Modern Management Challenges


Success Strategies for Reopening after COVID-19

The coronavirus has dropped brick-and-mortar retail into a deep crisis. Initial solutions can be derived from the current behavior of consumers. But even after the crisis, things will not continue as before: what innovative strategies are emerging already for retail in the post-corona era.

The current crisis and the preparation for the time after COVID-19 are unprecedented for retailers as well as for all other economic sectors. What it urgently takes now, are strategies to meet customers’ expectations, which have changed elementally. And that is exactly what all measures need to have as their aim now. After all, the coming weeks and the time right after COVID-19 will already determine which retailers will continue to be relevant and successful.

Clear Communication Creates Trust

Currently, the biggest challenge is to dispel customers’ fear of getting infected with the coronavirus. Thus, companies should clearly communicate what appropriate measures they have to offer consumers. This can be done with instructions on display windows or door systems, for example. It will also give customers a sense of safety if only a certain number of customers are let in, and clear walking routes and directions are specified.

Online Shopping Will Innovate Retail

But the corona crisis has also changed consumer behavior regardless of health-related fears. Consumers who previously wouldn't have considered using the option of online shopping have practically been forced to familiarize themselves with it in recent weeks. Some new customers will have developed a taste for online shopping during the pandemic and will continue to make personal use of this option.

It goes without saying that e-commerce had already massively changed the way customers shop long before COVID-19. Consumers love the advantages of e-commerce. These expectations have increased even further with the corona crisis and will be carried over with enhanced strength to the brick-and-mortar retail trade after COVID-19. So whoever wants to attract customers has to develop strategies to offer the benefits of online shopping and even more.

Courage for New Technology

When it comes to retail technology (AR, VR, AI, RFID), we have heard of it all before, even prior to the corona crisis, but to many, those technologies are still cryptic terms. However, it is certain that there will be no way around this technology in the future. So far, only a fraction of it is used in the brick-and-mortar retail trade. However, the possibilities are overwhelming. With augmented reality (AR), real elements can be augmented with additional content. So for example, you can just click through different lipstick colors and see how they appear on your own face, without actually having applied even one of them. The most important questions for retailers are now: What pain points does the brand experience have, and how can these pain points be transformed into a positive experience through retail technology?

More Valuable Than Ever: Touching, Feeling, Testing

In any case, one advantage of the brick-and-mortar retail trade is the fact that customers can feel, try on, and personally see and compare goods. That will be more valuable than ever after social distancing and closed stores. So why not go ahead and make a brand experience out of it for customers? Just one example: Nike stores have running test zones where running outdoors is simulated with a treadmill and an enormous screen. In the process, the gait of the customer is recorded by several cameras and analyzed by employees to recommend the best pair of sneakers for him or her.

High Priority: Responsible Action

In terms of sustainability, too, retailers need to rethink things more than ever. The corona crisis has virtually forced us in a brutal way to focus on what stake we people have in the disasters of our time. Now, consumers will be demanding complete transparency regarding sustainability. It all starts with the store design already. For example: Before COVID-19, the IKEA store in London was already using renewable resources only and taking countless measures to successfully become the officially most sustainable store in Great Britain.

Developing New Strategies Now

All companies should make use of the time until they reopen their stores and deal with customer needs. Every retailer needs to ask itself these questions now:

What reason will customers have in a time of cautious opening to come into my store?

What feelings will they enter the store with after reopening?

What have customers liked about my store so far? 

And most of all, what did they not like already before the pandemic?

After all, the pain points in the customer experience are the greatest window of opportunity for any retailer. And that will be the case more than ever during opening after the crisis.

In his new book "Retail Isn't Dead," retail and visual merchandising expert Matthias Spanke presents 15 of the most important and innovative strategies with which brick-and-mortar retailers can be relevant and successful in the future and after COVID-19. The book is practice and user-oriented, with a lot of tips and over 50 illustrated best-practice examples from various branches and from all over the world. Matthias Spanke is founder of the agency BIG IDEAS Visual Merchandising with headquarters in the US and Germany. The book is available in German and English: