There’s a lot to do to get ready to welcome your customers back to your retail and catering spaces – organising your team’s rotas and social distancing training, restocking your shelves and prepping for service, to name just a few. But don’t forget that FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT, and the impact you make visually as your customers enter will potentially make or break the new relationship you are about to have with them.
Successful retailing is all about creating a welcoming and inspiring environment, where customers feel comfortable and happy to spend money with you.
In this new trading period, all of us as consumers will need to be confident that our health is not at risk, wherever we go. Therefore, creating that comfortable environment is both more difficult and more crucial than before. Do take the time to review how other operators are managing their customers. Supermarkets have been open under these conditions of course, so use their learning and customer process methods – no need to re-invent the wheel!
Now merchandising is going to be LESS about the products and how you display them (although customers will need to have a compelling reason to visit you in the first place) and MORE about the scene you set. This will start the confidence-building and relaxation/ buying mode you seek in every customer.
Consider and plan for each of these 5 critical areas BEFORE you open your doors again.
OUTSIDE: What would YOU want to see to help you have confidence that a place you were entering was safe?
- Clearly indicated queuing space
- 2m spacing indicators on your windows or flooring
- Member of staff to manage customer flow rate
- Automatic or propped-open entrance door
- Clear signage on display in the queuing area to guide customers through your new process, and what you expect from them. Keep it simple and large clear font for speedy reading.
- Do thank them for coming
AT THE ENTRANCE: If you offer trays or baskets for customer use consider how you can demonstrate cleanliness.
- Signage indicating how you are treating each of your trays or baskets:
- Dishwashing after each use
- Staff wearing gloves
- For baskets, wipe handles with anti-viral solution at the tills before returning to doorway
- Provide paper towels for customer to hold basket handles if required – collect used paper by till for recycling
- Change to offering paper carrier bags instead of baskets – once they have paid for their goods, they can use it to take the produce away
THE WELCOME: If you have tackled the first 2 steps then you should have started to build their confidence and now need to work on making them feel welcome and comfortable.
- Take a fresh look at your layout. Be honest with yourself.
- Is it time for a really good clean front of house? Get that floor sparkling and clean the walls.
- Remove grime from all fixtures and fittings – you MUST demonstrate a new level of cleanliness
- Remove all ageing signage and refresh. Clean your poster and signage holders too.
- Create a more open flow space for customers. Less is more, so clear away clutter and demonstrate as spacious a feel as possible.
- Keep aisles clear of extra stock or sales-bins, etc. and broaden your spaces by removing some fixtures if possible
- Get rid of ‘dead-ends’ and ‘bottle-necks’ – take a fresh look at your space and try to create an effective flow route, taking customers on a logical journey.
- Any areas that can’t yet be used – internal seating for instance – might be used as additional retail space, or a waiting area for order collections, etc. according to your new operating model or process.
- And of course, your staff must go that extra step. Encourage your team to say hello, smile and make eye contact much more proactively than they would have previously – especially if they are wearing masks, which will hide many of the visual cues we take for granted in our interactions
- Alert your team to how important it is to maintain social distance from customers in order to maintain the level of confidence you are building. Allow customers access to all counters, especially if replenishing must occur during service hours. Be more aware of customers trying to shop an area that a team member is replenishing. Move to one side with a smile and create that distance.
CLEAR DIRECTION: Signage is now more important than ever to help guide customers confidently through your new layout.
- Overhead destination signage to indicate key points such as ORDER HERE or PAY HERE or DELI, etc. to help pull your customers through your space
- Keeping people moving in one direction will help distancing, so consider whether a one-way system would help you use your space most effectively.
- Consider the EXIT route too. How can customers use a single doorway most safely? Can you use another door, or engage staff in managing the flow to maintain distance.
- Messaging in vinyl on the floor can work well to help guide customers around this reshaped environment, particularly for queuing areas – coffee, tills – 2m markers give confidence again.
- All signage must: Be clear and easy to read from a distance; Use just one or two selected fonts to create a polished and professional look; AND Demonstrate your brand in terms of colour, logo and style
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: What are the products that your new or returning customer will come to you for? Knowing this will help you lay out your space in the most effective way.
- Make it simple for them to find these products, and ensure you position logical accompanying items next to these products to increase the spend potential.
- As consumers we are now more likely to opt for more ready-wrapped products, rather than self-service cake displays or open salad bars for instance, so make sure your products are offered accordingly.
- Boxed salads and individual dressing pots
- Bagged tray bakes or scones, complete with jam and cream rather than large multi-sliced round cakes
- Price everything clearly for swift decision-making – particularly for impulse or upgrade items.
- With less options available to us all in terms of eating-out, there will be a market for premium products and simple recipe cards to help recreate that restaurant feel easily at home. Consider how you can add more value to the products you sell already by grouping them as a tempting menu idea
- Joints of meat with roasting tips, herbs and jars of jelly or condiments, perhaps some prepped potatoes and veg, along with a Yorkshire pudding mix
- Extend meal deals of sandwiches etc. to create an inspiring takeaway picnic for the family or house-group
- Offer leaflets at the till with details of the new products and ways of ordering or collection you are instigating, so that customers can get in touch easily afterwards (you could also signpost these to those queuing outside your store).