How Crowded Retail Stores Can Ensure Holiday Shopper Safety Amid Pandemic

festive shopper safety

Every holiday season, retailers are presented with new challenges. There were significant shifts in the retail industry in the latter half of 2020 into 2021, all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the pandemic are not expected to disappear within the next few months. As we’ve just entered the peak of the holiday shopping season, retailers must consider enhancing the customer experience (CX) for shoppers, all while keeping shopper safety top of mind.

Retailers Should Expect a Chaotic Holiday Season

Managing a chaotic holiday season while ensuring shopper safety is no simple task. There are a couple of reasons why this holiday season will exhibit unprecedented challenges for retail businesses of all sizes.

Supply chain disruptions, the ongoing pandemic, and staff shortages are factors contributing to the chaos of the 2021 holiday season. Retailers will need to be diligent during this critical sales period.

Large retailers like Target and Walmart put forth new safety standards in anticipation of Black Friday, and smaller businesses are fortunate enough to have the flexibility to make changes quickly.

Their larger counterparts must implement new practices following the corporate chain of command, whereas smaller retailers can adapt more quickly.

5 Ways to Ensure Shopper Safety

Let’s discuss some of the ways retailers can ensure holiday shopper safety, especially as the omicron variant begins to impact nations across the globe.

1. Offer Alternative Pickup Options

Traditional shopping methods, like going into the store, browsing, and purchasing items, are slowly becoming outdated. In other words, other forms of product delivery are necessary. Retailers should consider implementing a buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) model. 

This could also mean offering curbside pickup. Retailers can keep customers safe and healthy by reducing the number of customers in-store and having employees go outside to give customers their orders. The more options customers have, the more likely they are to use those pickup methods.

2. Contactless Payment Methods

Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other contactless payment methods are becoming more popular for retailers worldwide. Even small businesses can incorporate contactless payments into their operations.

Reducing the number of customer touchpoints can benefit both the business and the customers entering a brick-and-mortar location. Consider using contactless payments, as they’re a safer alternative to traditional payment methods like cash.

3. Control Indoor Air Quality

The CDC recommends multiple mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of viruses, and one of them is improving indoor air ventilation. It’s well-known that COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors, so retail businesses must be vigilant in controlling the air quality inside their stores.

Poor air quality can cause both acute and chronic health effects in shoppers. The pandemic highlighted the importance of good air quality — before the pandemic, it was found that Americans spent 90% of their time indoors. Now, as more people get vaccinated and hit the nearest shopping mall, the issue of indoor air quality becomes even more significant.

4. Impose Mask Requirements

According to the Mayo Clinic, masks, combined with other preventive measures for shopper safety, can slow and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore, as the omicron variant spreads, retailers must impose mask requirements for their customers during the holiday season.

While not everywhere in the world enforces mask-wearing, retailers should consider both state and federal guidelines for asking customers to wear masks.

5. Encourage Social Distancing

Another preventive measure retailers should enforce in their brick and mortar stores is social distancing. Keeping six feet apart has been shown to slow the spread of the virus.

Retailers expecting a high influx of customers may need to limit the occupancy of their stores to ensure customer safety. Assigning one employee to manage the line and let people in as other customers leave is wise.

Following all of these safety measures will ensure shoppers can find the gifts they’re looking for without fear of being exposed to the coronavirus. It should be retailers’ top priority to guarantee customer safety, leading to higher customer satisfaction and a profitable holiday season.

Keeping Holiday Shoppers Safe During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted operations across industries, and the retail sector is no exception. Thankfully, as more people get vaccinated, the end of the pandemic draws closer for everyone. Take advantage of this critical sales period but keep safety at the forefront.

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