The end of store closures is coming in stages, just as other industries are already doing. Retailers are starting their preparation process for the post COVID-19 scenario in which stores will reopen their doors, although probably different from how we knew them. This big change means new challenges that all those retailers will have to face. It is then when we ask ourselves how will the new stores we will find be?
Going to empty supermarkets, with lines on the floor directing people's traffic and forced to maintain a minimum separation of 2 meters has become a very common image during these last two months. For this reason, companies in the sector are already thinking about how they are going to be able to adapt large stores and their distribution channels to new needs.
At Atrivity we have extensive experience in the retail sector. For this reason, we have compiled all the necessary information on the new challenges retailers will have to face and we offer solutions for all those challenges that may be encountered during the process. Let's start!
Challenge #1 - Maximum capacity and the new Greeters
Controlling the capacity of the establishments is not complicated, it is a practice that is already being carried out by the supermarkets. There are many ways to control the number of people inside the stores, such as: counting tools, tracking or heat maps. However, many companies will have no choice but to control the capacity manually to ensure that the preventive distance between customers is met. It is estimated that the decrease in capacity in fashion stores is between 20% and 40%.
It is at this point that the figure of the greeter will become (again) important. What is it or what is its function? Greeters are a typical institution in America that is in charge of welcoming and dismissing customers who enter the stores. The new post Coronavirus version will be essential to control the capacity, hygiene and distance between customers. An example? Giants like Walmart have incorporated in first line to more than a hundred stores, the figure of the greeter in a "pilot test". A position that should be filled by experienced personnel such as store managers and avoid making the mistake of ceding such a relevant position to a security guard or a newly arrived employee.
Source: ABC news
The human resources area must design its own training and internal communication plans to ensure successful re-integration of employees. Mobile apps such as Atrivity, contribute to the access and use of LMS platforms and also allow managers to offer a training calendar to their teams before, during and after the return to work. The result of implementing this strategy is an increase in employee commitment, greater motivation thanks to the dynamics of the game and a rapid adaptation to the new environment!
Challenge #2 - What will the new fitting rooms look like?
The fitting rooms have become the most problematic point within the stores. Why? Disinfection policies for these areas within the store will become a key issue for fashion retailers to provide the necessary security during the shopping experience. Experts in the fashion sector, such as Javier Vello, assure that the fitting rooms will not be completely eliminated, although the feeling of insecurity inside the stores will persist in the customers over the information and measures taken.
Some companies have already reported that the fitting rooms will need reforms such as changing the curtains for doors as they are easier to disinfect. More over, immediately after each use, the customer himself will be responsible for sanitizing it. Despite this, some retailers will opt for complete removal by opting for other sales channels which we refer to in another post.
Challenge #3 - Clothes. How do you disinfect them once they've been tested or returned?
Currently, it is estimated that the time that the Coronavirus can survive outside the human body on surfaces such as glass, metal or plastic is nine days. What about clothing? One of the biggest headaches for retail companies is the disinfection of textiles made of cotton or polyester fibers widely used in sports fashion. Why? They are fabrics that allow external elements such as microbes to penetrate very easily.
To solve this problem, textile companies like Nylstar have increased production of polyamide 6.6, a polyester substitute that has a more perfect molecular structure and generates an inhibiting effect on microbes. Although they are safer fabrics, they do not yet have specific anti-viral certificates for COVID-19. On the other hand, not all garments can be produced by the same material.
In order to guarantee the disinfection of clothes, retailers are considering storing in special rooms all those garments tested or returned for 15 days. A kind of quarantine to eliminate any trace of the virus in the fibers. At the same time, the scientific-technical protocol of the Ministry of Health recommends disinfecting clothes in fashion stores from washing above 60 degrees, ventilating them in the sun and ironing them with steam.
Challenge #4 - Queue Management and Payment Methods
Replacing traditional payment systems with self-payment methods was already a trend before COVID-19, a process that has accelerated because of current needs. For this reason, the last obstacle retailers will face after managing capacity, cleaning the changing rooms, training employees and disinfecting clothes will be the payment process. The current example of lines marking the distance in supermarket queues is inefficient because of the slowness it causes. For this reason, it is expected that in the fashion sector, technology will prevail in payment methods.
Companies like Trison are helping giants like Inditex to develop Zara Smart Shops where payments will be made from mobile phones and through systems that allow the collection to be charged directly to the customer's account. Mobile devices will play a fundamental role in the stores. In the near future, we will see how people at the counter will be replaced by RFID and NFC technology, automatic payment screens and the complete elimination of physical contact with money or card.
Challenge #5 - How will employee training be?
Employees of retail stores have been at home for more than two months and when they return to work they will find a totally different scenario compared to the one they left. Among many, new regulations, health and safety measures, new roles within the store and the establishment's disinfection protocol will be highlighted. Optimal learning must be accompanied by training in advance of their return to ensure that they are properly incorporated into the workplace.
Gamified tools such as Atrivity's app allow you to transform all the training content into small doses to facilitate the correct absorption of the information. You will be able to send questions associated with each pre-reading material, to subsequently detect knowledge gaps and measure and evaluate progress by teams or individually.
In this way, you will be able to analyze the most failed questions or topics and reinforce them so that your workforce can adapt earlier than expected to the new health regulations and protocols, speeding up the passage of customers inside the store and increasing sales without the need to stop operations!
The difficulties involved in returning to the "new normality" will test the adaptation capabilities of the entire retail sector. The main priority is not only the disinfection of the stores, it is also to transfer the security of the place to all customers during their shopping experience. To this end, the incorporation of new technological systems and excellent training for frontline employees will be key to making the opening of the stores a complete success for your business!