India has slowly started the process of recovery with the recent ease in restrictions during the “unlock” phases. Despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the country has geared itself to face the challenge head-on while taking utmost precautions. The retail industry in particular has begun gathering momentum in recent weeks, compared to the zero activity during the early phases of the pandemic. Following the end of formal lockdowns, malls in some parts of India, including Delhi, started opening in July while in other places like Maharashtra they only began opening in August. This has allowed retail businesses to resume their services in malls and other locations.

However, figures show that not many people are venturing out. A survey by the Retailers Association of India found that there was a 67% decline in June 2020 compared to the same time last year.

Retail businesses need to be proactive, acting swiftly to rebuild consumer confidence and attract them back to stores. The pandemic has changed the demand-supply mechanism. The focus on safety in malls and stores is at an all-time high, and the onus is now on retail businesses to reach out to consumers to attract them back. Shoppers need more convincing reasons than ever before to step out and into stores.

According to Meticulous Research, investment in digital signage following COVID-19 will grow at a CAGR 4.3% from 2020 to 2027. Customers want to know how they will be protected while shopping in malls and stores, and digital screens and signage will serve as an important communication tool for retailers and mall owners to build trust and assure the public of a safe shopping experience.

Mall owners can use digital screens installed at entrances and exits to highlight all safety measures being undertaken. Content can include videos of sanitisation work being done, as well as photos and graphics demonstrating social distancing measures such as designated spots to stand, sit and eat. This can help customers feel more at ease entering and spending time in the mall.
Importantly, digital screens can also guide people on how to move about in the mall to avoid contact with others. If some areas are closed for movement (for example, due to the routine sanitisation process), this can be communicated on the entrance signage and other screens throughout the mall, and customers can be directed to take a detour. Digital signage can also be regularly updated in real time to instantly inform shoppers of changes in the surroundings.

Digital signage may also be used to share information about store opening times for each floor of the mall. With screens, this information can be presented in a dynamic way using an interactive map rather than just text. While people may not want to touch the screens, the use of videos or QR codes displayed on the screens can be helpful, as can integration with mobile apps that allows shoppers to navigate using their own mobile device.

Inside the mall, screens placed at different locations can have revolving content that reminds shoppers to follow social distancing, as well as frequently wash and sanitise their hands.
For stand-alone retail stores, digital screens can serve a variety of purposes. Whether located within a mall or at an independent location, digital screens will help attract customers. While a retailer’s marketing strategy formerly may have been to wait for a customer to enter and then provide them with information on sales and promotions, the aim now is to get the consumer to step in. This information can be shared with the customer before they even step into the store with large-format window displays, providing an added incentive to enter.

Larger stores can use digital screens to control footfall and maintain social distancing inside the store. Digital signs at store entrances can be integrated with occupancy management technology to provide a real-time view of customers inside the store. Once the capacity has been reached, the screens can indicate that the store is full and guide customers to either wait or return in a while. This will ensure that social distancing is maintained and the spread of the virus is curbed as well. It also creates a sense that the retailer is responsible and adhering to relevant health guidelines and sanctions. Automating this task can free up associates who are manning the entrance and exits to manually count occupancy for other customer experience-focused tasks.

While the focus for retail marketing teams in the past has been on maximising want-based purchasing, now a good amount of resources and budget will be spent on providing coronavirus-related information. At least for the coming few months, retailers and mall owners will have to invest a portion of their budget to this end. However, a one-time investment in a digital signage solution may suffice. Once the infrastructure is in place, what then matters is to populate the signage with relevant information.

Digital screens are incredibly versatile. As we stay in the pandemic mode, they will play a key role in providing safety information to the public. Used wisely and in the traditional sense of digital signage, they can double as advertising units and help drive sales for longer term return on investment.

Discover how a shopping mall transformed the customer experience by leveraging digital signage and screens in this case study.

People photo created by Rawpixel - Freepik

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