Hope typically is not what you want to depend on to determine your destiny. You can’t rely on hope to turn your business around, collect receivables or ensure the success of a new product launch. However, hope is the right strategy to make it through the current coronavirus crisis, writes the 2018 DPHA Conference Workshops Leader, the Retail Doctor, Bob Phibbs in a recent blog post.
“The economy runs on hope. That’s it. Just like a couple deciding to have a child want to believe their offspring could grow up to be President, they also fear that child could become a drug dealer or homeless. Yet they choose hope.
It’s a choice.
And hope doesn’t come from someone else, it has to start with each of us.
Otherwise, what the hell is the point of getting up in the morning? Of anything?
Without hope, all is lost.”
Phibbs is optimistic about the future of brick and mortar retail after the pandemic for several reasons.
Retail employees are gaining more respect. Americans and employers have a different opinion of grocery store team members; the checkout personnel, shelve stockers, butchers, bakers, deli counter staffs and others are seen in a new light. Most Americans recognize these individuals are risking their own health and wellbeing to make sure you have food on your table. To their employers, they no longer can be considered disposable.
There’s a refreshing new focus on small businesses. Americans have a much greater appreciation for the local store, mall and retailers, realizing there will be a terrible void and sense of loss if those businesses do not reopen.
Phibbs believes that Macy’s and other bloated national retailers will be forced to make painful cuts and closings, but they may not go away altogether. What remains after the tough decisions offers a new lease on life and a chance for Macy’s and others to do a better job.
The crisis has unlocked creativity, Phibbs notes. Dyson invented a portable ventilator. Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers and Chanel are making masks. A number of distilleries are manufacturing hand sanitizer seemingly overnight. “Innovation and creativity were unleashed as these brands easily saw the need. That same spirit of innovation will have to be used to engage a weary customer…and it won’t happen over Zoom,” Phibbs writes.
Social media has become more important. The New York Times reports that phone calls using Facebook’s app more than doubled and group calls on social media in Italy increased 1,000%. Many DPHA members are using webinars and conducting live video conversations with customers that serve as lifelines because their brick and mortar businesses were forced to close to the public.
Social distancing is working. Americans are pulling together, demonstrating humanity, empathy and compassion rarely seen before the crisis. The crisis gives retail employees a new appreciation for their job. With unemployment skyrocketing from 3 to 13% in a few weeks, many retail workers will be thrilled to go back to work. For the same reasons, retailers will have a new appreciation for customers and will recognize that they need to up their game and truly provide outstanding customer service.
Phibbs believes that contactless credit card payments will become the new normal. Paper money is a Petri dish of germs. Consumers will gravitate to tap and pay or smartphone payment apps, abandoning swiping and inserting them into machines.
Online retail is not invincible. Wayfair, Phibbs notes, got a big bump, but that does not mean its sales increases are sustainable. Many of Wayfair’s competitors are closed. Plus, the company spends $196 to acquire every new customer. When you consider the boost in online purchasing during social distancing, the leading category of those purchases is groceries. Consumers are buying online not necessarily because they want to, but because they have to.
Phibbs concludes that “People buy based on hope in the future…When we come out of this, that compassionate spirit of we, not me, has to continue. It’s rooted in optimism. And it starts with you.”