During the early phase of the crisis, brands that have stayed true to who they are, such as Costco and Best Buy, have reinforced our understanding of their brand and in some cases elevated the brand entirely. AT&T, for example, gave more than expected when they provided free cell service for frontline health workers in NYC for three months. Way to stay in touch AT&T. Showing up for your customers and even non-customers is the way to win in the end.
At the beginning of this re-opening phase, retailers have made the initial investment in safety and security of store staff and shoppers—installing plexi-glass shields at check-out counters and marking off floors with X’s to show us where to stand safely. Hopefully, this is just a crisis management short term solution. Customers often visit physical stores for the complete brand experience that is personalized and that they can’t get online. The way retailers will deliver that in a coronavirus culture will be the making of great brands.
Great brands know who they are, are clear about their core beliefs, and share their unique point-of-view through everything they do, regardless of channel or the circumstances. In response to the current crisis, the in-store rules may be changing but customer expectations to the brand and values have not. How do you deliver the appropriate experience and yet maintain your brand culture? Crude plexi panels are fine in the grocery store this month, but would be completely out of brand character for Anthropologie. Brands need to speak in their unique voice especially for store re-openings because a big part of the challenge will be to build confidence and reassurance in the branded environment.
With these new requirements for social distancing, we know the complete customer journey has changed. How shoppers move through the store experience needs to be reconsidered and tape on the floor and one-way aisles isn’t a solution.