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Q. How critical is keeping the loyalty factor in play during such challenging times?

A. Times like these really show retailers how loyal their customer base really is and how they are doing earning that loyalty. Retailers who are able to stay engaged in a personalized way and provide a shopping experience with multiple layers of value generally have a loyal customer base that sticks with them when times get tough. A retailer with a loyal customer base will find that their customers are reliant on them for their goods and services and continue to spend even in a downturn. These are difficult times though, so an extra layer of sensitivity is needed when marketing to your customers. Understanding what problems your customers are faced with now and tailoring the right messaging and offerings around exactly that will help them understand what their favorite brands stand for and build deeper, stronger relationships.

Q. Once the pandemic subsides and retailers get a green light to open stores again, any best practices or tips on how to lure in customers again who may now be dealing with economic issues and still a fear of crowded stores?

A. Naturally, people are going to be cautious with their spending after reopening the economy and will slowly ramp up business. The global economy has taken a significant hit during the pandemic and consumer spending will likely change as people grapple with changing working situations and decreased discretionary incomes. Discounts, promotions and other marketing incentives will have to be significant to consumers to open their wallets again. But that's not the only thing — low cost and free delivery services that offered convenience and value long before the coronavirus will now become a necessity for all retailers to ensure consumers' peace of mind and maintain spending. Retailers will need to find easy and fast delivery service partnerships such as Shipt, UPS and Uber to enable their customers to shop and get their products quickly and at a low cost. Having been socially distanced for a long period of time, consumers will be reluctant to physically interact. We will continue to see a growing trend of touchless retail, led by technologies such as cashless payments from Apple pay and Amazon Go that will keep consumers engaged with a high level of protection.

Q. What lessons should retailers take from this time in retail and learn from going forward?

A.The past few year has proved that retail must not wait for a global crisis like a health pandemic to prioritize customer experience and loyalty. No retailer can predict what the future holds and the key takeaway should be that retail brands should expand their core offering into multiple layers of value that can appeal to consumers in times of crisis. Make your experiences sticky and trusted: offer your customers convenience and personalized add-on protection services that will provide them with that safety net and reassurance during uncertainty and cement your brand as a safe pair of hands now and into the future.

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