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Retailers Must Prepare for in-store Peaks When Shops Open Again

By Pieter Van den Broecke,
Retailers Must Prepare for in-store Peaks When Shops Open Again

Tips for retailers to prepare for peaks, such as Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother’s Day and Black Friday are shared a lot in the run-up such dates. Since the start of the pandemic, these peaks have mainly moved to online shopping, with many non-essential retailers having to close physical stores during the second, third and (in some cases) fourth lockdowns.

Many retailers have successfully pivoted to ecommerce fulfilment, but what happens when the shops do actually reopen? Chances are, despite the last twelve months of public health guidance, high streets and shops will be crowded, as consumers make up for having missed a year or more of physical shopping.

So, rather than preparing for the online surge of holiday season, how should retailers, prepare for the expected (and very welcome) return of crowds again? Pieter Van den Broecke, managing director Benelux and Germany at Manhattan Associates, shares five tips for expectant retailers looking to bounce back when doors reopen while maintaining the safety of customers and staff.

Set up an effective click & collect process

Click & Collect has been permitted for many retailers with physical stores. Customers can order products online and collect them in the shop at a set time, but retailers need to make sure this is well organised so that it really does offer added convenience and safety for customers. When shops are allowed to open their doors again, retailers can prevent stores from getting too crowded by continuing to offer this viable extra option. Offering multiple delivery options is expected these days, and at the same time ensures shops will not overflow with customers.

Take advantage of mobile point-of-sale (POS)

With an intuitive, effective mobile POS solution, you can apply the concept of 'line busting'. To avoid long queues at the checkout, a mobile POS can allow retailers to make that checkout experience anywhere in the store. Electronic payment via a tablet has become commonplace and for many, has even become the norm over the course of the pandemic. In this way, both shop associates and customers save valuable time and can ensure the traditional queuing situation does not become a social distancing nightmare.

Communicate on time with suppliers, wholesalers and manufacturers

Last year showed us that communicating with suppliers is more important than ever. Pandemics aside, there will always be peak events in a retailer's annual calendar; that's why it's important to coordinate expected needs with your suppliers, wholesalers and manufacturers. If they know that there is more demand for a certain product, they can help retailers line their shelves with the newest ‘must have’ fashion trends.

Be transparent with customers about your stock

While stock that just sits on the shelf can cost retailers valuable margin, inaccurate stock management is also a significant issue too. Yes, it is difficult to predict what consumers will need in the future and what the demand will be, but, if a certain product is suddenly out of stock in your shop because of high sales, inform your customers about it when they visit your website and give them an alternative if necessary. This way, retailers won’t risk the wrath of the customer when they visit a physical store, only to find out that the item they were browsing online, actually isn’t available.

Create an effective online/offline balance

As soon as shops are allowed to open again, retailers would do well to make sure that the focus does not stray too far from online. After all, online shopping has become a way of life for over the year for many people now, and will likely remain so, regardless of whether store reopen or not; much like the expectation that social distancing will be encouraged for some time to come.

Avoiding long queues will be key for not only the overall customer experience, but the health and safety of customers and employees alike. So, make sure as a retailer, you can offer your customers a uniform and personalised experience, whether they visit your shop, order online, or use a combination of the two – a well-oiled omnichannel strategy is a must to seamlessly integrate online and offline now more than ever.

Navigating reopening safely and profitably

It is unlikely that retailers will go back to the way they operated in late 2019 – too many months have passed and too many people and brands have adapted to the new landscape they find themselves in. Rather we are now living the 'new normal', and it's up to retailers to plan for the reopening of shops after the lockdown and to steer the process in the right direction.

If we learned anything over the last year, it is that the ability to be flexible and to respond quickly to the changing consumer narrative has been key. And, it is likely that this will continue to remain of similar importance as stores prepare and (finally) open their physical doors over the coming months too.

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