As COVID-19 settles into our routines, most companies are forced to reinvent how they work. From diversifying their product range and introducing home delivery to urgently shifting their stores online, businesses are adapting to the pandemic in various ways. Some measures can be applied in order to deal with “New Normal.”
Life is turning into “New Normal.”
Life is effecting deeply, but now life is turning into a “new normal.” On April 20th, stores were opened in Germany in a limited way. Still, in the new everyday life that started after more than four weeks, a lot has happened that has changed compared to the old one. One of the sectors that are affected by “new normal” is retail. In places such as restaurants, shopping malls, and gymnasiums where people come together, keeping social distancing is very important. Life will not be the same at least for a while for these places.
So how long will the new measures take? When we look at the opinions of the experts on this issue, it is stated that the vaccine can be found in October. No matter how slow the spreading rate slows down, the fact that this epidemic has no cure shows that our lives will continue with measures for at least four months.
When we examine the new normal’s conditions, many applications appear to have changed. Changing customer behavior, interest in online shopping are some of them…
First, let’s examine the changes in retail from the moment the outbreak started to the present day. COVID-19, which began in China in Wuhan in mid-January, spread to China in February and then to the world, continues its influence in Europe and America. Quarantine ended in China; the new normal has begun. The fact that attracts attention in the field of retail is that online retail has increased significantly compared to pre-COVID-19. Even though the shopping malls have been opened, monitoring thermal cameras and keeping the number of customers under control are among the remarkable measures.
What’s the situation in Germany?
In Germany, On April 20th, shops with a retail space of up to 800 square meters were allowed to reopen to the public. But strict curbs on social contact remained in place, and Germans are encouraged to wear masks in shops and on public transport.
It is kept an eye on customer number limitations and keeping social distancing. Briefly, if we examine the measures, in particular, to deal with new normal in Berlin:
- The contact restrictions that took effect on March 23rd, 2020, will remain in place, meaning residents can leave their homes under certain conditions only.
- Wearing masks or similar protections on nose and mouth will be mandatory in Berlin’s public transport from April 27th, 2020. In this regard, Berlin is following other cities and federal states. But in shops, masks are only recommended.
- Retail businesses are supposed to allocate about 20 square meters (215 square feet) for each customer.
- On April 27th, outdoor markets and similar events will be allowed to take place if the distance rules are being followed.
However, the further relaxation and tightening of these measures lie in keeping the rate of the spread below a certain value. If we look at Angela Merkel’s latest explanations, we understand that the efforts have been reviewed.
Last week, Germany’s latest R0 (reproduction factor) edged up to 1.0 on Monday, from 0.9 the previous day, according to the latest situation report from the country’s public health authority. That means that each person with the virus infects an average of 1.0 other people.
What’s the situation in other countries?
Germany was the first country in Europe where stores were reopened cautiously. The USA and other European countries following the course of the situation in Germany. Current measures in the USA can be listed briefly as taking limited people in the markets and maintaining social distance.
These measures are essential in terms of reducing the spread and aiming to ensure that people meet their needs safely. You can examine why social distancing is important and the methods used to achieve this in order to deal with new normal in our article titled “COVID-19 effects in Retail: How to Control The Social Distancing“.
Also, the high increase in online shopping showed how important logistics in our lives. Even Amazon has decided not to take new stocks other than essential and medical products in this period to carry out logistic operations successfully.
What’s the situation for Turkey?
In Turkey, the majority of shopping malls and stores closed since the circular issued on March 19th. In this period, some companies continued their sales online, as well as companies that stopped orders completely. These days, starting from 11th May, the opening of stores cautiously is on the agenda. But it doesn’t mean the measures can be loosened. Now it is more important than before. The precautions should be strictly checked to reduce the spread. It is stated that the social distancing rules that are applied in the supermarkets will be applied as well. There are also other points to note:
- Temperature control will be done at the shopping mall entrances.
- It will in no way be allowed to enter without a mask.
- A limited number of customers will be served.
- Restaurant, children’s playground, cinema, entertainment area, and dressing cabinets of stores will be out of use.
