Guest blog written by Allen Steck at GoldTech POS on the key considerations for brick-and mortar retailers re-opening their stores.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are constantly adapting as they are presented with new challenges to their business model. The first major obstacle came in the form of hypermarkets like Walmart and Target that could combine department stores and grocery into one seamless operation. “The Walmart Effect”, written in 2006 by Charles Fishman, described the effect this has on both consumers and businesses within the local economies they reside. Then came e-commerce, bringing companies like eBay and Amazon that could deliver products at lower prices by eliminating storefronts. In 2020, a third major obstacle arrived in the form of COVID-19 and violently upended the retail experience overnight.
By mid-April a staggering 4 in 5 businesses were temporarily closed to limit the spread of the disease. While Walmart was able to quickly get protective shields and social distancing markers in place, many small retailers struggled to simply get approval from local and state governments to reopen their businesses. Half of all businesses in America saw a revenue drop of 75% or more. While all 50 states are at various phases of reopening, consumer confidence in returning to retail shopping is still low. On May 1st, at least 50% of customers polled were found to be uncomfortable with non-grocery brick-and-mortar retail shopping.
These numbers are expected to fluctuate throughout the summer as case counts rise in states that have reopened. Texas and Alabama have seen increases in infection rates in the weeks following their businesses reopening, while California is reopening with case counts still trending upward.
With rising case counts there comes an increased risk that some areas may go back under stay-at-home orders. In the meantime, there are a number of short-term and long-term changes that retailers can make to help their customers feel safer with returning to their stores.
Restrict Shopping Hours & Store Capacity
While many retailers are eager to reopen their stores, shortening the number of hours open to customers provides more time for cleaning and reduces the risk of spreading the virus. Large retailers are also beginning to restrict certain hours, generally in the early morning, to elderly shoppers and high-risk shoppers. Providing these accommodations is a win-win for both the retailer and customer alike.
Currently 33 states and the District of Columbia have also mandated state-wide or regional restrictions limiting the customer volume allowed in retail stores. These restrictions vary in each state and include percentages of capacity as declared by the fire marshall, customers per 1000 square feet of space, and curbside or door-pickup only.
No-Contact Payment Systems
The two components of any retail store that are touched most frequently are the entrance doors (if not automated) and the credit card terminal at the register. Grocers also must be mindful of door handles on freezers. These areas should be subject to a rigorous cleaning schedule to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. To minimize the amount of cleaning needed, NFC-enabled card readers provide an option for contactless payment at credit card terminals. Contactless payment can be done with most credit cards, as well as through Smart Wallets, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay Send, and other peer-to-peer payment services.
GoldTech partners with Verifone for credit card terminals, letting every customer choose their payment processor and guaranteeing NFC capabilities.
Checkout Shields & Face Masks
Many retailers have begun the process of installing plexiglass sneeze guards at the register. These barriers are typically 36” tall and can be mounted directly to the counter, providing a physical barrier intended to prevent moisture droplets containing the coronavirus from easily passing between customers and employees. These shields, when combined with face masks, can significantly lower the chance that viral transmission will occur at the checkout.
Local ordinances require some retailers to have employees stand at the entrance and take customer temperatures before allowing entrance, although a national shortage in thermometers and managing payroll costs can add differing degrees of difficulty to this. Meridian, Goodview, Olea, and other companies have developed kiosks that can be placed inside entrances that scan temperatures of customers. These kiosks can sound alarms when customers do not meet the temperature criteria. Once the coronavirus pandemic has ended the kiosks can be repurposed with included features to serve time-clock, security, and other functions.
GoldTech partners with HP for Personnel Management Solutions, a HP-branded version of the Meridian Kiosk.
Implement Social Distancing Measures
Decals recommending customers to stay 6 feet apart are available for purchase online. Decals should start at the register and be placed at least every 6’ apart.
Alternative Shopping Options
There has been a significant shift in the number of companies offering alternative shopping options during the pandemic. Delivery allows for customers to shop from the safety of their homes while still keeping revenue flowing, and Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) allows for companies to manage transactions at the door without actually traversing through the store. Large retailers are taking a step further and offering Buy Online, Pickup at Curb (BOPAC) to their customers to further limit customer and employee interaction. According to Retail Dive, CommerceHub reports that 75% of consumers have adopted alternative shopping options as their primary shopping method and will continue to use these services after the pandemic has ended. Further details from a survey conducted by Qudini shows that younger generations are more likely to use these services, although all generations surveyed reported higher than 50% likelihood of using an alternative shopping arrangement.
While Shopify and other POS companies offer a BOPIS integration to their software, there are few true 3rd party platforms that can integrate to any system and allow easy management of BOPAC. GoldTech is developing a web-interface to allow scheduled pickups via BOPAC and Delivery with an aim to launch in the second half of July 2020.
Shop by Appointment
Delaware allowed all retail establishments to reopen on May 20th by appointment only, allowing two appointments per half-hour to provide time to clean between patrons and limit the spread of the disease. This follows the choice by Best Buy and other retailers that have reopened their stores on a shopping by appointment only basis. Best Buy only allows one appointment at a time with each retail employee.
As customers begin to reenter brick-and-mortar retail it is vital to ensure that you have a POS system that can provide all the features necessary to keep your customers coming back. With non-essential visits down over 50% it is critical to ensure that you are accurately capturing every item at the register, providing customer loyalty programs to reward shoppers, and providing incentives like instant coupons to encourage return visits. For thrift retailers this means choosing a POS provider that offers donation tracking to know where to direct marketing efforts for new donated goods and production management to eliminate loss prevention concerns, manage inventory, and ensure consistent pricing. GoldTech has partnered with 13 Goodwill organizations for their POS needs since 2014, with them generating over $400 million in revenue in 2019.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are experiencing devastating losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, making accuracy at the register critical. The GoldTech Retail Manager is built for the thrift industry and offers production management, donation tracking, unlimited loyalty programs, full price management including color rotations, instant coupons, business intelligence, and many other features. Most importantly, GoldTech molds the GoldTech Retail Manager around how you do business, giving you the flexibility to run your operation how you want. Our partners' ideas drive our software development together and are always looking for new ideas to strengthen their retail operations. If you want to learn more about how we offer all of this at a 60% lower Total Cost of Ownership than our competitors, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our retail experts.
GoldTech partners with 100+ organizations around the world, both non-profit and for-profit, representing $750 million annually in gross retail sales.
E-commerce is an increasingly important offering for consumers in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our expertise and operational insights have allowed us to optimize and implement over a million square feet of e-commerce operations via Upright Services and process over 100 million dollars in gross revenue with Upright Lister. During COVID-19 specifically, we’ve assisted over 20 retailers in scaling their e-commerce departments while navigating the increasing consumer demand to shop online. We welcome you to experience the value by partnering with Upright Labs, a customer-focused and transformative software and service provider. If you’re interested in boosting your e-commerce business, schedule a free 30 minute consultation with our team of experts.