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How Retailers can Navigate the Customer Experience during COVID-19

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The current global pandemic has profoundly impacted our health and disrupted our usual way of life. It has also significantly fractured the world’s economy, causing a great impact on businesses. As we navigate through a period of disruption, retailers are being put to the test to look for new strategies and methods to support the needs of their own and that of their customers.

Brands are challenged to find alternative ways to maintain quality interactions with their customers while they stay indoors to avoid crowds, and turn to online shopping for their needs. At the same time, stores are being forced to close their doors to play their role in flattening the curve, incurring lost in-store revenue from decreased foot traffic, and having to create alternative short-term experiences to reach their loyal customers.

It is also a difficult time for retailers and their employees. Sales associates will continue to be heavily impacted by the change. They are the frontline brand representatives in stores every day, making up the largest percentage group in the North American job market. We’re now seeing a spike in job losses, as employees are unable to work due to store closures. Retailers are also seen doing everything they can to protect and put their employees first before having to cut their frontline workers.

Retailers are quickly looking for effective solutions to bridge the gap between the unknown halt of the in-store experience and the now growing online opportunity. Here are three short-term ways retailers can maintain and drive engagement with their customers to create new sales opportunities, while supporting their store associates. 

Increase omnichannel and online capabilities

Consumers are spending more time on their smartphones for both connection and entertainment. Now more than ever, they’re turning to online shopping to get their consumer goods. A spike in online shopping has begun as consumers who usually shopped in stores are turning to online options to fulfil their needs. 

Since the temporary closure of brick-and-mortar stores has decreased store traffic and in-store sales, retailers can look to increase their online presence as part of their push for omnichannel distribution. Updates to their website, increasing the use of social media to build product interest and implementing new omnichannel technologies can all assist with a successful transition towards online. By shifting a focus on omnichannel and ecommerce, brands can continue to ensure quality of goods sold online and help generate brand awareness, maintain customer relationships and increase sales.

Equip store associates with technology to serve loyal customers remotely

Providing store associates with easy-to-use technology, devices, and support when working remotely can help maintain continuous customer relationships with loyal brand customers. Retail associates working from home can manage their daily business with ease while also staying connected with key clients. With CX and mobile apps, associates can maintain one-to-one communications with customers including: sharing recommendations, helping with basket fulfillment, remote pay and answering any questions in real-time. Retailers are using LiveChat functions, phone, and email to interact with brand followers. With the right technology in hand, store associates can continue to interact with, market to, and serve customers.

Heighten communications and personalize the digital experience

As our current climate continues to rapidly change, retailers can deliver retail intimacy through digital and social channels, showing customers that they are there for them outside of the store. Store associates can use their client relationship management tools remotely to engage customers with a personalized customer experience online. Armed with valuable customer insights, associates can use their intel to personalize messages to their key customers and deliver a unique online experience. 

Retailers can also continue the conversations outside of the store by providing customers and associates access to multiple channels of communication in real-time, such as phone, text, social media or via mobile apps. This provides one-on-one interaction where associates can share updates, offers, discounts, recommendations or answer questions in real-time. Providing customers access to the brand through a variety of communication channels can help maintain customer interest and loyalty while also keeping trust during unprecedented times. 

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve and rapidly change, businesses will face new challenges as they navigate through the ever-changing reality. Every retailer is different and there are different circumstances in different locations. Brands continue to find creative solutions to support their retail associates, reach customers and increase sales in the short term. The shift in digital transformation will continue to play a key role in the way we operate in our current climate and it’ll pave the way for a new retail landscape.

Tulip is committed to guiding connected stores through uncertainty and in helping them move forward. We are working with some of our trusted partners to help our customers expand functionality of their existing solutions, and to help them find new innovative solutions to drive sales and stay connected with their customers.

To learn more about how Tulip is helping retailers navigate COVID-19, speak to a consultant today.

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