Virtual try-ons quickly took the place of fitting rooms, and with many brands still strategizing reopenings, the solution has quickly become a growing part of the e-commerce offerings. For brands that heavily rely on help from store associates and customer test runs to make sales and minimize return rates, such as Lululemon, Deciem and Design Within Reach, providing virtual customer support is a long game.
Many retailers and companies rely on people testing out their products. But with social distancing in place and many stores closed, that gets much more difficult. For some, it may mean sampling is completely off the table. For others, it means introducing new operations and safeguards that were never thought of before.
Modern Retail spent a week looking into all the changes needed for stores around the country to reopen. Much of it involves guesswork, because no one knows what shoppers will want in the next few months. Neither do we know if the coronavirus will have a second wave. Taking this all into account, here's a rundown of all the biggest changes on the horizon.
The reservation-to-shop trend is in full swing, and results have been mixed. While grocery chains like DeCicco & Sons have “received an overwhelmingly positive response from customers," other businesses that rely on heavy walk-in traffic, such as bakeries, haven't found them very useful.
When Nordstrom opened its New York City flagship last October, it was the epitome of experiential retail. Now, all of those experiential elements that were supposed to make the store a must-visit may deter customers. Retailers are having to rethink their experiential retail strategy, and what experiences will win over customers.
Stores are slowly reopening, but they are about to look very different. Fewer people will be inside and the technology will be used to perform easy tasks. We took a look at all of the facets required to rebuild the retail experience. While some of it may look similar to before, a lot of thought is taking place. Come on in and take a look.
"Obviously, it’s impossible to pin a garment at a six foot distance," said Suitsupply CEO Fokke de Jong. This prompted him to think outside the box by installing clear, free-standing partitions for fitting areas. But the overall strategy focuses on starting the shopper's journey before arriving at the store, including encouraging virtual co-browsing and fitting room reservations, to increase efficiency and reduce contact.
Reservation platforms like OpenTable, Resy and Tock have modified expanded their toolsets, resulting in a new category of retail appointments. As restaurants are either closed or relying takeout only, these back-end services are scrambling to pivot their offerings to survive the year. “I think retailers are going to turn to appointment based visits indefinitely,” Tock CEO Nick Kokonas said.
Over the last three month, consumer behaviors have shifted -- and the strategies behind retail expansion have changed dramatically. At this week’s Modern Retail +Talk, Iris Nova’s founder and CEO Zak Normandin explained why the pandemic is a test for DTC brands that are hoping to maintain a brick and mortar presence.
Some of the big owners of retail space have announced their reopening plans. They involved newly-crafted protocols that have never been tested before. While other retailers are taking it slowly, all are trying their best craft a proper reopening strategy. Here's a look at how some are working together and what it takes to develop a true list of best practices.
Grocery stores changed overnight with the rise of coronavirus. Because they were able to stay open, they had to figure out how to adapt. Some have implemented new ways to better facilitate digital orders. Others have re-thought their interiors to be safer for customers and staff alike. Here's a look at all the physical changes the grocery industry has seen.
Even before stores were forced to shut down to the coronavirus, shopping malls were struggling. In October, the number of vacancies at shopping malls reached an eight-year high, according to commercial real estate data analytics company Reis. Now, shoppers may be even less enthusiastic about visiting the mall than they were before the coronavirus. As a result, malls have to make a few key decisions in order to ensure that they survive the coming year.
Target's CEO just warned that this Q1 will bring lower profits than expected. While not surprising, it does paint a bleak picture for other retailers in similar situation. Companies big and small have had to shift their program online. If Target is having difficult making the economics work, it's going to be much worse for others.
Whole Foods just announced that it was closing one of its popular Manhattan locations to handle only digital orders for the time being. It highlights the crunch even the most prepare retailers are facing. But once things begin to normalize, all grocery players are going to have to re-think and re-invest to better handle online fulfillment.
Essential retailers' workforces are under a lot of strain right now, as they are being forced to keep up with unprecedented demand, while at the same time many of their employees may be calling out sick. As a result, relying on robots to complete more in-store tasks is starting to look more and more attractive to retailers. Before the coronavirus pandemic, retailers including Walmart and Giant Eagle were starting to test out using robots in their stores for tasks like unloading pallets of inventory and scanning shelves to get a count of inventory. Now, that trend will likely accelerate.
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