In a recent piece for Business of Fashion focused on research about in-store and online retail across a number of categories, reporter Cathaleen Chen cites Kelton’s latest COVID-19 Consumer Pulse report. Check out the excerpt below:
What Retailers Can Do
As coronavirus cases rise and the economy stumbles, retailers need to tackle their customers’ anxieties about visiting stores head on. In a survey of 1,000 American consumers published on July 23, Wells Fargo found that 85 percent of respondents said they have become more concerned about entering stores to shop for apparel. The bank found that 37 percent had visited stores but are now avoiding doing so due to the rise in Covid-19 infections, while 35 percent said they had yet to return to stores.
After hesitating to mandate mask-wearing inside their stores, retailers across the board have taken action in the past month to do so. Mask requirements, along with hand sanitiser stations and regular surface cleanings, are among the bare minimum safety measures that consumers expect, according to a June poll conducted by Kelton.
Retailers also must offer customers a good reason to visit their stores, said Robert Shumsky, professor of operations management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
“Right now, the value of going shopping isn’t high enough to get over the fear of health risks, so stores can do two things — increase the value proposition of visiting the store … and decrease the perceived health risk,” Shumsky said.
Discounts are one way to get shoppers in the door, he said, but other perks might be more effective.
“One-on-one service, expert advice, even pairing up online consultation with a store visit” are good options, Shumsky said, “and [I] recommend the use of appointments, which will become more and more the norm.”
Shopping appointments will ensure each consumer receives the utmost attention from sales associates and eliminate the risk of proximate encounters with other shoppers that pose health risks.
Retailers shouldn’t be too aggressive about nudging customers to come back to stores, said Tiffany Hogan, a retail analyst at Kantar.
“You don’t want to lure them in before they’re actually ready,” Hogan said. The retailers that have performed well are the ones that are able to say, “You may not be ready to come back to the store but that’s okay, we’re available wherever you want to be.”
Customers want options: Instead of in-store exclusive promotions, brands can let customers know that stores are open but shopping online is also possible, as is click-and-collect or curbside pickup.
Many retailers began investing more in e-commerce when they were forced to close stores. With brick-and-mortar locations seeing limited traffic, that temporary shift may become permanent.
Most brands won’t have much choice.
“Yes, you want them to return to the stores, but at the same time, many customers just won’t,” Hogan said.