Recovering from Covid-19: Rebound Strategies for brands and retailers (to implement right now!)

As PwC and McKinsey reports point out, the retail industry is on its way to experience its first uptick in months (a slow and partial recovery), with a newfound focus on strengthening digital channels and a drastic remodelling of in-store and supply chain operations. 
It’s no secret that the best retail brands run like well-oiled machines with solid strategies and routine-like processes in place- from how a store operates to how e-commerce distribution is carried out.
Not this year though. Without a thread of doubt, the pandemic has turned normal on its own head and presented truly unusual circumstances for brands of all shapes and sizes
The weather is changing, AGAIN!
That said, there’s slight good news here in the United States as well as the EMEAR region with lockdown and movement restrictions being eased out and standalone outlets and stores allowed to open under strict guidelines.
Yet, retailers across a variety of subsectors don’t expect in-store footfall to return to normal for several months.
On the other hand, it’s crystal clear that ecommerce is gaining an even stronger foothold than before the crisis- with a substantial rise in online penetration even for traditionally physical categories like furniture and apparel.

How can brands and retailers start recovering from Covid-19?

Given the current climate, how brands react and act now will determine their position for the coming 6-12 months. So without further ado, here’s what brands and retailers can do to start recovering as the restrictions are relaxed.

1. Reopening and remodelling in-store operations

As restrictions ease out for brands and retailers looking to reopen stores, it all comes down to tracking various interdependent signals. Key signals include nation and state-wide regulations, infection rates, workforce availability and competitors’ action. 
There’s yet another key factor to consider, the holy grail of retail: consumer preferences. According to the Morning Consult Study, 24% of consumers say that they won’t feel comfortable to visit shopping stores or malls for the next 6 months, while another 16% say they won’t consider it for another 3 months! 
Should that break a brands’ spirit? Absolutely not! 

i) To open or not to open

Instead of being disheartened by the current climate, it’s time for retailers and brands to think and act strategically. For starters, many brands have decided to not reopen underperforming stores and pause the launch of new stores. While others are choosing to open with a limited workforce and reduced opening hours. From a cash flow, ROI and employee safety point-of-view, this is probably the safest move out there to get back on a revenue trajectory. 

ii) Go the extra mile with safety protocols

At this point, the measures you implement not only impact the safety of everyone involved but also your customer’s peace of mind and trust in you. From maintaining social distancing between employees and customers to hand washing routines and sanitizing surfaces, as a retail store you need to do all of this and more. Insist of educating and training your staff around all the nitty gritty details. For a full list of safety protocols, have a look at the US Department of Labor’s guidelines
That aside, update your customers about the serious measures you’ve taken to make sure they are safe via sms, social media, etc. Don’t be aggressive though and remember safety comes first, your customers will come to you when they need you. 

iii) Revise in-store experiences- from how you trial to sample products 

Besides hygiene and social distancing, a major point-of-interaction brands need to revisit is how they offer trials and sampling of products in store. 
To limit or remove trials, start by making your return policy more flexible. On the other hand, if sampling is core to your buying experience, you might want to offer sealed testers or smaller one time use-and-throw samples- whichever is more feasible. 

2. Focus on solidifying your online position, now more than ever 

There’s no doubt that these are extremely testing times for brands that have until now relied solely on brick-and-mortar for sales. That said, if consumer behaviour is anything to go by, it also presents the perfect time for them to divert their focus towards online. 
Especially when customers are hesitant to visit stores and can’t see your products up close. Which is to say, that it’s up to your digital storefront to show and tell as much as possible.

i) Offer online experiences that are as good (or even better) than an in-store experience

Right now, consumer favourite and accessible technologies like 3D and augmented reality make it possible for brands to offer incredibly immersive try-before-you-buy shopping experiences- but online! 
With 3D and AR enabled product views, online shoppers can either virtually try-on clothes, shoes, eyewear, bags and hats on themselves or place furniture, decor and home appliances in their own space and gauge style, size and fit. 
Instead of leaving it up to the shoppers to imagine how something might look on them or in their space, these technologies are poised to boost their online buying confidence. Have a look: 
Footwear Try-Ons created on Designhubz
Furniture Visualizations created on Designhubz
Here at Designhubz, we’re seeing brands and retailers drastically adopt these immersive technologies as a way to not only sell better online but to stand ten feet taller than the competition. In fact in our previous article, we’ve talked about how easy it is to roll out 3D and AR-enabled shopping experiences directly on your website. 

ii) Leverage store inventory and employees for the online channel 

With inventory not flying off the shelves like it used to, brands should seriously consider using their store inventory to fulfil online orders. Naturally, this would involve reorganizing stock count and assigning them to your online fulfilment chain. 
Similarly, store staff can be assigned to online sales roles or for ecommerce fulfilment. 
Never a dull moment in retail 
At the end of the day, no one was prepared to deal with a pandemic of this size. However, the recovery strategies that you set up today will determine your position now and more so in a post-covid world. Think about the changes and strategic investments that will solidify your place for now and the future.

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