Georganne Bender: “Retail is evolving but it isn’t going anywhere”
Georganne Bender is a consumer anthropologist, speaker, award-winning writer, author, consultant and one-half of the KIZER & BENDER Speaking team. Georganne and her partner Rich Kizer are contributors to MSNBC’s television program Your Business. They made Meetings & Conventions Magazine’s list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers and were named two of Retailing’s Most Influential People. As global retail thought leaders, KIZER & BENDER are listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers, Top 100 Retail Influencers, and the Top Retail Industry Experts to Follow on Social Media. Their award-winning Retail Adventures Blog is consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs. KIZER & BENDER serve as BrainTrust panelists for RetailWire and are partners and emcees for the popular Independent Retailer Conference.
Georganne, what do you think the post-COVID retail landscape will look like?
It’s going to be quiet for a while longer. We will see a replay of last recession: empty store fronts on Main Street, in strip centers and malls with plenty of “space available” signs in windows. This will, however, offer some surprisingly good deals for those looking to relocate or open a new store and could ultimately change the environment, creating momentum in new and rehabbed retail openings.
Retailers who weather the pandemic will find that in addition to their brick and mortar stores they also have click and mortar stores that will need continuous attention. Shoppers will be glad to safely visit stores again but some will continue to enjoy the ease of online shopping or a combination of both.
Shoppers will be glad to safely visit stores again but some will continue to enjoy the ease of online shopping or a combination of both
What will be the biggest problem or weakness that the physical store will have to deal with?
Many retailers now have a back-up of merchandise due to temporary closures and the absence of a strong in-store shopping environment. They will need to liquidate old product to invest in fresh, seasonal merchandise. In addition, many are dealing with not being able to get new goods quickly enough to fill shopper needs. It’s a vicious circle that eventually will right itself.
The physical store itself – the sales floor – will require frequent change as customers return to shopping as a leisure and social activity. They are craving the in-store experiences they have missed for almost a year and will want to see something new at each visit. For retailers this means a frequent change of the speed bump displays at the front of the store and a continual refresh of the store’s lake front property – the important, most visible shopping areas on the sales floor.
The physical store will require frequent change as customers return to shopping as a leisure and social activity
What role will technology play? How can the post COVID retailer help?
90 percent of our retail clients plowed their way through the pandemic by embracing selling on social media; in many cases frequent and regularly scheduled Facebook Live broadcasts saved their stores. Some actually made more through Facebook Live broadcasts than they did in-store pre-pandemic as their markets grew far beyond their immediate communities. Smart retailers will continue to keep customers engaged by selling on social media, taking shoppers on store tours, unboxing new items on camera, sharing time lapse changes to the sales floor, and utilizing personal shopper services via FaceTime and Zoom.
Smart retailers will continue to keep customers engaged by selling on social media
How will customer loyalty be achieved?
Retailers can’t afford to let their guard down because there are too many other retailers out there who will be more than happy to steal their customers. Loyalty will be achieved through constant communication with customers via email and social media, plus “what’s in it for me” loyalty clubs, private, personalized offerings, and exciting in-store experiences that include events and promotions. Even during the pandemic we recommend that retailers host at least one event per month – events that can happen in-store, online or via social media. Customers still want to shop and they still want to be entertained. Who can do that combination better than a retailer?
Retailers can’t afford to let their guard down because there are too many other retailers out there who will be more than happy to steal their customers
Are you optimistic about the future of retail?
Absolutely! The best changes often happen under duress and we saw a lot of creative change during the pandemic. Some things, like BOPIS and curbside pick-up, will be with us forever. And we have all seen retailers who had been stuck for years rise up and take control like never before. Creativity and fast change won the day: If it wasn’t broke, retailers broke it anyway. They tried new things, and if whatever they tried didn’t work they tweaked it until it did, or moved on to something else. That whole “death of retail” message the media loves to report drives us crazy. Retail is evolving but it isn’t going anywhere.