My First Post-COVID19 Shopping Experience was a Big Disappointment!
Updated: Jun 25
Previous to my current role, I spent a significant part of my career as a Fashion Buyer. I still, to this day, will go shopping every season to look at trends, the quality of products, where they are sourced, and review retail price points. Since the pandemic first hit China, I have been curious to understand how it would impact the retail industry. I read many articles where, after the shops began to open up in Asia, there were shoppers who had been in lockdown for many weeks and were now desperate to go “revenge shopping.” This was back in March. Fast-forward to June, where the USA and Europe are beginning to open up our retail industries. The shops in Oregon, USA (where I live) have been closed for many months and recently, some retailers and brands were approved to reopen. I was in two minds as to whether to go to our local shopping mall because there was part of me that was eager to hit the shops for some of my own "revenge shopping". However, there was also a part of me that was conscious we still need to be very careful and stay safe. In the end, I decided to go, but not to revenge shop; rather to experience what contingencies had been put in place and see whether it had been made a compelling shopping experience… or not. After shopping online and trawling through pages of endless, non-differentiated brand experiences, I thought the in-store experience had to be an improvement. I was wrong, which is why I felt compelled to share this with you.
Shopping Mall Experience I made my way to the mall; equipped with a face mask and sanitizer at the ready. My first hurdle was entering the shopping mall as the doors were closed and there was no hand sanitizer for those who hadn’t thought to bring any! Has anyone thought about how many hands have touched those handles walking into the mall? They should automatically be open, come rain or shine.
Once you entered the mall, not all stores were open, and the overall footfall was very low. I entered my first store thinking I would be super excited; I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Products were either on-sale from the early Spring season or the inventory was fragmented with very few sizing options available. Demand had been fulfilled for online purchases by inventory in stores and, while this is important, there should have been contingencies in place for reopening and fulfilling the demand of consumers who are ready to start spending. I went to three major retailers and brands and encountered this exact experience in each of them.
The Changing Room Experience I decided to visit multiple changing rooms and was shocked that there was no hand sanitizer as you entered or exited the changing rooms. There was no staff to take the items you wished to put back or have them in quarantine for 24 hours. You either put the items back on the rack in the changing rooms or hang them back on the fixture they came from. Again, how many people are touching those hangers or trying on clothes??? The whole experience was a complete anti-climax. For an advocate shopper who loves the apparel industry, the Post-COVID19 shopping journey resulted in not making a single purchase. This type of experience will continue to push consumers online because, at least with e-commerce, they can buy the sizes that are required while remaining safe in the comfort of their own home. I acknowledge businesses are feeling the pain of the pandemic, but brands should be giving customers a reason to return to stores and retain their loyalty. This should have been the opportunity to leverage the elevated brick and mortar shopping experience and brand differentiation that goes with it.
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Digital Transformation The reason I work as Retail Solutions Manager at Thought Provoking Consulting, and the reason I moved into this role, is that we have the vision to change the way in which the apparel industry operates today. Through the use of 3D Digital Product Creation (DPC), retailers should have had the ability to react to the changing demands of consumers online in preparation for reopening. 3D DPC would have virtualized and accelerated the product creation process, plus mitigated delays within the Supply Chain. By reducing sample creation costs via inexpensive and highly flexible 3D digital samples, brands can relieve the excessive strain that physical Prototype and Sample processes put on an already lengthy go to market calendar. Also, visualizing and communicating product intent digitally, enables designers to make earlier and better product decisions allowing for shortened calendars and trend-right product. With our 3D Create approach, your team can review concept samples, market samples, fit samples, and perform sales meetings – all digitally – even when working from home. You may have accepted that there will be delays within your physical supply chain, but you may not have considered how agile digital could be. Digital sampling capabilities can be deployed internally or outsourced for product presentations in weeks, rather than months.
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Plan your Assortment Digitally If companies had been more aggressive in adopting 3D Digital Transformation from concept to consumer, they could have had the ability to plan their assortments in preparation for store reopening, plus configured the store fixtures and fittings with the new parameters in place. Store configuration has always been an issue, and 3D configuration is a way to streamline this otherwise tedious process. It’s an application that can be applied in all circumstances in planning your store. Brands can now create and analyze accurate collections and assortments resulting in higher margins and better sell-through. Visual line and assortment planning enable planners and merchants to better align offers to customers and consumers through improved color stories, outfitting, and packaging. This improves the customer experience and enforces merchandising strategies for greater brand value. TPC’s 3D Plan approach will show you how to reuse digital assets from design while combining numerical data and imagery for effective product and collection presentations, as well as for sell-in. It is time to embrace the change and move forward with Digital Transformation. At TPC, we can help support you through this change and provide you with the knowledge to be successful, no matter which channel you choose.