eTail Asia & ANZ spoke with Anders Heikenfeldt, Chief Retail Officer of Pomelo Fashion. He weighs his thoughts on how physical stores can get social distancing right when they reopen and about the importance of communicating the most up to date accurate information to customers in times of crisis.
According to Anders, beyond some of the more obvious things, like placing signage around the store premises to educate and remind customers, it’s equally important to train the staff to understand and adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.
“I’d also encourage stores to provide sanitising stations for both staff and shoppers, and ensure increased cleanings across the store.”
Apart from reminders and provision of masks and sanitizers, staff should be on staggered shifts with a smaller but functional number of staff at a given store at any one time. Giving both customers and employees peace of time, strict health and safety regimes have to be in place.
“For us at Pomelo, we have an “in-store mode” feature on our app that allows customers to book a fitting room in advance, helping reduce the number of people queuing. We began limiting the number of customers allowed in our Singapore stores before the lockdown was implemented, and we will continue to do this across our Thailand stores when we begin resuming operations.”
Pomelo appears to have not only adapted to the safety standards but also amplified their use of digital tools. Businesses have to quickly pivot and solidify the role that digital can play in engagement with customers However, these digital tools should prove to be a seamless experience- intuitive and simple to use with the least number of steps or clicks with no unnecessary details to be filled in.
“We’ve been using this time to think of ways to make the retail experience as safe as possible for our customers, minimising contact with other people and enhancing our tech features to provide a new contactless shopping experience. We’ve been training our store staff remotely on this, and part of this new journey will include the ability to pay contactless across all of our branches.”
Even as the lockdown ceases, and we are allowed to go out and about, most consumers will remain highly alert and conscious. Contactless transaction is going to be key in retail operations. From in-store navigation, contactless payment, interactive product catalogue, the list goes on and there will be an explosion of extended services and functionalities in the coming months.
As we moved along, we delved into the topic of whether there is a need for brands to put efforts to increase public awareness of the pandemic.
To Anders, most brands have a platform and the ability to influence their customers.
“I think brands can do their part by ensuring they provide correct information or referring their customers to official sources that can provide up-to-date information. We, at Pomelo, have been doing our best to keep our customers updated on what we’re doing.”
However, there is also widespread fake and inaccurate news. How do you manage this?
“We’ve been monitoring and following guidelines set by official sources such as the WHO, the CDC, as well as those set by local authorities to ensure we’re able to make informed decisions. We also work closely with our landlords and continue to monitor other brands in the region to ensure we’re all following the same standard and implementing effective policies and practices.
We’ve recently launched Pomelo Cares, an initiative to support the communities we serve, especially frontline workers. As part of this initiative, customers can shop fabric masks with all proceeds going to partner healthcare organisations — while this is currently only available online, masks and other self-care items will be available for purchase at our stores when they reopen.
Part of this initiative also involves a social media campaign #PomeloGirlsAtHome to raise awareness on the importance of social distancing, featuring content encouraging people to stay at home.”
Brands need to know their facts 100% and help their customers and anyone to find useful information in a timely manner. Ensuring that they are following the guidelines from official sources is imperative in navigating through this crisis. Brands could also learn from other brands or countries by being prepared to incorporate new information and alter their approaches, either in phases or drastically.
Consumers are expecting their concerns to be echoed by brands that they care about in the appropriate manner. Brands can join the social initiative bandwagon, as there is a chance of the lines blurring between selling a commercial and truly being responsible. Leveraging on existing resources to make a difference and give back to those in need is indeed inspiring. Either ways, it does create opportunities for brands.
Social media is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a must-have to survive. With digital consumption on a rise, brands have to create content that will resonate with consumers. These content have to capture attention, be engaging and prompt responses. Sometimes, brands can throw in educational and precautionary messages and tips in a fun way to be uplifting and not boring. Isn’t it great when you can kill two birds with one stone?
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