3 lessons retailers can learn from Westfield Stratford City, London

Dylan Brown
by Dylan Brown

Brands at Europe’s largest shopping mall aren’t letting social distancing slow them down – in fact, they’re letting creativity and innovation take the lead.

Enforced face masks, hand sanitiser at every entrance and one-way systems – not quite what you expect when you make a trip to the mall, but they took centre stage on my visit to Westfield Stratford City in London over the weekend.

As the largest shopping mall in Europe, with over 250 stores and 65 restaurants, Westfield Stratford City is usual heaving on a Saturday afternoon, especially a rainy Saturday afternoon, and while there were plenty of other shoppers making their rounds, not once did the crowds become unsafe.

Where Westfield excelled was at providing a safe and friendly environment that didn’t impact the customer journey – there were colourful, informative and engaging visuals, and an obvious but not dominating floor marking system in place.

A sign telling customers to wear a face mask.

Floor markings like this are in place throughout the mall.

And this subtle but clear approach seems to have transferred onto stores. Here are 3 short and snappy lessons retailers can adopt:

1) Brands can get creative in their messaging and approach

There are a number of social distancing and hygiene measures brands are responsible for enforcing in their stores, but that’s not to say they can’t get a little creative in their approach.

Instead of deploying medical-looking markers on its shop floor, fashion retailer, Tommy Hilfiger, decided to use its own style and branding to ensure the customer experience was fluid.

Tommy Hilfiger used its red, while and blue colour palette when designing floor markings.

This approach has been used by other retailers too. Estée Lauder’s Executive Director – Retail EMEA, Gareth Hughes, says the brand has made an effort to incorporate social distancing measures into signage in a way that was the least intrusive as possible, making it “almost in the background”.

This can clearly be seen at the Mac Cosmetics store (owned by Estée Lauder) in Westfield Stratford City – its bold, colourful design is still on full display.

The Mac Cosmetics store in Westfield Stratford City in July, 2020, one month after the store lockdown finished.

2) Social distancing isn’t everything

Consumer confidence is slowly building, and people are starting to return to stores, and while safety is of paramount concern, it’s important that brands don’t let social distancing dominate the customer experience.

Customers haven’t ventured outdoors, donned a face mask and doused their hands in coat after coat of sanitiser to learn about what your brand is doing to enforce social distancing – they want an experience that helps them forget all about Covid-19!

Department store retailer John Lewis had done an exceptional job at incorporating clear signage, engaging visual displays and digitally led services in its store.

John Lewis store in Westfield Stratford City during Covid-19.

The Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports store hasn’t allowed social distancing to dominate its shop front.

3) Long lines can quickly build without the right systems in place

While the shopping mall was by no means crowded, there were a number of stores where queues had accumulated. None of these queues were outrageous, but it’s an important lesson to note how quickly queues can escalate outside and inside of stores.

Queues outside of Zara and Primark at Westfield Stratford City.

That’s why many retailers such as Asda, Sainsbury’s, Selfridges, O2 and Dixons Carphone are using virtual queuing software to manage the number of customers coming into store, enable them to queue remotely for in-store services, and to collect orders they’ve purchased online.

Find out more about virtual queuing

Many retailers are also using appointment booking software to allow customers to book appointments for in-person services, such as Ellis Brigham, Sainsbury’s, Samsung and Selfridges.

Find out more about appointment scheduling software

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