The retail sector constitutes the final stage of the delivery channel, thus, is highly essential. Retailers break the bulk, interact with customers directly, understand consumers’ specific needs, and help populations make crucial decisions on consumption trends. Accordingly, the retailing subdivision involves both goods and services providers. Kiosks and shops are examples of retail entities offering tangible products to customers, while barbers, hairdressers, and commercial banks complete the delivery channel for services. Like other businesses, retailers suffer significantly in the event of calamities and pandemics. However, not all the categories of retailers writhe equally during hard times. Groups selling palpable commodities manage to package and post them to consumers during COVID-19, thus exhibiting substantially reduced business disruption. On the other hand, service delivery is highly challenged due to the inability to package the products and the necessity to observe the pandemic management protocols such as maintaining social distancing and avoiding contact. However, shifting from business growth to crisis control, adopting digital operations, partnering across retail, closing some stores, and training employees on the new normal are strategies that service retailers can adopt to survive the pandemic.
Retail Roles and Theory
All for-profit businesses exist to make earnings by selling in-demand items to customers. Such organizations devise appropriate tactics to deliver their products to customers for sales. The aspect is possible through various routes, often called product distribution channels. A typical course for the produced substances includes producers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. Consequently, every track seeks success by ensuring the accessibility of the correct product, in the right quality and quantity, and at an accurate time (Lim and Winkenbach, 2019). The retailer fulfills all these aspects by understanding customers’ specific needs and breaking the large volumes from wholesalers into smaller quantities matching customer needs. Asmare and Zewdie (2022) reiterate the primary role of retailers in demand-led economies, such as the American market, by describing them as the primary contributors to the economy’s stability and growth. The present work covers the retail service sector by focusing on the retail banking subdivision.
The retail business delivers unique customer benefits unavailable in other forms of enterprises. For example, it is mainly in the retailing industry where clients experience personal service and instantaneous gratification. As per Llivisaca et al. (2021), almost all retail ventures have sales associates who interact with buyers personally and offer important advice. Thus, the stores help clients make informed purchases and deliver meaningful reports concerning the market proceedings to consumers, leading to enlightenment and informed buying.
Equally, the sales associates running retail shops respond to consumers’ questions on the best choice of products for various events. Llivisaca et al. (2021) describe retail shops as the best places to buy appliances and other durable items due to the salespeople’s aid in providing personalized information leading to the right choices. Additionally, retail stores generally allow patrons to receive the merchandise instantly after purchasing, leading to immediate fulfillment, unlike other business dealings. For instance, a parent purchasing drugs for a sick child from a retail store does not wait for hours or days before the delivery. Therefore, retail businesses’ ability to offer immediate, informed solutions reiterates their position in the economy and the importance of investigating their survival possibilities during difficult times. The retail sector’s death can result in severe economic consequences leading to human casualties and economic underperformance.
Retail stores provide social experiences and entertainment to buyers through physical interactions. Bonetti, Warnaby, and Quinn (2018) maintain that humans are social beings who cherish interacting and spending time together. However, the emergence of the digital world thwarts humans’ possibility of coming together and sharing. People today read news online via smartphones, unlike before when families came together during news hours. Similarly, traveling regularly occurs in private cars where people spend long hours listening to music in silence. The aspect promotes loneliness, distress, and depression among individuals, as per Moorhouse, Dieck, and Jung (2018). Subsequently, retail stores remain one of the most promising social venues where the current generations interact physically.
Queuing or waiting on benches for a bank service allows customers to mingle and experience communal life. Thus, Lecointre-Erickson et al. (2021) reiterate that stores offer more rewards to customers than merely having merchandise readily accessible and salespersons helping buyers make informed economic judgments. Perhaps, in-store shopping causes stimulating experiences by assisting people to break daily routines and intermingle with friends. According to Cavalinhos, Marques, and de Fátima (2021), the capability beats site-based chat rooms that promote empty talks. Accordingly, retail businesses have unique benefits that are hard to find elsewhere, making it necessary to understand their operations and promote survival.
Several theories explain the role and existence of retail businesses. The natural selection philosophy is one such model that describes retailers’ transformation requirements to survive. The principle maintains that change is constant in the business world, with entities adopting the appropriate tactics in the face of change and calamities managing to exist longer. According to the natural selection theory, retail stores should evolve to match variations in the microenvironment to endure. Examples of powerful forces requiring adaptation include economic, technological, political, legal, and demographic developments (McPhearson et al., 2021). Therefore, retailers should generally embrace change by adopting appropriate tactics to survive as the norm because changes are endless.
