3 steps retailers need to take before reopening their stores after lockdown

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

Most stores might be closed, but those that are open have one thing in common – long queues stretching down the street.

These queues have been put in place by retailers for good reason – to limit the number of customers inside a store at any given time to enable social distancing – but surely, in our digital era, there is a better way to manage customers without drawing parallels to the rationing queues that emerged during World War II?

Customers queue outside a store on Church Street, Enfield, during World War II.

As many retailers wait with bated breath for an announcement from 10 Downing Street for permission to reopen their stores, now is the time where many retail leaders are thinking carefully about how they can do so in a way that is safe for both customers and employees.

Read: How Qudini software helps retailers support social distancing measures during Covid-19 

However, if all stores adopted the same approach that we’re currently seeing on the High Street, the UK pavements could become overcrowded with customers lining up in long queues, contradicting the social distancing measures that still need to be in place.

We’ve seen an explosion in the number of retailers coming to us asking about our retail queuing system and appointment scheduling software, suggesting that many retailers have the same public safety concerns that we do. In fact, many of the retailers approaching us have said that they will not open their stores without queue management or appointment booking software in place.

We recently surveyed 2,000+ UK consumers to see how retail in the Coronavirus era could look like – here are some of our results:

UK consumers are avoiding all types of stores as much as possible

Shoppers are more likely to use click and collect services during Covid-19

There’s a strong demand for virtual service from every type of retailer

3 steps retailers can take to safely reopen stores

Crucially, stores right now are closed and this is a significant contributor to job losses and economic downturns in the UK. The government is grappling with how to reopen stores in a secure way that protects the public, but if more stores reopen, this could easily lead to excessive queues outside of stores and place the safety of the general public at risk.

1) Create streamlined customer management processes

Even outside of lockdown, customers will be avoiding stores as much as possible. To build customer confidence in visiting them, brands will need enhanced customer management processes that ensure social distancing inside and outside of the store. Allowing customers to pre-book their visit online or managing walk-in customers in virtual queues using queue management software that updates them by SMS and smartphone as their turn draws near can help with this.

Find out more about using queue management software during Covid-19 

2) Invest in contactless click and collect services

Generation-wide interest in click and collect services suggests that, for the foreseeable future, stores will serve more as contactless fulfilment hubs than anything else. Therefore, retailers should offer store entrance and curbside pick-up that enables customers to have an efficient and contactless pick-up experience.

Here’s how to create a contactless click and collect experience

3) Build personalised relationships through virtual service

With customers reducing their time in store as much as possible, brands wanting to build more personalised relationships should take their one-to-one services and events online to engage customers. Based on younger demographic interest in video services, it’s likely that this interest extends beyond the Coronavirus outbreak – it could even act as a catalyst for ongoing virtualised brand interactions in the future.

Find out more about providing virtual service during Covid-19

If retailers could use software to safely manage virtual queues, schedule visits and enable customers to quickly collect online orders without entering stores, then perhaps stores could stay open throughout the pandemic, jobs could stay intact and spend could remain within the economy.

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