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5 Things Retailers Should Do To Be Ready For When COVID-19 Restrictions Lift

With the right preparation, you can stay safe and profitable as you come out of restrictions

(image credit: iStock)

Retailers have faced a considerable challenge amid COVID-19 restrictions. Many stores dealt with closures or other stringent limitations, but after a year of dealing with the pandemic, there’s an end in sight. It’s time to start preparing for post-lockdown shopping.

Retailers in all 50 states are either undergoing a reopening phase or are already back to normal. As restrictions lift, you should consider how you’ll serve your new in-store customers while maintaining a safe, healthy environment. Here are five things you should do to prepare for the post-lockdown market.

1. Balance Safety and Efficiency

Many shoppers are eager to get back into brick-and-mortar stores, which presents a twofold issue. On the one hand, you need to ensure your in-store shopping doesn’t turn into a super-spreader event. On the other hand, if your process is too inconvenient or slow, it’ll turn customers away and hinder your recovery.

You may have to limit how many customers you allow in your store at once. If so, consider how you can streamline the experience so shoppers don’t linger, minimizing wait times. You may also want to provide something else for people in line to do or look at while they wait.

How you can handle new in-store customers will vary depending on your location. Before you reopen, carefully read through local regulations to see how you can balance safety with a speedy customer experience.

2. Embrace Multichannel Experiences

At the height of the pandemic, many retailers turned to e-commerce to sustain their business. As you reopen, you should maintain these sites, as 73% of American consumers plan to continue using newly adopted shopping behaviors after the crisis. You can balance in-store shopping and e-commerce by embracing a multichannel approach.

You want to accommodate in-store shoppers, but you don’t want to forsake those who will continue online buying, either. Providing a consistent experience across all platforms will help appeal to everyone. This will also help prevent overcrowding in your store.

3. Ensure Employees and Customers Follow Guidelines

Even if you don’t have to, it’s a good idea to follow anti-COVID guidelines as you reopen. Ensuring people follow these measures may be more challenging than it seems, though. For example, even health organizations are only 39% compliant with hand hygiene standards on average.

Making compliance easier is often more effective than penalizing noncompliance. For example, you can place hand sanitizer in high-traffic areas with clear signage to draw people’s attention to it. Similarly, you can offer customers masks and reorganize your space to be more conducive to social distancing.

An example of PPE supplies available to NMG members through the O’Rourke Retail PPE Program.

4. Adjust Stock to Match Post-Lockdown Demand

Safety isn’t retailers’ only concern when it comes to reopening. After a year of losses, you’ll want to capitalize on in-store sales to recover faster. You can do that by anticipating and adapting to consumers’ changing habits and demands.

Experts predict shoppers will spend more after the pandemic, but what they buy might change. Many people adopted new hobbies and interests amid lockdown, leading to shifting consumer trends. Analyze shopping data to predict what will sell the best, and stock up on these items.

5. Manage Customer Expectations

To enable a seamless transition between lockdown and reopening, you should keep customers informed. If your new store layout or policies surprise consumers, they may have an unpleasant experience and be less likely to return. If you tell them of changes beforehand, they’ll know what to expect, smoothing out the process.

Post any changes you’re making to your store on all your social media channels. Put up signs outlining any unique policies or practices for those who don’t follow you online. By managing customer expectations, you enable a smoother shopping experience and avoid disappointing anyone.

Reopen Without Risk

After such an extended period in lockdown, reopening can seem intimidating. If you follow these steps, though, you can open without risking a health crisis or financial losses. With the right preparation, you can stay safe and profitable as you come out of restrictions.

See also: 5 Essentials Customers Look For To Safely Shop In-Store