‘Reopening’ doesn’t necessarily mean a return to all your bricks-and-mortar stores.
In fact, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, some brands with multiple sites have revealed major restructures. Some intend only to reopen top-performing stores, while closing others, to better invest in digital channels.
PAS Group – which owns clothing brands Review, Marco Polo, Black Pepper and Yarra Trail and closed 42 of its 230-plus store network last financial year – has now announced further store closures in a post-Covid-19 restructure as it moves toward a digital-first business.
If you’ve laid off staff or casual workers during lockdown, now is the time to start the process of re-engaging them.
Begin by deciding how you want to work in the future, and whether this experience has exposed parts of your business that can be conducted remotely. You could also consider creating a virtual community for employees so you can communicate with them about return-to-work timeframes.
Re-employ top-performing staff first, but in the lead-up to reopening ensure you communicate with all employees clearly. Make relevant employee policies available to all staff, and once social restrictions are lifted make staff morale a priority. Ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable at work, and that you have a plan in place in case a staff member does test positive.
There’s never been a more important time to ensure your store has stringent cleaning measures in place.
Well-stocked hand-washing and hand sanitiser stations at entry and exit points will be important to keep both employees and customers safe. SafeWork also recommends displaying posters and instructions on how to wash hands properly.
Retailers should instruct workers on other ways to limit the spread of germs, such as not touching their face, sneezing into their elbow and staying home if they feel sick. SafeWork has a comprehensive checklist that can guide retailers through the process here.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers should consider overhauling the store layout to allow for more physical distancing before reopening doors. This will signal to shoppers that you are taking your customers’ wellbeing seriously, says retail consumer expert Jo Munro of The Savvy Shopaholic.
“Perception is key, particularly in-store,” says Munro, who adds that it will be important for shoppers to see staff members regularly clean high-traffic surfaces, such as changing-room door handles. This will provide them with added confidence as they shop.
Even after shops reopen, it’s predicted that many customers will be reluctant to linger or browse in-store and will instead expect fast and efficient service.
To that end, ensure that retail staff are equipped with information on stock levels, even if that means upgrading merchandise tracking systems in preparation to reopen, and consider keeping more tills or checkouts open to ensure the flow of traffic.
If your online store is a little clunky, now is the time to iron out any issues and ensure it’s as easy as possible for consumers to browse and purchase from.
Simple site navigation can bolster revenue, explains Melbourne brand consultant at brand.ing, Bianka Velevska. Not only that but, “An optimised website means you’ll be able to create a cohesive and traceable customer journey, helping you make data-driven decisions for your business,” she says.
A slow site speed can deter customers, as can high shipping fees, which are often the biggest obstacle in completing an online purchase – particularly when they appear as an added cost at the end of the shopper’s online experience. Velevska advises implementing fixed or free shipping if possible.
Australia Post is working to adapt to the current climate, but has been experiencing major delivery delays due to a surge in online shopping, as well as reduced air freight capacity and social-distancing requirements among staff.
Therefore, retailers need to consider enhanced delivery and returns policies, such as contactless click-and-collect, says Justin Dery, CEO (Asia Pacific) of ecommerce provider Doddle.
Another option is pick-up from third-party locations.
Opening the doors to a retail business costs money, so it’s important to calculate how many hours you can afford to be open.
Some retailers have already reduced opening hours, with Kmart, for example, choosing to give staff more time to clean stores and support online order fulfilment.
Retailers could also consider appointment-based shopping, which can be a great way to limit the number of customers in-store while also providing a service to VIP shoppers, adds Munro. “It’s a better option than asking the customer to line up outside the store, as has been seen at some stores recently,” she says. “The return to in-store shopping must be a positive one.”
Start communicating with customers through email lists or social media well before you open, suggests Munro. “Communicate retail improvements, reopening times, new initiatives or services (like click-and-collect or kerbside pick-up) now to remain front of mind for shoppers.”
Now is the time to update or launch loyalty programs, says Munro, who points out that shoppers are hungry for content and are more likely to engage with, read and offer feedback on any emails.
“Communicate retail improvements, reopening times, new initiatives or services (like click-and-collect or kerbside pick-up) now to remain front of mind for shoppers.”
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