Service Industry Strategies to Survive COVID-19
To overcome the current pandemic, retailing firms should shift their focus from growth to crisis management. Moonasar et al. (2021) maintain the necessity for service retailers such as commercial banks to establish a control tower tactic involving setting a single point containing the vital information and commands for decision-making. Similarly, service banks must adopt the 80/20 verdict-making rule to promote cause-root problem-solving. According to Chi et al. (2019), businesses often commit most of their capital and efforts to expansion during favorable times. The process involves hiring more employees and adopting competitive schemes to beat other players in the market (Quinn and Woodruff, 2019). However, service retailers should neglect such operations and endeavor to reduce their capital expenditure on physical growth during the pandemic. Making the right choices helps to determine which offices or stores to close and the ones to leave open. Some COVID-19 management strategies involve maintaining social distance, which may be hard to meet under normal operations. Therefore, retail banks and other service retailers should downsize by closing the less essential stores and allowing employees to work from home to beat the pandemic.
Service retailers should manage people and processes in the cloud through digital migration to beat pandemic issues. Digital adoption is not a new facet of retail banking operations (Choudrie et al., 2018). Banks worldwide use cloud-based services to deliver several customer services such as balance inquiry, funds withdrawal, financial transfers, and other basic account management activities. However, most baking processes remained manual pre-COVID-19, implying the critical requirement for retail organizations to move quickly to adopt the correct cloud systems to support their off-stores operations. Sahi et al. (2021) reiterate the need to identify and adopt benign clouds that ensure systems’ safety, promote employees’ well-being, and protect customers’ finances and trust. Notably, retail banks should appreciate the cyber security issue and adopt the necessary tactics to secure data, money, and customer details. Digital migration and cloud-centered operations require investing in the right technology, meaning that retail banks must solicit adequate finances for the revolution. Accordingly, the businesses must ensure that customers do not experience many changes in service delivery due to the undertaken changes.
Retail banks need to extend digital-channel availability and engagement through downloadable mobile apps to manage COVID-19. Taking operations online alone mainly protects the retail banks’ employees while minimizing customers’ physical visitation to bank halls. However, the strategy can quickly reduce the service retailers’ point-of-sale options, thus hurting customers who cannot access the necessary financial services. Agba, Ocheni, and Agba (2020) report that the massive job losses due to the pandemic make banks the last option for many unemployed customers. The individuals access their savings for survival, which should not be denied. Notably, retail banks should be the latest organizations to close stores based on the current situation. However, the need to protect workers as the public from congesting bank halls seeking financial services necessitates their facilities’ closure even before some other organization. Consequently, shutting down stores should not mean that customers will not access their finances. Instead, retail banks should extend their digital channel engagement and accessibility by designing downloadable apps for smartphones and personal computers for clients to continue enjoying financial services over the pandemic period.
Guaranteeing that the internet-based experiences are truly zero abrasion to meet customer expectations. Retail banks and other organizations transforming their operations online must establish frictionless platforms to promote customer satisfaction. Jin et al. (2019) purport that difficulties caused by the pandemic and related financial issues make patrons choosy. Subsequently, retail organizations adopting troublesome digital systems risk losing customers to competitors with the capacity to form lean structures. Critical aspects for retail banks to embrace during the digital operations transformation include site stability, delivery time, and speed (Bai, Quayson, and Sarkis, 2021). Other than establishing mobile apps, end-customer-focused banks must have optimized web pages to offer vital information to clients. Placing most of the services on offer on the first page of the entity’s website promotes convenience by reducing the time required for customers to interact with the products. Lastly, integrating all the organization’s digital channels promotes service and experience consistency, making customers’ time laid back and gratifying.
Conveying an in-store sensation to the online experience for improved customer satisfaction. Many businesses transforming into digital platforms expose their customers to severe challenges due to changes in operations. As per Llivisaca et al. (2021), one of the major benefits of the retail sector is providing personal touch during customer service. Inexperienced clientele and the elderly seeking banking services received trustable aid from bank employees delivering over-the-counter services. However, such a platform is no longer available after the massive closure of stores and the reduction of workers. Despite the changes, clients still expect their retail bankers to offer similar services as pre-COVID-19. The matter elicits the necessity to establish an online in-store encounter among many retailers. For instance, virtual appointments promote personalized interactions among service providers and their customers (Greiwe, 2019). Retail banks can utilize separate videoconferencing boards to deliver tailored experiences similar to in-store encounters (Steinhoff and Palmatier, 2021). The banks can attain this by using the remaining customer associates to attend directly to customers’ needs through online-based direct appointments. Equally, using live-streaming platforms to engage clients can promote loyalty and satisfaction, thus improving customer experience.
