Retailers focus on making safe spaces for customers and associates
A recent survey of more than 6,000 people finds that the best actions retailers and brands can take to receive positive marks from Americans is to keep customers (58 percent) and employees (55 percent) safe.
The study associated with the poll “COVID-19 Brand Sentiment Navigator Report” from Social Media Link also found that showing empathy (40 percent) and recognizing new realities (38 percent) were important to consumer perceptions.
With physical retail getting back to business as states relax stay-at-home orders, top of mind is how to ensure that both customers and employees are safe. A group of experts from design, retail, digital and analytics backgrounds, including myself, recently came together to pen an op-ed on the System Contractor News site that offers antidotes to address this anxiety. We unite around the idea that comfort and safety reassurances will become something people expect — affecting architecture, placemaking, interior design and operations. Solutions will need to address questions including:
- How many people are permitted in the store?
- Must face masks be worn?
- Are sanitation requirements in place?
- Who is handling product? Are they handling it safely?
- Will pay stations and other tech touchpoints be made safe?
Over the Memorial Day weekend, retailers I observed were mixed in their approaches. Some had little more than a sign in the window and taped “X” marks near registers. Others had multi-pronged processes — door greeters wiping carts down, mandatory mask requirements, one-way directional flow, sneeze guards, conveyer belt wipe downs and, for more one-to-one services, even mobile check-in and temperature checks.
Designing for a post-COVID-19 experience, however, will require a balance between delivering enough education for people to make informed decisions on safety and using technology and design to ensure it in real-time.
“During these hard times as well as post-COVID-19,” wrote the op-ed group, “the brands and environments that focus on taking proactive steps to comfort their customers as well as protect their safety and financial confidence will be the ones to earn substantial reputational benefits.”
- Anxiety and Antidote — How to Balance Technology and Design in a Post-Pandemic World – System Contractor News, June 2020
- Consumers Say Brand Actions Through COVID-19 Impact Perception – Social Media Link/PRNewswire
- Should Apple and other stores require shopper temperature checks? – RetailWire
- Expert Analysis: Reopening Businesses Face Thorny Customer-Facing ADA Issues – Chain Store Age
- Nordstrom Preps to Reopen Stores—with Lots of Changes – Chain Store Age
- Sephora to start reopening stores — with lots of safety protocols – Chain Store Age
- McDonald’s publishes playbook for reopening restaurants – RetailWire
- What should retailers do about social distancing renegades? – RetailWire
- How should indie retailers prepare to reopen under the now normal? – RetailWire
- Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers? – RetailWire
- Best Buy is getting back to business with scheduled appointments – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What operational, merchandising and communications best practices should retailers put in place to assure the public they are running safe spaces? What new tricks learned during the shutdown do you think retailers should continue to promote aggressively as they reopen physical locations?