03:31 GMT26 January 2021
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    Countries Ease Lockdown Measures While COVID-19 Cases Surpass 4 Mln Worldwide (197)

    As part of plans to further ease the lockdown, all non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June, according to a statement from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

    Megan Phillips from the Auckland University of Technology has shared her views on how our habits and attitudes to shopping have changed during the lockdown.

    Sputnik: Do you think some of our lockdown habits will continue into the new normal?

    Megan Phillips: I think it's very likely that some of the lockdown habits will continue into the new normal. During lockdown we saw that there was a significant adoption of services like click and collect, curbside pickup, and online home delivery. Research in the UK predicts that click and collect will grow by 45% over the next five years. What this means is that people in lockdown, they've been forced to try out these services and they might not have tried these out before.

    So, there are new groups of consumers trying these, maybe people that were reluctant prior to lockdown or people that were fearful of even trying online or maybe slow adopters, so we think that because people are trying these services and have figured out how they actually work and the ease of use of them and the convenience of them, people likely to continue to use these and engage with these services as these will be new habits for them, which can be bought forward to the new normal.

    Sputnik: How will shopping as a sensory experience change? For example, will no-touch retailing become a reality?

    Megan Phillips: Retailers have long been using store atmospherics to encourage people to stay in-store and to buy more. Atmospherics are things like smells and music and temperature and crowding. My colleague and I, Jessica Vredenburg, we wrote a piece for The Conversation on the coronavirus and how it has turned retail therapy into retail anxiety. What we are suggesting in this article is that through the implementation of social distancing, tracing, hygiene rules, all of these things that retailers are implementing as they're reopening the stores around the world - it's actually changing how people are interacting and responding to the store environments.

    So customers have been reported as being more alert while entering these environments and more anxious. I just want to touch on three things: the first would be perceived crowding. Paradoxically, physical distancing can lead to perceived crowding. So what does this actually mean? When people are trying to social distance in a store and the aisles might be narrow, or there might be too many people in the store, or there might be too many staff and the staff might be coming too close to someone for their personal comfort.

    This could actually lead to the shopper perceiving that the space is too crowded for them and this could lead into wanting to leave the store or not even enter the store to begin with for fear of contracting the virus. We are also suggesting that smell is another element of the sensory experience that's changing. Shoppers might prefer the smell of disinfectants rather than a cozy bedroom or a beach smell that could typically be found in some stores. Another one that we touched on in our article is music. There's been a suggestion to turn down the music, but not too low, as raised voices seem to generate a wider what's called a "moist breath zone".

    If people are talking too loudly, this could increase the viral spread; so turning the music down might help and also research shows that lower levels of music can actually help to create a relaxing environment.

    Sputnik: What can retailers do to make shopping a "retail therapy" experience?

    Megan Phillips: One of the key goals is to keep customers relaxed, calm, and comfortable, because at the moment they're feeling quite anxious. To do this, it's about minimising the perceived risk of the infection. We're suggesting that retailers adopt what we call "retail theatre" around sanitisation and hygiene; this is about really showing the customer that you care about their safety and the staff safety. 

    We're seeing some great practices from retailers already doing this here in New Zealand, such as having staff greeters at the front of the store communicating the rules to the people as they're coming in, reminding them to keep their two-metre social distance, to sign in for contact tracing, to join a virtual queue or to sanitise their hands. Also, having retailers enforce those rules when they're in stores, such as if you see a sick customer to ask them politely to leave the store to make sure that other customers feel comfortable in the store; also reminding people to keep their distance from others.

    A great example I saw on the weekend was in one of the Nike stores in the changing rooms - they had a sign up saying that they were cleaning all services regularly and they communicated it to the customers by having a poster in there. It's all about minimising the perceived risk of infection and by doing this you're helping to create psychological comfort.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Countries Ease Lockdown Measures While COVID-19 Cases Surpass 4 Mln Worldwide (197)
    lockdown, coronavirus, COVID-19, Boris Johnson, United Kingdom
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