Preparing shoppers for a new a normality post COVID-19

"Critical retailers have had to adapt to new ways of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to a new type of ‘business as usual’ is likely to be a slow, phased process. As government directives are gradually relaxed, critical and non-critical retailers will require the flexibility to quickly adapt, implement and communicate ongoing safety measures" says Javier Lopez, General Manager, Vertical Solutions, OKI Europe Ltd.
 
It’s been a challenging few weeks for retailers, with the majority forced to either close or completely rethink their operations. As the COVID-19 infection rate begins to flatten out across Europe, governments will start to incrementally lift lockdown measures. However, it is highly unlikely that life will return to the normality we all knew before current restrictions came into effect. 
 
Following the economic disruption posed by the pandemic, governments and businesses will be keen to get back to business as usual. Yet retailers should expect specific government-issued guidelines that they must adhere to in order to help avoid a further surge in COVID-19 cases spreading and potentially leading to a second lockdown. A phased approach of this kind could include staff and customers wearing face masks, as well as managing footfall and adhering to social distancing measures inside stores. 
 
Addressing a completely new set of challenges 

OKI Europe’s whitepaper on The Benefits of In-store Signage in a Crisis highlights how in-store visual communications are critical to helping retailers adhere to changing government regulations. For example, retailers that have been forced to keep their premises closed during lockdown will be keen to open the doors and allow customers in to shop as soon as possible. However, they will need to ensure their store complies to all government directives associated with protecting the well-being of staff and customers and stopping further spread of the virus.  This includes floor stickers for social distancing, window stickers communicating changes in store opening times, hanging and free-standing banners to help shoppers navigate stores quickly and safely and shelf signage to highlight restrictions on purchases and stock availability.
 
Critical retailers such as grocers, supermarkets and pharmacies that have been allowed to remain open have already confronted the challenge of putting clear in-store communications in place. Yet they will face the fresh challenge, alongside non-critical retailers, of adapting to continuously changing guidelines and measures as they are announced and ensuring any changes are reflected and communicated as quickly as possible in each store. 
 
Improving agility with in-store printing

When it comes to changing signage in-store on a frequent basis, retailers typically lack speed and agility. Often, they are limited by the availability of in-store resources, relying heavily on the services of third party print suppliers or teams located at head office and waiting for urgent signage to be delivered resulting in long lead times and the inability to change signage on the fly – a necessary requirement during these testing times.
 
For retailers, these weeks and months are critical. Time literally is money.  Forward-thinking retailers are taking steps to prepare for re-opening by enabling the printing of urgent signage in store. Compact printers that are designed specifically for in-store use can handle an impressive variety of media, formats, and finishes, in high definition colour and in the professional quality you would expect from a print supplier. Designed to take up a minimal footprint in retail store back offices, retail ready printers, such as OKI’s multi award-winning C800 Series A3 colour printers, make it quick and easy for store staff to print in-store signage on a range of different media for use on the shop floor.  
 
Recognising that it can be challenging for businesses to create and implement vital social distancing signage quickly, OKI Europe is offering organisations free* media and artwork to create self-adhesive floor stickers that can be printed quickly and easily. This will enable businesses operating now and those re-opening after enforced closures to become operational as quickly as possible while protecting the wellbeing of staff, customers and visitors.
 
Keeping staff and customers safe post lockdown

As we come out of this crisis, flexibility will be key. Retailers will need to change and update signage quickly as guidance develops and restrictions change. From communicating changing opening hours in shop windows to ensuring customers queue safely at store entrances and checkouts within social distancing guidelines as well as navigating shoppers around the store, retailers need to be able to access, print and change signage as quickly as possible. This can include window and floor stickers, hanging banners and directional signage. 
 
Ongoing supply issues could also mean that certain product ranges are absent from the shelves or purchasing restrictions are in place. In this scenario, smaller format signage such as shelf labels highlighting purchasing limits and stock availability are perfect for informing customers about shortages and lead times. The same format of signage adorned with eye-catching graphics can also be used to direct customers’ attention towards alternative products. 
 
Therefore, when it comes to preparing stores to open post lockdown, retailers should consider having this flexibility to print signage in-store.  When selecting a printer that offers the flexibility to produce professional quality signage on-demand, retailers need to ensure the chosen device can handle all required formats, from small format shelf edge labels and product tags, to robust, waterproof yet easily removeable floor stickers, hanging banners, free standing banners and even window stickers. 
 
By putting in place the right technology now, retailers can ensure they are operational quickly and safely while having the ability to adapt as government guidelines evolve during the gradual journey back to a new form of normality. 
 
Download OKI Europe’s whitepaper on The Benefits of In-store Signage in a Crisis.
 

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