Customers are concerned about safety, and social distancing measures help reassure them, but consumers are going to stores for a great experience and retailers need to deliver, says retail leaders from Estée Lauder and Brown Thomas.
In Qudini’s Safe Stores panel event, our CEO, Imogen Wethered, spoke with Gareth Hughes, Executive Director – Retail EMEA of skin care, fragrance, make up and hair care manufacturer and marketer, Estée Lauder, and Mark Limby, Stores Director from luxury department store retailer, Brown Thomas (owned by Selfridges Group), about social distancing measures in their stores.
In the panel, both leaders spoke about how they’re using effective signage, contactless click and collect, virtual queuing systems and appointment booking software to create safe and engaging customer experiences.
Here are some of the key insights shared:
Customers are reacting differently to social distancing
When asked how customers are shopping in stores, Mark said Brown Thomas customers are demonstrating a variety of responses.
Certain customers are out and about shopping, and while they abide by social distancing measures, he said these customers are a bit more comfortable and relaxed.
But there are also a lot of customers who are noticeably nervous – they’re a lot more directional in their focus.
“They know what they want, come in and leave.”
But with restaurants and cafes now open, people are coming in for longer, he said.
In general, customers are responding well to the brand’s social distancing measures, said Mark, pointing out that the brand’s net promoter score is doing well.
In fact, Mark said that if he could go back in time, he would have invested more in the brand’s social distancing initiatives before the lockdown took place, such as installing display screens showing store occupancy numbers, as well as offering virtual appointments.
The customer experience is still key
One of the key focuses right now for Brown Thomas is how to bring back experience initiatives, such as seeing how stylists can engage more with consumers.
While social distancing measures are important for putting customers’ minds at ease, Mark highlighted the importance of finding the right balance.
“They’re coming in to experience your brand.”
He also highlighted the importance of putting new ideas to the test, and encouraging your teams to be agile in their approach. “Some initiatives might fail,” he pointed out. “Try it and if it fails, try something new.”
Retailers can blend social distancing messages with digital signage
Estée Lauder 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”.
“Beauty is quite a personal experience,” said Gareth.
The retailer removed all printed messaging regarding Covid-19 from its stores and included social distancing messages in digital signage in a way that didn’t impact the experience. It also installed video ad displays at hand sanitizing stations.
Gareth pointed out that, at first, they were unsure how customers were going to respond to in-store social distancing measures, but “it had less of an effect than thought previously.”
One of the unexpected benefits is that, with stores less crowded, staff have been able to provide a more tailored, one-to-one experience.