Retail gets used to the new normal

Two weeks ago, non-essential shops reopened in Britain (to scenes of mania at the Nike store, but that’s another story) and it’s a brave new world out there. Hand sanitiser on entry, one in one out policies, closed changing rooms, perspex screens and products in quarantine are all the new norm. Retailers now have a newfound responsibility to keep customers safe, and the better and more transparently they can do this, the more likely trust in shopping will be restored. From traffic light systems to funny floor markings, we round up some of the creative ways they are adapting to socially-distanced, Covid-aware shopping.

Get in and get out

Recent research says as many as 50% of shoppers are wanting to enter and exit stores as quickly as possible (Global WebIndex Report) and naturally, they’re worried about spending time in the throng. So retailers are having to find new ways to ease anxiety and make the shopping experience quicker and less stressful.

We love The Entertainer’s Ready in 10 service. It works like this: if you know what you want, just order from the queue and collect in 10 minutes from inside the store. They’re also offering a fast track service, with colleagues at front of the store, ready to fetch products and fast track customers straight to payment, no need to mingle or meander.

Elsewhere, in the mobile sector, O2 have partnered with ‘retail choreographer’ Quidini to set up a virtual queuing system. Visit any store, request an appointment at the entrance and you’ll be allocated a time slot – and when it’s your turn, you’ll be texted to return to the store. Because who wants to wait it out, wedged into a sofa next to a stranger nowadays? 


There are new initiatives in the grocery sector too, with Aldi installing a traffic light system to keep control on customer numbers, Morrisons’ speedy shopping queues for those with baskets, while Lidl has introduced a genius online chatbot which can tell customers when it’s the quietest time to visit the store.

Outside becomes the new inside

It’s a well-known fact that we Brits have a long-standing love affair with queuing, and never has this been put to the test more than now. Standing outside waiting to get into a shop is now par for the course, but in the humble queue, retailers have fortuitously found themselves with a channel which is becoming a touchpoint in its own right. So how can the queue work hard for retailers? Offering moments that are entertaining and enjoyable like Selfridges’ DJs entertaining the crowds on reopening day is one way to increase brand engagement. But the queue can also be a used to sample products before entering the store, and with more dwell time, windows can be used to educate with richer brand stories or even to sell from – see Lone Design Club for one of the best (and most useful) examples of QR code shopping we’ve seen.

Lone Design Club

One other interesting post-Covid development is the opportunity presented by the kerbside. Kerbside collection has been around for a while now, and is particularly popular in the States. Over here, it’s been gathering momentum during the pandemic, with big or bulky ticket retailers like garden centres and Currys PC World offering drive-thru car park collection. But where previously it has been just another option in fulfilment, kerbside now looks set to take on a new role, extending into service. Ever leading the way, Apple are offering a Curbside Genius service; just book an appointment and pull up in your car to solve your tech troubles. Genius indeed.

Keep it clean and don’t touch!

Retailers are now having to more obviously show customers they are taking cleaning seriously, and overtly communicate and demonstrate their hygiene practices. Ever clever at spotting a brand engagement opp, Lush have turned the hand-washing ritual into a brilliant public health service, inviting anyone and everyone to ‘come in and wash your hands for free’. There’s no requirement to buy anything, just pop in and use their soap shavings to help kill the spread of germs.

The Independent

With every surface being a Covid threat, there are a slew of innovative products set to negate the need for customers to come into contact with germs. Two that have impressed us are the hands-free 3D-printed door handles being trialled by Finnish supermarket chain Alepa, which allow shoppers to open fridges by hooking their arms into a handle instead of pulling it with their hands, while creative commerce agency Geometry has produced a patented device from 2015 that slides across shopping cart handles, dispensing a thin layer of disinfectant. We’d certainly feel happier pushing our trolley around a supermarket knowing it had been super self-cleaned.

Tim Gould

X marks the spot

It’s no surprise retailers have had to swiftly reconfigure their space and rethink everything from navigation to customer journey, and floor markings to demarcate distance and flow are becoming a normal sight in every shop. But to end on a lighter note, some retailers have used this as a brilliant opportunity to show off their tone of voice, or to inject a little bit of fun to the customer experience. If it’s games you’re after, head to this Malaysian shopping mall, which has found creative ways to ensure social distancing at every dwell time opportunity, while we love the floor decals used by independent card shop Objectables. And if you still really have no idea what 2 metres look like, let Pringles show you the way.

thiis.co.uk Concept floor signage by Marc Burnett
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