Consumer Electronics – the art of interacting with your customers
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We’re now in the third calendar year of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet there’s still confusion about what aspects of life can stay the same and which can change. On the one hand, retail is an essential means of distributing food, medicines and hygiene products, and a significant employer. On the other, it’s a sector associated with close human contact, enclosed spaces and items being touched all day long – a recipe for covid spread.
As vaccination spreads, and assuming there are no bumps in the road, “non-essential” retail will re-open on the 12th of April, along with outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality. Covid-19 will not have been eradicated worldwide, so shops that open will still need to observe extra distancing and hygiene policies. What will this look like?
We’ve got used to gelling our hands as we enter supermarkets, and there’s no reason to think that will stop this year.
Larger retailers started out with a table and bottles of sanitiser, but once it became obvious it was long-term, most set up semi-permanent wash stations on entrance and exit. They’re a great place for messaging, too, spreading positive signals about looking after each other.
Social distancing is the least enforceable of the measures as it’s asking people to unlearn decades of socialisation in society. The most effective measures have been screening, guiding and reminding. Physical screens, usually transparent, have been erected in self-service POS stations, checkouts and security areas, and where deli counters have reopened, some form of screening has been included. These will no doubt continue through 2021. One-way systems have had a mixed reception, and most supermarkets have tried some form of channelling but abandoned it.
The main problem is that it forces customers along paths they wouldn’t otherwise have taken, and they naturally resist. It’s unlikely that clothes, electronics and other such retailers will implement one-way systems on re-opening – it’s more likely that numbers of customers will be limited and masks will be mandated.
Fitting rooms might not open in 2021 – clothes will probably be tried on at home, and that will require returns to be quarantined, so space and policies will be needed for that. Floor signage has played a huge role in social distancing, and will definitely continue. There’s probably no better way of showing what 2 metres looks like, and nudging people to observe distancing.
The final piece of the distancing jigsaw is fulfilling orders without customers entering the store. While delivery slots have been like gold dust during the pandemic, a compromise solution has been a ramping up of click and collect – online ordering and picking up. This system does of course need a strong and reliable complementary online system to take payments and process orders (including refunds, swaps and returns).
However, it does a good job of keeping customers and staff distanced, and will certainly continue well into 2021, even if stores fully re-open. Some customers will remain nervous. If click and collect becomes permanent, dedicated parking bays or pick-up points will need to be set up. Branding and clear information are essential components, as people will have to be told what to do, while feeling like valued customers – not someone being handed bags of counterfeit goods through a rear fire exit.
For retailers it’s not unreasonable to assume 2021 will continue along the path we trod in 2020, albeit with more “non-essential” retail and hospitality businesses opening up for footfall. It’s even possible that some things we’ve adopted – extra hygiene and click & collect, for example – will remain popular well into the future, so perhaps more permanent solutions should be sought.
Whether you’re looking for temporary or long-term solutions to staying open with maximum safety for staff, suppliers and customers, our team can help you with all your installation, maintenance, signage and display equipment.