been working on – convenience, store-experience, e-commerce, services – has new definitions now compared to just three months ago, something WSL refers to as the "Retail Reset."

We wrap up the conversation with seven recomendations from the WSL team, based on this feedback from the field, on how to make your operation the place consumers feel confident to shop. You'll find these recommendations below!

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Listen to the full podcast interview (or watch the video below)

7 Reset Recommendations for Stores & Brands

While shoppers are eager to be out again, they are hitting the stores with an increased eye on safety and with a different set of needs than they had pre-Covid. Retailers and restaurants must keep this front-of-mind in everything they do. Following are seven recommendations based on feedback from the field that will make your store the place for these consumers to shop.

Give cautious shoppers confidence to enter
First impressions matter. Shoppers are walking by, wondering if you’re safe and if you’re clean. Use your window space/entrance to communicate your new safety protocols to give shoppers the confidence they need to enter. (And do this in a friendly/caring way!)

Rethink every aspect of your store’s operations
Is your entrance mat antimicrobial?  Will your employees be at risk by touching returns? How many people can social distance in your elevator? Is it safe to hand out receipts? Can shoppers use the hand sanitizer without contact?  These are some of the questions you need to address (and there are lots more.)

Find new ways to be relevant.  
Look for new ways of engaging consumers that are relevant to what's happening in today's shopping environment. L’Occitane, for example, invited everyone to come in and wash their hands using their luscious soaps and then nourish their dry hands with their best-selling cocoa butter. Make sure your marketing, communications, merchandising and operations are all contextual to what's happening with today's consumer.

Don’t lose sight of the basics.  
While employees are busy keeping up with new protocols, don't forget the fundamentals of signage, merchandising and operations. During their store visits, the WSL scouts spotted many outdated signs, outdated merchandise, and few available checkout registers. How will shoppers trust you to keep up with safety precautions if you can't keep up with the basics? But when it comes to safety, make it part of the new routine, and very visible to shoppers. One retailer Kaci visited cleaned the checkout area with disinfecting wipes between each transaction. Cleaning and sanitizing used to be something you did out of view of the shopper. Now it's important to let them see it!

Don’t assume a sale will get them to spend.  
Most stores visited by WSL had some type of sale going on, but the shoppers seemed immune to generic discounts. Find more creative, differentiated ways to discount or add value.

Make them smile!  
This is not a happy time for many people. Try to bring some fun, humor and lightheartedness into this tough situation. After all – shoppers shop because they believe it will make them happy. 

And always… keep your eye on retail innovation.
Seek to drive innovation across categories and channels so you can continue to differentiate and be the thought-leader with your retailers. 


Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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