NRF 2021: Retailers make an appointment with the future
Challenges created by the novel coronavirus pandemic are compelling retailers to make changes that promise to fundamentally reshape how they conduct business in the future. Examples of that reality were featured on a streamed session of the NRF 2021 show this week.
Fokke de Dejong, CEO of Suitsupply, and Krista Bourne, SVP of sales and operations at Verizon, discussed how innovating out of necessity helped their companies navigate through a difficult time and pointed them towards success in a post-pandemic world.
For Suitsupply, a global apparel company, the onset of the pandemic meant a complete change in customer habits as events were canceled, formal dining closed down and formalwear no longer in demand. Because of the company’s presence in Asia, in countries where the pandemic was largely controlled early, Mr. de Jong was able to get an early glimpse of what a post-lockdown world would look like and thus had a view towards an eventual rebound.
During the lockdown, Suitsupply added new floors and a rooftop to its SoHo location. The new inside space was reserved for pre-booked appointments with stylists. The rooftop provided a place for customers to hang out while they waited for alterations.
Both Suitsupply and Verizon were surprised to find how willing customers were to pre-book shopping appointments.
“At Verizon this year, we’ve already handled 1.4 million customer appointments, which was not something that was in our strategic plan initially,” said Ms. Bourne.
The pandemic also moved Verizon’s retail operations in other unanticipated directions.
“I think [Verizon’s pandemic experience] validated a lot of things, but it also exposed some areas that we could add to the roadmap and some things we needed to accelerate,” said Ms. Bourne.
At Verizon, nine out of ten transactions conducted by the company’s corporate fleet are now contact-free and the chain touts hygiene and cleanliness as a point of focus moving forward. Verizon, as with many retailers, succeeded in adopting curbside as a central part of its fulfillment model.
“Although things are changing, customers are not looking for things to get more complex,” said Ms. Bourne. “In this day and age they want things to be easy and intuitive.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think appointment-based retail will thrive post-pandemic? In what others ways have retailers learned during the pandemic to make shopping experiences easier and more intuitive?