We have faced several crises in the past both as a country and broadly as a humanity, but every time we have found a path forward and come out stronger as a society. COVID-19 is no different and while we will go through a shift in consumer behavior, some temporary and some long-lasting, eventually we will be back to normal or, as everyone is calling it, new normal. But first, we will have to go through the “new” new normal.
Initially, consumers will be extra cautious, avoiding shopping in-store when possible. When they do venture out, shoppers will likely maintain strict social distancing when in public, which will affect store capacities and may necessitate the need for reduced customer capacity anywhere in the range of 25 to 50 percent. Consumers will be reluctant to touch products and payments will go completely contactless. I call this the “new, new normal” and it will require significant adjustments from retailers. Over time, consumers will settle into the new — albeit different — normal.
Many of the changes we will likely see in the coming weeks and months may actually enhance the overall customer experience, making it safer and more efficient to shop both in-store and online. Retailers who have embraced a fully integrated omnichannel strategy to serve their customers anywhere, anytime prior to the pandemic will find the transition to the new normal easier. Those who hadn’t must quickly learn to embrace technology that connects the brand, store associate, and customer in a way that conveys safety, personalization, and efficiency. The customer experience of the future is arriving now.
Clienteling — the practice of assigning retail sales associates to high value customers — is having a moment. What was known as a “nice to have” practice pre-COVID-19 has now become a way to keep a valuable channel open as non-essential stores are mandated to keep their physical locations closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"The most successful companies today understand that mobile is not just another channel, it's their customers' window to the brand," said Mike Micucci, CEO, Salesforce Commerce Cloud.