How do retailers bridge the 'social distance'?

The ever-changing government measures call for creative solutions to enable responsible shopping in a 1.5 meter economy. The sentiment and attitude of the customer is also changing. Now that the prediction is that life will never return to 'the old' until a vaccine is found, and even then the impact of the crisis is so great that a 'new normal' will emerge, retailers will get to work with the 'new way of shopping'. Develop creative short-term solutions and vision for lasting changes in the industry; your entrepreneur's heart will beat faster.

Curious how retailers in various branches view the 'new normal' in shopping? And to what extent are these adjustments for the short term or are they perhaps permanent?

Hygiene: here to stay!
Much more attention will have to be paid to hygiene: now and in the future. Not only the government is currently asking that, but organizations such as WHO are warning against the arrival of more such epidemics if our society does not change. How do you deal with this practically as a retailer? And what does the customer expect?

In many shops you will see disinfectant cleaning products (for shopping baskets and carts) and hand gel at the entrance. Where at the beginning of the crisis, for example, cleaning of shopping carts in supermarkets was done by staff, you now increasingly see that it is offered on the basis of self-service.

It does not yet seem that the entrepreneur sees this as a permanent solution. A simple solution could be: a cleaning point at the entrance of the store, as you see at the petrol stations at the pump (the plastic gloves and paper towels).

In Fashion one has to deal with another aspect of hygiene; here you see that the customer is now hesitant to try on clothes. There are fashion stores, such as Purdey, that think along with the customer and have placed a steam appliance in the fitting rooms. For example, all clothing that is appropriate is hung on a clothes rack by the customer and visibly steamed by an employee before it is hung back on the rack. Purdey's customers express their appreciation for the serious approach to the current Corona situation and are relieved that they can shop safely in the ambience of the store they are so familiar with.

Advice at an appropriate distance
And then there is the dilemma of 'fitting' and keeping the 1.5 meter distance with the employee. At the beginning of the crisis, this was of course mainly solved by all kinds of Personal Shopping initiatives. For example, at Purdey it is possible to go through the collection virtually during a video call with a style consultant. That this personal contact is valued translates into higher receipt amounts; but it does not alter the fact that customers like to come to the store.

VanHaren also foresaw that personal attention and good advice is important in the 1.5-meter economy. Here too, consumers who prefer not to come to the store themselves or who may not be able to get it completely online, can use a Private Shopping service via WhatsApp since 21 April. And recently, in a number of shops, plexiglass fitting screens have been placed, so that children's feet can be measured in a responsible and safe way and shoes can be fitted. At Ziengs, they not only use fitting screens, but the employees also wear face shields at the Assen site. These plastic screens are attached to a plastic band or cap so that they protect the entire face and employees can talk freely with customers.

At Hunkemöller, the challenge was even greater, because how do you make it possible for the customer to try on her lingerie with the usual service (often in the fitting room) of the employee? The challenge lies in the fact that, as Michelle Almeida (Global TA coordinator) says, "Making genuine contact is now even more important than ever."

 “Making genuine contact is now even more important than ever.” - Michelle Almeida, Global TA coordinator Hunkemöller

And so Hunkemöller not only provides its employees with the tools to be able to offer this service remotely ('Find your HKM size' POS and tape measure at the door of the fitting room), but also demonstrates in an extensive instruction video how the employee can offer the 'world class service'. And it is obvious that you can easily access such a video via an employee app. This way they can view it when and where they want it.

Digital door policy
It is clear to everyone that we are not yet rid of the "1.5 meters", even if the measures are relaxed. The solution to limit shopping carts or baskets is a simple solution for a number of industries, but is not sufficient in, for example, fashion. We improvise here by providing shoe spoons, clothes hangers or customer numbers, but this does not feel like a permanent solution. Moreover, how do you avoid the annoyance of waiting your turn? In this way, we ensure that physical shopping becomes even less 'fun shopping'.

Why don't we give the old-fashioned customer counter a new, digital look? Register the entrance and exit of the store with sensors and tell the customer on digital screens at the entrance whether he / she can enter. Aldi Suisse already has such a digital door policy in 110 Swiss branches and Aldi Süd will equip half of its 1930 German branches with such a system.

It is even better if you make this data available to the employee and the website. Direct the employee, by signaling the manager when the customer visit has reached 90% of the maximum. From a service point of view it may be desirable to place an employee at the entrance.


And towards the website, so that customers can see in real time on the store page how busy it is in the store at the moment. For example, the customer can decide whether it is wise to go now or to wait a while and we avoid queues as recently emerged at the reopening of Ikea.

Looking at all these solutions, we see that these are mainly 'hygiene measures' that make it possible to shop safely, in a 1.5-meter economy, at all. It is essential to first create such a safe shopping environment, and then to get started with: how do we make fun shopping for the customer and the employee again?

Want to know more about the possibilities with regard to the customer counter in a digital jacket? Contact us at 


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