More Than Masks: 7 Ways Coronavirus Changed How We Shop

It wasn’t too long ago that a shopper would go into a store, been hit by the aroma of cleaning fluids, and wonder what was wrong. “Is there a health issue here?” might run through the consumer’s mind.

Today, that same harsh smell of chlorine could bring relief as a sign that the store owner is focused on cleanliness. How retailing has changed in a matter of weeks. “What was once off-putting is now comforting,” says Eric Spangenberg, dean of the UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business and a professor of marketing and psychological science.

To Spangenberg, coronavirus created an almost permanent retooling of how people shop. Anybody dealing with consumers better be quick to adapt. There will be no return to old shopping habits any year soon.“It’s not a new normal. Normal is what we now talk about,” he says.

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A significantly large slice of the consuming public will worry about contracting the virus out in public. That means local brick-and-mortar shopping will suffer. “We’re not going to see a bounce back to a healthy retail economy in the short term or the medium term,” the dean says. “Going out to shop is just not going to be as enjoyable.” The smell of a store is one example of the big challenges facing retailers. But almost every facet of how a retail location operates should be under review. “What cues will enhance the shopping experience?” he says merchants should be asking themselves.

Masks have drawn the spotlight as research shows face coverings as a key part of the health solution for merchants. Requiring masks of staff and customers sends a strong visual message that a store is concerned about health, the dean says. And, yes, there are potential — and often loud — customers who don’t like masks. “If retailers want to regain customers, they need to make people safe,” he says. Other than smells, here’s six big changes Spangenberg sees for the brick-and-mortar retailer…  Pasadena Star-News

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