Nikki Saravanakumar 29/3/21
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, retail stores have had to transform their business model and form new strategies to cope with altered supply chains, fluctuating sales, rising e-commerce, and changed consumer behaviours. Here’s how some stores have managed to stay afloat for the duration of Australia’s (specifically NSW) restrictions.
Changed retail experience
We’ve seen major Australian retailers, like the Country Road Group and the Cotton On Group temporarily close their stores as of late March in 2020. And we’ve seen some, like David Jones and Myer, keep their stores open throughout empty malls and quiented foot traffic. Regardless, all stores have had to comply with newly introduced government health-and-safety regulations to not only ensure limiting the spread of the virus, but to also maintain a standard of customer experience in-store.
To ensure customers feel safe coming in-store, stores have had to place limited person-to-person physical contact by redirecting in-store open foot traffic as one way entry and exit lanes. Hand-sanitiser stations at every section and corner throughout stores and shopping malls. Strictly approving contactless payments only, limiting or eliminating cash transactions. Reminders to maintain a social distance of 1.5m in the form of signs, floor stickers and audio via speakers. UberEats providing contactless drop-offs with their ‘Please leave my order at the door’ option – is every introvert’s dream from the usual but awkward passover of food from driver to consumer.
Businesses have seen the rise of click and collect orders throughout their retail stores, extended returns period, and even free delivery services with no minimum spend required. These options ensure customer satisfaction to the same standards of in-store shopping, further securing regular and new customers during these difficult and testing times.
Moving away from in-store experiences, we’ve seen brands invest in their websites to support online traffic and sales 24/7. Myer has seen an increase in its online sales during government restrictions, redirecting 2000 of their employees to work on their online channel.
All of these changes have been conscious of customer safety, satisfaction, and government restrictions. Businesses have successfully coped with Covid-19 by implementing changes to retail experiences, simultaneously rewriting consumer shopping and buying behaviours.
Changed consumer behaviours
Consumers are shopping from the comfort of their home, now more than ever. The unravelment of Covid-19 has highlighted this, as retailers have offered free delivery with no required minimum spend, and warehouse to door service is proving to be more and more convenient.
Although there has been an increase in spending, 45% of Australian respondents in the McKinsey & Company survey are looking for ways to save money and be mindful of where they spend money. Consumers are also trying out new brands due to easy digital shopping methods – all in the comfort of their home with 24/7 online service.
The challenges posed by Covid-19 restrictions, usher in new opportunities to integrate and further investment in digital technologies. There has been an increasing interest in Augmented Reality shopping, with an average of 51% of Australians agreeing it would make their online and in-store experience safer. Earlier in 2020 (alongisde the rise of Covid-19), Burberry launched their AR shopping tool through Google Search technology. Users could view Burberry products true-to-size in their own environment, aiding their buying decisions in a Covid-safe way.
Companies have also integrated new products and expanded product categories into essential medical equipment in response to restrictions. Brands have created their own face masks, ushering in a new way for consumers to demonstrate their brand loyalty. We can see more and more businesses cater to the health conscious public, in fact local Sydney distillery Mobius Distilling Co. have created their very own hand-sanitiser replicating the smell of Gin.
Well, the answer to how well the retail industry has coped?
It has coped well with rapid changes in:
- Government restrictions by keeping customer safety at the forefront of any retail decision.
- Changed consumer behaviours by focusing on e-commerce sales and elevating online customer experience.
- Changed consumer behaviours by implementing and encouraging new digital technologies not limited to the Covid-19 restriction period, but also for the future of retail shopping experiences.
It’s safe to say they have successfully coped – or more rather re-written – the retail industry in response to Covid-19.
Article by Nikki Saravanakumar