The COVID-19 pandemic has forced retailers across the globe to close their brick-and-mortar stores and quickly turn their focus to digital commerce. When this pandemic does end, whether in a few weeks or a year, retail operations will certainly not return to the pre-pandemic status quo. Most governments will continue to restrict large gatherings, and consumers will likely be apprehensive about shopping in-store for months to come.
Retailers must be prepared to make some immediate changes in order to survive this crisis and continue serving their customers. In this blog, we outline 5 strategies that all forward-thinking retailers should be adopting in anticipating for the post-Corona reality.
BOPIS & Curbside Pick-Up
Curbside pick-up is becoming an increasingly popular option to drive online sales whilst leveraging store inventory. The concept is simple: a customer makes an order online, drives to one of your brick-and-mortar locations, parks outside, and waits for a store representative to drop off their package. This option used to be a perk first offered by retailers such as Walmart and Costco in the pre-pandemic days for consumers on-the-go, however it has now quickly become a business necessity for all retailers. Curbside pick-up limits human interaction by allowing consumers to practice social distancing, thus limiting the probability of infection.
For those retailers already offering buy online pick-up in-store, curbside pick-up should be an easy transition. For those that aren’t, there’s no time like the present to start capitalizing on this popular and effective omnichannel commerce strategy! Buy online pick-up in-store and curbside pickup ensure the same-day and free delivery that customers love whilst saving you money on shipping costs.
The biggest problem most retailers are facing is the excess store inventory laying in their brick-and-mortar locations collecting dust in the absence of foot traffic. Many retailers keep separate pools of stock for eCommerce and physical stores, which prevents them from leveraging store inventory to fulfill online orders. Now is the time to forego antiquated commerce silos and adopt an omnichannel approach to retail.
Market leaders such as Levis began to leverage ship-from-store within the early days of the pandemic, granting the company much-needed agility and stock fluidity during this crisis. Using stores as fulfillment centers is a key omnichannel strategy that not only reduces delivery time (because orders are routed to the store nearest to the customers’ shipping address) but also increases inventory sell-through. In other words, it’s a win-win.
If you aren’t accepting backorders, you may want to start. With global distribution on the fritz, you may not be able to get product deliveries to your customers on time. What’s worse, if your products are out-of-stock online, you’ll simply be losing the sale if you don’t give customers the opportunity to reserve their order for later. We recommend enabling this option and providing customers with an approximate re-stock or delivery date to encourage conversion.
Contactless Payments and Self-Checkout
At some point in the foreseeable future, though we don’t know quite when, consumers will be returning to your brick-and-mortar locations for some good, old-fashioned shopping. We’re already seeing this happen in China, where customers are returning to stores as infection numbers decline. However, this doesn’t mean things will simply snap back to normal. People will likely steer clear of long checkout lines and avoid using dollar bills or touching the card reader in order to minimize the risk of contracting the virus. Indeed, studies show that 87% of shoppers say they would prefer to shop in stores with touchless or robust self-checkout options.
As a forward-thinking retailer, you should expect a swift transition to cashless and contactless payments as a means of ensuring clean, safe transactions. A mobile point-of-sale allows customers to pay with contactless options such as Apple Pay with the added bonus of skipping long checkout lines.
For those customers that are hoping to minimize human interaction as much as possible when shopping in-store while still receiving the service they need, we have the perfect solution! Retailers can give consumers the option of checking out directly on their phone. Self-checkout allows customers to open the retailer’s website on their phone, scan the products they want to buy, and pay in an instant. They can even request to try on a product in your dressing room right from their phones, without ever having to ask a store associate if their desired item or size is in stock.
Define Safety Measures and Procedures
In addition to introducing all of these measures in preparation for the post-pandemic shopping world, it’s important to show your staff and customers that their safety is your number-one priority. Inform all stakeholders of the steps you’re taking to make the in-store shopping experience as safe and enjoyable as possible. Trust us: customers are much more likely to interact with companies that are taking this pandemic seriously instead of focusing solely on their business KPIs.
Now is the time to put in place the processes and procedures that will guide your post-pandemic response. For example, identify the areas of your store that will likely require regular disinfection (like door handles and changing rooms) and establish a procedure for regularly checking on store associates to ensure none of them are spreading the virus. Retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue plan to take the temperatures of their employees daily and communicate those results to shoppers in the spirit of full transparency. Are you prepared to take these precautions?
* * *
If your company hasn’t already implemented the omnichannel commerce strategies in this blog, such as online pick-up in-store or mobile self-checkout, you might be thinking that now isn’t a good time. We understand that businesses around the world are facing economic uncertainty and are hesitant to make substantial investments or business decisions. Thankfully, the strategies discussed in this blog aren’t meant to simply get you through this temporary crisis. Omnichannel is the future of commerce, so adopting these strategies will benefit your brick-and-mortar storefronts and delight consumers for years to come.
If you are interested in discussing your pandemic response with our team of experts, request a free consultation.