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What can the wider retail sector learn from supermarkets ahead of their return?

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Britain’s retailers are beginning their preparations for a return to trading, as stores across the country may slowly be able to open their doors from 1 June. Now, one of the key challenges facing these retailers in the coming weeks will be the task of rebuilding consumer confidence in bricks and mortar retail.

There will be a number of obstacles for retailers to overcome, chief among which will be the psychological barriers created by the fear of contracting the coronavirus and spending time in enclosed public spaces, following weeks of the restrictive lockdown.

However, supermarkets and convenience stores have remained open throughout the lockdown, and whilst they have enjoyed increased business partially out of necessity, many of these stores have also refined their approach to serving customers to maximise their success.

So far, the most successful stores are those that are focusing on maximising the efficiency, safety and convenience of the shopping experience for their customers. In an environment where hygiene and speed are of the utmost concern, the most successful retailers in the coming months will be those who can get customers in and out of their stores as quickly and smoothly as possible – just as supermarkets have done.

Will Broome, Founder of retail shopping app Ubamarket which runs apps for smaller convenience stores, agrees: “The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the retail landscape as we knew it, and Britain’s retailers are set to return to a market which is very different to the one they left some two months ago, when the lockdown and closure of all non-essential businesses was implemented.”

Broome adds: “The biggest difficulty that retailers across the country will have to negotiate is the challenge of getting customers back in-store. However, there are some retailers, such as supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies, which have remained open throughout the lockdown and have been forced to negotiate the ever-changing conditions and adapt their offering to customers in accordance with the new environment. Observing the success of convenience stores and supermarkets will go great lengths to help retailers emerge from the lockdown, and the implementation of retail technology will help retailers to go a step further.”

So, what do retailers need to do? Focusing on setting out clear and well-maintained queuing processes, keeping simple and clear store layouts, communicating in-store using signage, and ensuring that checkout and payment is contactless and as fast as possible are some of the steps that retailers can take to improve the consumer experience.

The implementation of retail technology will allow retailers to go further by solving a number of the problems posed by Coronavirus. Providing tech solutions, such as a consumer app, can put shoppers in control and will unlock a range of features such as remote stock checking, till-less checkout and aisle sat-nav, all of which will greatly enhance the shopping experience and rebuild consumer confidence.

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