Retailers adjust sales model to reach consumers post-COVID
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on retailers. Small businesses with limited online presence have scrambled to assemble websites, a number of well-known brands have filed for bankruptcy and begun liquidation their stock, and other brick and mortar businesses are reporting huge losses, even with curbside pickups and other adjustments – and things aren’t back to normal yet. In fact, as many retailers acknowledge, it’s time to rethink what’s normal.
In preparation for the holiday sales season and the year to come, retailers of all sizes are working to pivot their sales models and develop new approaches that people will feel excited about rather than frustrated by. They’ve already had some success – and with innovation like this, there’s surely more on the horizon.
Sidewalk Sales 2.0
Many businesses and even entire towns have annually sidewalk sales that bring out big crowds, but this year, moving merchandise outside was a very different experience. In order to support local businesses, many towns shut down streets for outdoor dining and encouraged stores to hold sidewalk sales so that people could browse outside. This allowed shoppers to avoid being indoors and to carefully assess crowds, making the experience more fun and less risky.
Window Shopping’s New Groove
Like the sidewalk sale, the notion of window shopping has also been revitalized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores that previously considered their window displays to be a low priority are installing new glass storefronts that make it easy for shoppers to see what exciting items are in stock. Their hope is that by creating themed displays, promoting specials, and encouraging people to browse from outside the shop, they can limit the time people spend in stores while still promoting sales.
The Digital Evolution
Online sales are important for many businesses that also have brick and mortar locations; there isn’t a strict divide between physical and digital marketplaces. That being said, digital shopping, or at least digital browsing, is set to see significant growth in the coming months.
What makes digital browsing different from shopping online? In some stores, shoppers may encounter smart mirrors that let them “try on” clothes without actually putting the item on. Meanwhile, other stores may essentially become showrooms, with one of each item on display, and everything else packed away in back, accessible only to the associates, in order to keep people from lingering or touching too many items.
Specialty Markets Challenges
While many people buy clothes online and everyone is used to furniture show rooms where you can pick out and order a couch, there are certain types of stores that will require more substantial adjustments in order to meet customers’ needs in a post-COVID world. One group that has already started making adjustments is beauty stores, which are known for samples and the ability to test products and check makeup swatches. How are they addressing this element safely?
Though there are a number of options, at least one beauty boutique has adopted disposable bamboo testing palettes and tools. By equipping customers with these tools and allowing staff to hand out samples, the store makes it possible for customers to sample products without hundreds of people touching the same bottles every day. Other stores will need to adopt a similar approach, controlling the flow of both customers and products, given new hygiene norms.
COVID-19 may have dealt a blow to brick and mortar commerce, but don’t count traditional commerce out just yet. Main street has evolved countless times over the past century to keep up with a changing world, and this is just a new set of challenges.