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Apploi recently hosted a webinar to focus on how brands can prepare for an uncertain future, especially when it comes to hiring. The discussion, in partnership with American Dream and Mall of America, featured Apploi CEO Adam Lewis, American Dream Co-CEO Mark Ghermezian, and WPP CEO of The Store WPP, EMEA, and Asia, David Roth. The following article captures their conversation about the changes coming to the retail experience and expands upon that theme with a special emphasis on how managers and store owners can prepare.

The retail industry is experiencing a wave of change and experimentation as a result of the pandemic. As stores across America begin to reopen, here’s a quick guide for managers and store owners — some of the best practices, tools, and tricks that are being implemented across retail.

Safe stores for employees

“One of the main things we’re doing on the employee side is ensuring that it’s a safe environment for them to come to work,” says Mark Ghermezian. He’s the Co-CEO of American Dream, a new retail and entertainment complex in New Jersey. Ghermezian told Apploi in a recent webinar about the future of brands and retail that his company was introducing a number of new processes for employees. Those changes include thermal checks, employee surveys and waivers, rules about social distancing, and allowing time for more frequent hand washing, a concept that could change the duration of work shifts.

At stores across the country, masks and gloves will be required (for most retail employees) for their safety and the safety of others, but that’s just the beginning. Here are some essential guides for keeping your employees safe:

Safe spaces for customers

Store owners can expect to focus a lot of thought and energy on cleaning and sanitizing stores and spaces. A primary goal of managers will be to make their customers feel safe enough to shop regularly in stores again.

David Roth, CEO of The Store WPP, EMEA and Asia, discussed this at length in Apploi’s retail webinar.

“A lot of the processes that retailers undergo every single day were backend processes: cleaning, sanitization … that sort of stuff was done after the customer had left the store at night … I think we’re going to see a lot of those become very, very apparent. We will as consumers want to see that stores are cleaning. We will want to see that stores are sanitizing.”

According to a new Axios-Ipsos survey, Americans are seeing activities like shopping as less potentially risky than just a few weeks ago, though 52% of those surveyed still see going into retail stores as a real health risk.

American Dream Co-CEO Mark Ghermezian thinks the key will be communication: “On the guest experience, for us it’s all about transparency. I think we want to be as transparent as possible about how we’re cleaning, when we’re cleaning, how we’re testing our employees and our team members.”

Some more best practices for keeping retail customers safe:

  • The National Retail Federation (NRF) has released Operation Open Doors to help retailers identify ways to reopen safely, with input from hundreds of retailers
  • The NRF also teamed up with the Retail Industry Leaders Association to create A Blueprint for Shopping Safe, including guidance on social distancing protocols and reduced occupancy
  • Supermarket News: Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Joe’s lead in retailer Covid-19 safety

How technology will help

WPP’s David Roth has been talking to brands and companies around the globe about the beneficial technologies that are coming down the pike.

“This whole notion of a very, very fast movement towards voice, as the whole notion of touching things and doing things in a way where there’s less and less contact. So I think we are going to see great strides made in which voice is going to be used.”

Contactless payment systems and reimagined curbside pickups will also continue to evolve as a part of retailers battle to keep customers visiting stores while decreasing interactions with employees and crowds.

As Mark Ghermezian pointed out in the webinar: “We’re all learning together on this. And you’re going to have to iterate quickly until we get back to normal and people are feeling comfortable and safe.”

Additional helpful links and articles:

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