Brick and mortar retail is facing an unprecedent onslaught through the pandemic and its related impact on consumers behavior. Consumers are shifting more purchases to online buying. With 1 in 4 consumers conducting 90% of their shopping online, retailers face an uphill battle to bring them back to the store. Many experts expect much of this behavior shift to e-commerce to be permanent.
The main concern for the absence of shoppers in store today is safety of the shopping experience. Only 30% feel comfortable returning to retail stores according to a recent Qubit study. Moreover, the processes that shoppers have to follow inside a retail store to make a purchase do not transfer well to the pandemic and its safety protocols. Thus, the current retail store designs that emerged around the time of the factory and industrial revolution need to be revisited as well.
While shoppers like self-service, according to a pre-pandemic MIT study, if given the chance, shoppers will use a self-checkout kiosk more than 40% of the time, today’s self-checkouts are tightly coupled with the old store models. Everyone is expected to congregate in certain areas and use shared equipment.
So, how can retailers fight these trends and bring shoppers back to the store?
Retailers are looking at many different elements. They are attempting to merge online and offline experiences into one coherent B&M shopping experience that includes physical safety with social distancing as well as digital closeness through technology connections.
Here are a few patterns that are emerging:
1 Adjust Store Layout
Everything is on the table for retailers when it comes to layout. Where pre-pandemic objectives for floor space centered around maximizing space use or, in case of grocery stores, turning them into meal destinations, the post-Covid take is distancing.
The new trend for the layout focuses on giving shoppers and employees more room to navigate. This is in addition to one-way lanes in grocery stores. In the end, people need space for social distancing and comfort. Consequently, the space between aisles is increasing.
2 Technology based social distancing
Use technology to help you communicate and assist your shoppers in maintaining social distancing. Enable your customers to use curb-side pick-up but, better yet, create self-checkout options that work anywhere in the store so shoppers can feel safe during the check-out process. No lines and no shared equipment enhance the comfort for shoppers.
Removing the hard requirement that forces shoppers to have to come to the front of the store and use cash registers to pay is also a big bonus for retailers. All of a sudden, every smart phone is a cash register that can be used to checkout without the retailer having to maintain any equipment or use any employee time. Thus, the use of modern store and checkout systems like XcooBee, can benefit all participants.
3 Bring digital closeness to your in-store
While we focus on social distancing, we need to also look at the human need to stay connected. We can use technology to support us here to a certain degree.
Digital closeness can assume many different forms, but it focuses on customer engagement while they are in the store. For example, you can help shoppers find products without them having to find an associate first. You can reward them for visiting and checking in at the store with digital tokens and coupons.
You can combine online and in-store shopping in a seamless way. Shoppers can checkout and pay for goods on any channel. The omnichannel approach to retail has been pegged by many as the wave of the future. Brick and mortar shops will need to get better at online as well as in-store experiences.
4 Extend connection beyond the store
Look at connecting to shoppers after they have left your store. Encourage them to come back and experience your store. This can include new and early product introduction, scavenger store hunts, shout outs for being a favorite shopper. While shoppers can have five-star products you can have five-star customers. In short, get to know your customer and make sure you pay attention to them after they have left the store as well.
You retail systems can automate some of these things of course. Make sure your retail systems can make the “social” connection. This is easiest to do during the payment step.
5 Improve your online to brick & mortar connections
We have to face reality; some customers will prefer online shopping. Once the behavior has changed it is likely to stay for a while. So therefore, you have to get better at online retailing and may even have to look at your store to dedicate some space for online support activities.
By the same token, you need to look at making the switch over from online to brick and mortar and the reverse seamless. When shoppers are visiting your store and looking for items they cannot find, your assistance center should only be one click away. You should be able to tell them the store that has the item in stock, or even better add it to their mobile shopping cart for them to pay at the same time with their regular goods.
The experience should be seamless, frictionless, and easy for shoppers to grasp.
There is no doubt that difficult times will demand their toll on the retail industry, and we are seeing shifts in consumer behavior that may well be permanent. However, retail will not go-away. It will adapt to the needs of the customer. Systems, like the XcooBee Retail System, supports many of the changes the future shoppers will demand, however, you can start today taking small steps as well.
Examine and question the processes that you have implemented and used in the past and do not be afraid to question everything. We believe that asking “Why” frequently is the only formula that will help you to find the path that will work for your specific situation and store.