So, what are the other points to be considered in the stores open? What measures can be applied to make the process more successful?
First of all, attention should be paid to employee health, and protective equipment should be provided to the personnel at the maximum level. It should be ensured that ventilation systems are working properly, and regular maintenance should be done. Since being in a long-term air-conditioned environment poses a risk of contagiousness, care should be taken to spend a long time in the store.
By putting protective plexiglass in the checkout area, it is necessary to prevent contamination in the place where the customer is contacted for the longest time. The strict application of the social distance rule should be ensured.
Informative boards should be hung in the store. Raising awareness of customers and personnel should be ensured. Also, awareness can be contributed by making announcements within the store. Ensure that the social distance is maintained between the sections. At regular intervals, the capacities of the departments should be checked and, when necessary, the reception of customers to the department should be stopped.
Self-checkout and informative kiosks can be implemented within the store to minimize human contact. Attention should be paid to the disinfection of each area in the store. As well as to the cleanliness of the checkouts and kiosks with which there are many contacts should be prioritized.
Using a credit or debit card is recommended. That way, you don’t have to hand over bills or receive change. If a company has a payment application or virtual payment system like Apple Pay, there can be a small discount to promote the payment via the app. Then the contact is minimized.
The disinfection of the products to be returned must be provided. Also, the fitting rooms that will not be opened in the first place should be cleaned at short and frequent intervals when opened in the next stages. In addition, it is vital to ensure the disinfection of the clothes returned and worn in the textile industry.
In addition to these measures, keeping social distancing is highly important for stores. Some stores use floor markers to create a one-way movement to maintain low traffic and social distancing in stores’ departments.
The use of the buy online pick up in store should be increased. Reducing the time spent in the store is important in terms of reducing contamination. Often recommend switching to contactless operations if part of the customer experience needs to be present in a physical environment. In the United States, preference for contactless operations has increased by 20%, and many businesses are adjusting to this transition.
Change in Customer Behavior
Apart from the measures to be taken, there will be possible changes in customer behavior that will occur in the process. First of all, the customer, who sees the mall as relaxation and spending time (socializing), will not respond to this expectation for a certain period. Though shops have reopened their doors, restaurants, cafés, and bars remain closed. The whole shopping experience has changed because you can’t buy stuff and go for a bite to eat afterward. That means people don’t go shopping just for the joy of it.
However, the ratio of the interested customer will increase. Although the number of customers coming to the store is decreasing, conversion rates are expected to increase.
Mckinsey also anticipates shifts in customer and company preferences. This is now beginning to happen in China, where customers are looking to switch permanently to online grocery shopping by a 55 percent rise, and three to six percentage points increased the total e-commerce penetration after COVID-19. For the first time, some customers can explore digitally and remotely. According to QuestMobile, a Chinese market research company, the share of consumers in China over the age of 45 who are using e-commerce increased by 27% from January to February 2020.
Once the digital and remote models are acclimated, some customers plan to turn constantly or increase the use and intensify behavioral changes that had already occurred before the crisis.
What retail companies consider for Post-COVID-19?
Companies should also re-examine the role that physical locations will play. Omnichannel fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in store will increase. Some shops may be converted to “dark stores” for fulfillment only.
Some existing stores will turn into experiencing hubs offering facilities and promoting shopping across all channels. Think of Nike’s shop concept. In a variety of virtual sports settings (including a half-court basketball, football, and outdoor sports fields), consumers will seek to decide their favorite product, with help from a private coach. As a result of the forced isolation of coronavirus, this form of outlet may be a guide for other distributors.
Finally, there is an interesting case. IKEA’s key retail vehicle Furniture company said that on Friday, after three shops in China last week and one in France this week, the shopkeepers quickly returned to their shopping areas – the first four that opened after coronavirus closures.
As well as the majority of IKEA stores, Ingka Group owned 45 shopping centers in Europe, Russia, and China, the number of visitors back in the centers in China was 70 to 80 percent year-on-year, suggesting a rapid improvement in shopping demand.
With the opening of shopping malls and stores in the coming days, we will have the opportunity to see the changes in customer behavior. Wait for our next blog post.
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