Retail banks should launch or expand delivery mechanisms to reach customer needs at different points. As bulk breakers, the typical experience pre-COVID-19 involved customers visiting retail stores for purchases, with delivery means primarily serving as aftersales services (Nguyen, de Leeuw, and Dullaert, 2018). The system worked because stores had adequate employees, and consumers visited them without restrictions. However, COVID-19 protection protocols and the associated economic changes among individuals and businesses now inhabit much of the earlier freedom. Retailers selling products online must choose appropriate delivery methods to reach their customers conveniently. The aspect targets maintaining immediate gratification related to retail trades. The closure of banks significantly forces them to adopt delivery systems to meet customer needs. Muparadzi and Rodze (2021) maintain that commercial banks remain the leading finance suppliers to individuals and cannot rely entirely on online services alone.
Service retailers should establish across-retail partnerships to promote convenience and avoid service failures during the pandemic. Hameli (2018) purports that many retailers provide similar products that differ mainly due to minor differentiation aspects. Consequently, the providers can partner and harmonize their operations to act as a combined force. The element is primarily possible among retail banks because of the commonality of their activities. COVID-19 has led to the closure of banks and the disruption of service delivery. Bakhtiari et al. (2020) note that the pandemic affects small and medium agencies more than large organizations. Implementing social distancing and other hygiene requirements involves money that many small players lack, especially with the reduction in business due to the pandemic. Accordingly, the medium and small retail bankers can benefit by partnering with the larger commercial banks exhibiting established online systems for continued service delivery. Equally, retail banks can partner with IT organizations to use their online platforms and mobile apps for money-related services. Such a move promises to keep customer needs satisfied while the retailers operate with reduced pressure, thus promoting tolerance during the pandemic.
Organizing diverse return-to-work methods for employees and store redesign. The pandemic’s effects are slowly ceasing, and retailers should adopt effective return-to-work procedures to continue serving customers. Globally, many nations register safe COVID-19 new infection rates, while preventive measures such as vaccinations boost people’s trust. Moreover, health organizations worldwide conduct intensive investigations to provide advisory information on the protocols to observe to minimize infection risks. The return to work programs, among other businesses, allows employees to start earning, thus rekindling the need for banking services, especially for those whose earnings ended during the pandemic. Therefore, retail banks must adopt more appropriate return-to-work procedures to reintroduce the unique benefits offered by the customer-focused business to consumers. A practical approach for the (return to work) process includes starting with 10% of the earlier workforce, then targeting 40% within six months and 60% within a year. However, such plans must align with organizational and stores redesigning to promote top-notch sanitation and social distancing. Subsequently, returning to work by operationalizing physical stores indicates retail banks’ consideration of customer needs, fostering loyalty.
Lastly, retail banks should train their leaders for the new working generation and evolving corporate settings to overcome the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the pandemic management procedures reiterates the need for senior citizens to avoid social settings, implying the loss of experienced staff among retailing businesses. The matter leaves banks and other organizations with many young employees, with some entities going out to seek fresh talents to replace the lost workers. Most of the new workers in the past-COVID-19 retail banks will be computer-savvy generation Z and Y (Deas, 2019). The population exhibits unique desires and traits that many former organizational heads cannot manage. Similarly, many of the new employees in the retail banking sector will work from home, introducing a new corporate culture aspect, where staff members labor without interacting as before. Therefore, retail banks should train their managers and leaders for the new working conditions to succeed and overcome corporate pressures.
In conclusion, retail businesses play unique roles in economic stability and customer needs satisfaction. For example, retailers interact directly with consumers, allowing them to realize noteworthy business trends and offer advice to the other players in the system. Moreover, breaking bulk, providing customers with the necessary information and taking products to users make retailers unique. Service providers undergo significantly special business procedures to deliver value to consumers. Commercial banks and other finance-related entities directly dealing with customers provide per excellence of service retailers. Most such entities closed stores due to COVID-19, leaving customers stranded. However, effective strategies for service retailers to overcome the pandemic include shifting from business growth to crisis control, partnering across retail, and adopting digital operations. Other operational tactics comprise closing some stores, organizing diverse return-to-work methods, and training employees on the new normal.
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