Post-COVID-19 Retail: 5 Operational Things Business Owners Should Consider When They Reopen


Ric Lucero, Retail Industry lead at Jamf, talks about the top five things retailers should think about in the post-COVID landscape, including onboarding processes for new employees, device security, and creativity in curating the customer experience.

The coronavirus crisis has jolted the retail industry as many stores closed because of shelter-in-place orders, and consumers put off discretionary purchases. Overall sales in March showed the largest drop ever recorded, even exceeding that during the Great Recession, the U.S. Census Bureau reportedOpens a new window . Growth estimates for global retail in 2020 are expected to be half that of pre-pandemic projections, according to an IDC reportOpens a new window .

As the economy begins to reopen, it will be essential for retailers to seize opportunities to operate their businesses as efficiently as possible, manage their returning and new workforces in new ways, and achieve sustainable long-term growth.

Retailers face unprecedented challenges in adhering to rapidly-changing COVID-19 requirements such as stringent sanitation standards, occupancy limits, and contactless curbside fulfillment methods. They also must contend with limited staffing and a workforce that may be feeling uneasy or uncomfortable on the job. And, of course, attention to customers’ desire for a streamlined and differentiated experience has never been more crucial.

Now more than ever, retailers should be looking to a combination of strategic technology investments and their own well of strategic ingenuity in adjusting to this new environment.

As the IDC report put it: “The ability to adapt responsively to product, workforce, partner, and operations needs will separate the winners and losers during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Learn More: Increased Mobile Shopping Is Here To Stay – How Should Retailers Adapt?

Here are five things that retailers should be considering in their operations:

1. How to Inform and Engage Employees

A major issue for retailers right now is limited staffing and a workforce that may be feeling uneasy or uncomfortable on the job.

Technology can help by reducing by empowering end-users with direct access to the information they need when they need it. For example, employees can actively participate in scheduling workflows, such as setting personal availability and requesting days off. This takes some pressure off of leadership from seemingly endless schedule edits and provides a better employee experience.

2. How To Streamline the Onboarding Process

The pandemic has also forced some retailers to furlough or fully separate from employees. As the industry begins to reopen, furloughed employees will need to be re-orientated on updated processes and company initiatives. Additionally, any new employees must quickly be onboarded to resume business as usual as fast as possible.

Technology will play an essential role in getting all employees – former, current, and new, back up to speed and reduce their time to proficiency. For example, it can allow managers to eliminate instructor-led onboarding sessions in favor of enabling employees to consume training materials at their convenience via mobile devices. This creates a consistent onboarding experience for employees and enables managers to focus their energy on better customer service and other outwardly-facing priorities.

3. How To Assure Good Operational Excellence

Operations are the backbone of retail organizations that provide consistency and efficiency across locations.  COVID-19 has surfaced operational deficiencies within organizations, from scattered standard operating procedures, inventory accuracy concerns, and disjointed supply chain processes. It is evident that enhancements and adjustments are necessary, and now is not a time for inadequate, incomplete, or overly complicated operational processes.

Organizations can bring enhancements to their existing processes by layering in new technologies that reinforce processes, maintain consistency, and elevate performance. Additionally, considerations should be made to ensure mission-critical information to be readily available for employees at their time of need. Lastly, retailers can ensure the utilization of these operational enhancements by deploying secure, trusted, and managed tools that end-users are already familiar with, such as iPads and iPhones.

4. How To Make Sure Devices Are Secure

Mobile technologies have proliferated in recent years to speed up the sales process and personalize the retail experience. Nearly every retailer would agree that the use of mobile technology in stores makes them more agile, competitive, and responsive.

However, amid growing evidenceOpens a new window that hackers are working to exploit the crisis, securing sensitive data on retail devices and systems is paramount. With all their other concerns right now, the last thing a retailer needs is a major data breach.

That’s why all retailers should be thoroughly assessing how they manage their mobile devices and whether they’re enforcing critical security practices.

5. Looking for Ways To Get Creative

This isn’t a technology thought but one about how retailers need to think outside the box as they reimagine and redesign stores, down to every detail of how customers interact with their employees and products.

Learn More:AI in Retail: ‘P’ Is for Planning, Not Just Personalization

For example, some stores are having masked employees make new name badges that include a photo of them smiling, so shoppers can see the happy face of the person they are talking to and educating front line employees on the power of body language and tonality to improve the customer experience. These examples illustrate the creativity retailers need to use to take customer service to a different level.

By keeping these five priorities in mind, retailers will be in a better position to weather the current times and prepare well for the future.