What retailers are doing right now to be there for customers

Renee Gamble / May 2020 / Consumer Insights, Retail

The past few months have challenged retailers across Australia and New Zealand to nimbly adapt to serve people’s needs. While no one has all the answers during this global moment, we’re seeing local brands show up for their customers in new ways.

Take Woolworths and Coles, which are prioritising communities’ needs by offering boxes of meals, snacks, and essential items with free delivery for people with disabilities, seniors, and others in mandatory isolation. Then there are businesses like Bunnings that have introduced “drive and collect” services so customers can stay safely inside their cars while an employee delivers their order.

Many retailers have taken similar steps to protect their communities, and they’re ready to do even more to help people throughout the pandemic — and most Aussies want to hear how brands and companies are responding to the current situation.1 We’re committed to helping retailers adapt to this ever-changing environment while preparing for recovery, so we’ve rounded up a few ways leading Aussie and Kiwi businesses are showing up for their customers, employees, and communities. Here’s what we learned from their efforts:

Be current, conscious, and transparent

People are looking for practical, relevant information, and they expect companies to deliver. This is no time to go dark — in fact, 87% of Aussies said it’s completely acceptable for companies and brands to be communicating at this time.2 So, it’s important to promptly share any business and product updates like store closures and changes to order fulfilment times.

Illustration of blue and white message bubbles. Text reads: 87% of Aussies said it is completely acceptable for companies and brands to be communicating at this time.

For instance, Super Retail Group CEO Anthony Heraghty shared how the company is focusing on providing contact-free click and collect services to keep up with customers’ changing preferences. Aussie department store Myer also shifted its operational approach by relaxing its returns policy and reducing the threshold for free delivery while emphasising its heightened hygiene and social distancing practices.

Rethinking how to connect with customers online is another key part of retailers’ response to the new normal. Beauty brand Mecca rolled out virtual services like personalised consultations over video chat and MECCA LIVE, a daily update of new products and trends. By constantly reevaluating how to meet people’s changing expectations both in-store and online, retailers can create the timely experiences customers are looking for during these challenging times.

Ensure product safety and availability

The current environment has a lot of people concerned about not being able to check essentials off their shopping lists. Over 50% of Aussies said that brands can be most helpful to them right now by setting realistic expectations regarding the availability of their products and services.3 And that means proactive and timely communication is key when it comes to meeting customers’ expectations and earning their trust.

Over 50% of Aussies said that brands can be most helpful to them right now by setting realistic expectations regarding the availability of their products and services.

From sharing regular updates to making the most of technology, retailers can do plenty to help people cope and feel safe. To fulfil online orders for 10 of its busiest Auckland locations, supermarket chain Countdown opened New Zealand’s first customer-free e-store to help people buy essential goods from home. And in Australia, David Jones also put safety first by ramping up cleanings, providing hand sanitiser at every store location, and publishing a detailed explanation of its coronavirus response on its website.

Show up in new ways

While businesses are adapting, so are customers. Over one-third of Aussies can’t find the products they want or need, and more than 3 in 10 bought brands they don’t normally buy.4 Kiwis are also facing similar challenges, and 33% said they’re switching brands for some products because their preferred brand is out of stock.5 “Essential services” retailers, including Woolworths and Coles, have responded by allocating time for seniors and people with disabilities to access stores before the general public, while Chemist Warehouse started offering a new zero-contact medicine delivery service.

Illustration of a white shopping bag and with a blue question bubble. Text reads: 33% of Kiwis said they’re switching brands for some products because their preferred brand is out of stock.

While essential goods are people’s top priority, many are also looking for ways to make home a little sweeter as social distancing continues. Home improvement retailers like the Warehouse Group are implementing curbside sales and pick up as demand for electrical and hardware tools increase, and Kogan is connecting people to in-demand products like standing desks and freezers while sharing how to ensure quicker delivery times.

As we share these examples of retailers who are in a position to go above and beyond, we also recognise and respect that in this time of great need, many brands are focused solely on keeping the lights on. While many businesses are facing a lot of tough decisions right now, we’re inspired by how they’ve responded with resilience and agility to protect their customers and teams. To help businesses navigate challenging circumstances, we’ve created a new interactive tool for exploring daily rising retail categories across Search. And we’ll do our best to keep sharing resources and insights for overcoming these difficult times together.

Rising retail categories: What people are searching on Google right now