We will eventually be on the other side of this pandemic, a time when conversations begin with the phrase, “Remember COVID-19?” When? No one can say for sure right now, unfortunately.
But in thinking about an eventual return to “normal” – whatever the definition of that word will be – I immediately thought about what the number one priority will be for retail. The first word that came to mind was trust. It’s in short supply today, and something our country is craving.
We live in a time characterized by growing distrust across the board, between corporations and the public, between politicians and voters, and even between factions of the U.S. population with one another. Quite frankly, this distrust has painted a rather ugly landscape over the last few years.
During a National Retail Federation webinar, the CEO of Target, Brian Cornell, was asked about the biggest factors facing retailers as they battle through this pandemic. There were the usual hurdles mentioned such as employee care, keeping stores clean, etc. But then he said, “Trust. I think, as I look at our recent success and certainly the response we saw from America during the pandemic, trust is going to be really important for all of us, and making sure we’re building trust with the consumer and in Target’s case trust with the guests we serve. I think that trustworthiness is going to be a really important area of focus for successful retailers, for the years to come.”
He’s spot on. I suppose Mr. Cornell has been spot on quite a few times during his time as CEO of Target.
I also had a conversation a few months back with another super-successful retail executive, Gregg Richard, president and CEO of P.C. Richard & Son, who has also had a penchant for seeing all things retail pretty clearly.
Richard essentially echoed Cornell’s feelings, telling me, “Under these circumstances, we have one shot at this – and we need to get it right. Customers are making decisions on whether or not they will come back, the first step they take through the door.”
Again, that decision he spoke of is rooted in whether or not they ‘trust’ you. If these two guys are concerned about the importance consumers are now placing on trust, it might be a good idea to rebuild your business with that as its foundation, no?
Obviously, in a retail environment, trust can take on many forms, but as we all begin clawing back, it might be time to hit the reset button on how you convey and build an environment of trust. Online, it might be about tailoring your content to send a strong message centered on trust. In-store, perhaps making sure your sales team is conveying value proactively, rather than reactively, is worth a look.