The retail industry has always been an exceedingly volatile one that has changed suddenly at many points throughout history. We are, at present, standing amid one of those landmark crossroads that both retailers and consumers must adapt to build the new normal.
While the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding a post-COVID-19 future is looming upon us, we must be reminded that by nature, retailers are adaptive and resourceful.
The main obstacles that challenge today’s world of retail may well last for some time to come, and the implications on consumer’s purchase behaviour patterns could last a lifetime.
There are a few key changes in behaviour to which retailers will need to adapt:
• Increased concerns and anxiety about health and safety in public spaces,
• More time pressure when shopping due to social anxiety or imposed restrictions,
• Less impulse to touch and feel products or interact with samples in-store.
• Changes in purchase behaviour mix between shopping in-store and on-line,
• A renewed appetite for new and exciting ideas and ways to engage with brands.
As a sector that touches on most parts of society, this is where the retail world could have a significant positive impact. While the market is hesitant to re-open as it was before, a much more hygienic, re-designed version could be safer and easier for shoppers to engage with brands. This is where adaptation and innovation are not only a method for the survival of a business but a matter of responsibility for brands and retailers.
The Australian Retailers Association has developed a blueprint for successfully reopening physical retail spaces, aptly named Reopening for Business. The guide provides a series of checkpoints for consideration. It includes plans for occupancy limits, disinfecting surfaces, use of protective clothing, gear and tools, contact-less payment, and more. One factor that was not mentioned in the guide is how to safely sustain testing, sampling, and engaging with products – one of the key motivations for shopping in-store as opposed to online.
There are some market sectors, such as health and beauty where fragrance, cosmetics, and skincare simply cannot have the same impact when advertised online and brands rely on physical destinations for revenue. Simply going without product testing is not a viable option. The qualities and characteristics present in the beauty industry are hard to communicate with words, and the way products are advertised has not changed in nearly a century. Adopting new ideas is the key to addressing these real market needs.
The current standard for testing skincare and cosmetics in-store is unhygienic and unsafe, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. A study conducted by the Rowan University found that over half of the testers in a studied makeup store carried dangerous contaminants like Staphylococcus (staph) and E. Coli bacteria from faecal matter. Just by using tester products, staff and customers can spread and contract illnesses and infections such as pink eye, herpes, and hepatitis, and significantly during these times, Coronavirus.
This is a call for innovation and technology to improve upon the essential process of product testing in-store. Touch-free, hygienic testing should not only be safer and more hygienic but will improve upon the dated and clunky system of product testing we are all used to. Simple and effective design with use of sensors and automatic dispensers combined with digital content could revolutionise the way we interact with products in-store and make for a safer and more engaging experience.
The new normal for retail is here. Brands and retailers need to start investing now in innovation if we plan for physical stores and public spaces to thrive again. The industry has always been quick to adapt, is exciting and constantly changing which is why it has grown into what it is today.
The ideas and adaptations we develop now, prompted by this crisis, do not need to just be alternatives. We need to implement innovations that are better and more effective than ever.
Out of the chaos of COVID-19, retail will adapt and evolve to an exciting new normal with innovative solutions to engage shoppers and build brand loyalty.
Written by PoINT Retail
About PoINT: We are dedicated to the development of innovative retail solutions that build brand awareness and drive engagement to help shoppers navigate the modern retail landscape and the melting pot that is the future of retail.