The COVID-19 crisis has made shopping centre developers
and retailers re-think the norms of business, which are more driven by safety rules rather than the freedom to do business. This has now become the new normal of business. While everyone is talking about this new normal and how they should go about conducting their businesses, a key issue to understand is how the consumers would adapt. Shopping in a retail mall is about giving the consumer complete shopping experience through recreation and entertainment. What will be the consumer reaction to this new normal? Will the consumer really enjoy shopping again and will it translate into sales? These are some of the questions which need to be addressed from a consumer perspective.
The new normal for the consumer is ‘safety coupled with shopping experience’. While the safety guidelines are mandatory and the shopping malls are adhering to them to build ‘trust’ as an assurance of ‘safety’, they need to create ‘optimism’ as an assurance of a ‘good shopping experience’ within the constraints of safety guidelines. This issue can be managed by applying the Kirkpatrick model which was introduced by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick in 1950s. The Kickpatrick model has four steps which can be applied to address ‘experiential needs’ of consumers.
STEP 1: HOW WILL THE CONSUMER REACT TO THE NEW SITUATION?
A sense of fear is already there in the consumers because of the current situation. There is a need to provide comfort and confidence to the consumers who visit the mall. The sales force and other staff have an important role to play to bring a smile on the face of consumers. Creating an ambience to make the consumer ‘smile’ will also be helpful. This will create optimism in consumers.
STEP 2: HOW WILL CONSUMERS ADAPT TO THE NEW SITUATION?
Consumers have already adapted to the new situation in their homes where they are taking all the necessary precautions. Hence, adaptation to the safety rules in a mall will not be a problem. However, there may be violations. Encouragement and motivation to follow safety precautions rather than enforcement of discipline will be a better option. A good example is of travellers by airlines.
STEP 3: WILL THE INITIATIVES LEAD TO A POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL CHANGE?
Periodic feedback from consumers is important. A positive perception and emotional wellbeing are important to bring the change in consumer behavior.
STEP 4: WILL THE INITIATIVES TRANSLATE INTO SALES?
The different categories of retail consumers are early adopters, early majority and late majority. Hence, adaptation to the new normal will eventually happen. However, the malls and retailers need to ensure that the adaptation happens faster than normal.
The early adopters will act as advocates of the new normal which will then translate to other categories of consumers. A good example is that when a new store starts, it is visited by early adopters who then become advocates and eventually the customer base grows.
The key lies are in normalising the new normal and that’s what the consumers are looking forward to.