Posted: 20/05/2020

Communication is key to better retail environment during coronavirus outbreak

Communication is key to better retailing during coronavirus
What measures do you need to consider as footfall begins to return to pre-lockdown levels?

Communication and customer flow are the two key things that retailers should be focussing on, as they look to adapt their stores ahead of increased footfall and looser coronavirus restrictions.

That’s the view of Richard Knight from customer experience specialists Insight 6.

“You’ve got your PPE on, you’ve got social distancing measure in place, but how are you interacting with your customers?” he said.

Better retailing coronavirus
Richard Knight

Knight told FFD a retailer’s communication must begin before customers have even left home to visit your store. 

“It’s a good idea to use video content online or through social media to demonstrate what they are going to experience when they arrive,” he said. “Tell them about your process so they’re prepared.

“Consumer confidence is quite low right now, so communicate before they even get to the store. That way you’re reducing their stress levels before they even arrive.”

Knight said that greeting customers on arrival to explain what measures are in place would also be a useful step, given that many people wouldn’t be familiar with social distancing and following routes through the shop floor.

“Signs are not sufficient – you need to verbally communicate your measures and be present,” he said, adding that retailers should walk their guided routes themselves to check it will actually flow properly.

Knight said most customers will want to get in and out as quickly as possible and recommended reducing the range of items on offer to simplify. “Are those lines that don’t do quite as well useful to have out on the shelves when people are looking for the items they want?”

Being ready: How two farm shops have adapted their shopping environments

One West Midlands farm shop has developed its own till-point protection to create a safer environment for staff and customers. 

Ian Comer

While Becketts Farm did not enforce the wearing of facemasks, the business has full-width screens installed at till points.

“We have a developments team on the payroll and they quickly manufactured these for us,” said Ian Comer, retail director. “We have had extra uniforms issued to ensure they can be washed at the end of each shift and, as usual, we are wearing disposable gloves.”

Craigie’s Farm, near Edinburgh, has had a strict social distancing policy since the start of the crisis. 

John Sinclair, the farm shop’s owner, deployed foot-shaped floor stickers, moved some units from the main shop floor to the closed café to make space for social distancing, and even made handwashing at an outside wash station mandatory. 

“Apart from one isolated case, everyone has been very positive about what we’re doing,” he said.

More recently the shop has added screens around till points, provided plastic visors to its staff – donated by a community group that has been 3D printing visors for local businesses, and is in the process of equipping its team with reusable masks.

Sinclair is also putting a plan together a plan to ensure social distancing is possible on the farm’s pick-your-own operation. “The only problem will be the pinch point when people arrive and leave, so we’re going to sell tickets online for 15-minute time slots,” he said.

Read more industry news and views in the latest edition of Fine Food Digest – read online here.

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