Retail Re-emerges: How Retail Leaders are Strategizing for Resilience


December 3, 2020

While the fight against Covid-19 continues in cities and countries around the world, many retailers are starting to think about their path to recovery, including opening their brick and mortar stores back up. The reality of in store shopping and online experiences will be different in both the long and short term for retailers and consumers alike. In the short term, some retailers will plan to open up their stores in the next few weeks to months with a “new normal” in mind. Let's dive into what the "new normal" might look like and how retailers can maximize those strategies as they re-emerge and plan for resilience.

Curbside Pickup 

Adobe Analytics reports the number of orders placed online and picked up at stores by customers surged 208 percent between April 1 and April 20 compared to a year ago. Industries beyond retail have tapped into curbside pickup or the “no touch” model to keep serving shoppers. Even as stores begin to open we will still see popularity grow for curbside. A survey of 1,500 consumers from CommerceHub in April found 59% were more likely to use curbside pickup following the coronavirus outbreak.  

Naturally, retailers are evaluating the downstream impacts of curbside pickup including additional returns, logistics and safety. One way to optimize curbside pickup is to offer digital capabilities that mimic the in-store experience, such as fit guidance, style recommendations, always-on customer service, etc. These "experience enhancements" help shoppers ensure that they will love and keep the items purchased. 

No Fitting Room, No Problem

As our True Fit customers prepare to open their stores, many have shared that while their doors will be open, their fitting rooms won’t be.  At True Fit, we’re collaborating with our retail partners to bring True Fit into stores to provide shoppers with the extra boost of confidence they need to make a purchase. For example, a North American multi-banner retailer is promoting True Fit in stores as an alternative to fitting rooms, using a barcode system for shoppers to scan on their phones in order to get fit guidance. That scan will bring shoppers to a True Fit landing page where they can either register for True Fit or access their existing profile to find their best fit for the styles that they’re looking at in store. Store associates will also be trained to teach shoppers how to use True Fit’s technology if they are struggling with sizing in store.

Virtual Pre-Shopping

To ensure a seamless in-store shopping experience, some retailers are investing in virtual pre-shopping.  For retailers who are keeping fitting rooms open, the need to power a social distanced experience with fewer shoppers in store is key. SuitSupply has implemented a virtual pre-shopping experience where shoppers are paired with live style experts who they can browse with. These experts can provide guidance for online purchases or ensure that items will be available and prepped when shoppers come in store for try-on. Stylists can offer even more relevant guidance if the shopper is a True Fit user by reviewing their profile and offering personalized style and fit recommendations.

In the long term, while stores may open in the next few weeks many shoppers will be hesitant to visit.   We’ve seen this in China where McKinsey reported that 74 percent of Chinese consumers said they avoided shopping malls in the two weeks after stores reopened. Fortunately, so many retailers have invested in their digital channels as a way to service and connect with their shoppers. Retailers should continue to iterate on their investments as a way for shoppers to continue to interact from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Connecting Digitally

For shoppers who may have previously connected with a brand in-store, there are ways to replicate that relationship digitally. With shoppers spending an average of 46 percent more time texting, chatting and messaging and 43 percent more time on social media, brands have an opportunity to connect with their shoppers digitally through these channels. Even if shoppers do not make a purchase, continuing to build the relationship through digital channels will help secure brand loyalty when potential financial hardship has passed.  To get the most out of these communications retailers should strive to personalize outreach to feel more like customer service with 1:1 style recommendations, fit guidance or relevant content. 

Virtual Styling

Retailers can take personalized service a step farther by offering 1:1 virtual styling sessions. Retailers and brands like John Lewis and Paige are offering virtual styling appointments via video (Instagram, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc). In these sessions shoppers can walk through their existing closet with stylists and get advice on additional pieces to purchase to compliment their wardrobe and new work from home lifestyle. By bringing the style guidance that often comes from a store associate to shoppers in their own homes, retailers can preserve existing relationships to cultivate brand loyalty as well as nurture new relationships with new customers.

More Robust Service Channels 

Virtual styling is one type of service but retailers looking to drive their business during this time should think about making digital service more robust. One way to do this is enabling a chatbot on retailer’s websites and social channels. Lane Bryant has worked withTrue Fit and Snaps, an AI-powered conversational commerce tool, to offer shoppers support, including fit recommendations while shopping. With this partnership, Lane Bryant has seen conversation AI rise to their top performing channel with conversion rates as high as 14 percent. This type of dynamic, an always-on service, can also be brought to shoppers via live chat or call center. In fact, some retailers have transitioned store associates to service representatives in an effort to offer more readily available digital service and keep employees, and have leveraged customer data to personalize the experience for the customer.

Are you planning the ways that you can maximize the customer experience while opening stores or enhancing your online presence? Let's talk about it together and help your brand or retailer optimize for resilience. Chat together here.