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Reimagining Retail Tech: Customer Experiences, Designed for a Post-COVID World
Commercial Integrator ^ | August 26, 2020 | Jaime Bettencourt

Posted on 08/27/2020 3:08:55 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin

With COVID here to stay, at least for the near term, retailers are reevaluating their digital strategies and in-store experiences—and that means more than rolling out new safety protocols. Brands and retailers must take a holistic approach to design relevant, safe, and enjoyable retail tech solutions that reflect consumers’ preferences and behaviors.

The phrase “new normal” is overused but spot-on: COVID has accelerated changes in consumer shopping behavior, and those changes aren’t going anywhere. According to McKinsey research, the pandemic has contributed to a surge in e-commerce, a decline in discretionary spending, and a preference for trusted brands.

These trends will probably persist for the next 12-18 months. Some, like the rise in online shopping, will endure even after COVID. With these trends in mind, let’s consider tactics brands should deploy to stay connected to customers, put shoppers at ease in-store and strengthen relationships across channels.

Think digital—even in-store

In these uncertain times, customers need to know you care about them personally, and that you are prioritizing safety. For brands, this requires outreach via personalized emails or mobile app experiences, as well as over-communicating in-store via digital signage and voice messages, even if it interrupts the usual customer experience.

As you consider communication tools and the message itself, keep customers needs top of mind. For example, some retailers have rolled out remote queuing tools that allow people to estimate in-store wait times, or to reserve a spot in the queue before they leave their home.

To stay connected with customers and prospects during the height of the pandemic, the Chinese clothing brand Yinman used WeChat. It credits the strategy for attracting 650,000 new customers, despite substantial store closures.

Retailers must also prioritize employee communication. Employees are your brand ambassadors, the enablers and protectors of your customer experience. Communicate the steps you are taking to keep them safe via email, written documentation, and in-store messaging and signage.

Do not forget to express your gratitude and to celebrate wins. Show people you appreciate their time and do so publicly. This is always best practice, but it matters now more than ever.

Change the mood

Customers used to go to stores because they wanted a memorable, enjoyable experience. That is still true in some cases, but these days, they also want to feel cared for and safe.

There is less room for bravado moments or high-energy atmospheres. Shoppers want softer tones and more emotional, personalized connections.

Retailers, including stores, hotels, and restaurants, should reflect this state of mind in the music they play, the lighting they choose, and the digital and voice messaging they use to communicate safety protocols and updates.

Be sure to educate your staff about the mood you are trying to create. You may need to change your in-person greetings to show empathy and relevance. Communication feels more real in the post-COVID age. People are desperate for human communication.

So, urge your team to embrace authentic, human connection and to go the extra mile to reward patronage. Perhaps that means reaching out with a phone call to thank someone for their purchase or to address a customer service issue. Taking the extra step will come back ten-fold, across channels.

Create a need to leave home

Leisurely shopping is at an all-time low. Customers are not meandering the aisles or popping into a store on a whim. They are visiting the places they are loyal to—brands that fill a need or have fostered a connection with them.

To encourage foot traffic, communicate a need in your messaging. This could mean sharing a promo code for an essential item or reminding customers that their support matters. Consider focusing on your most loyal shoppers, as these are the people most likely to visit your locations.

If someone is willing to leave their house during the pandemic, they best be rewarded with an exceptional and safe in-store experience.

Retailers are using Plexiglas; one-way aisles; earlier opening hours for at-risk populations; frequent disinfection of stores; occupancy trackers; hand sanitizer at store entrances, exits, and check-outs; and contactless payment options to protect and entice customers and employees.

You want your stores clean, but your brand voice and ambiance should not be sterile. People are still looking to be inspired, have fun, connect with people and get a break from the world outside. So, don’t forget what makes your store a destination and your brand unique. Think holistically

The customer experience starts before entering the store, so consider how to create a unified experience. In fact, try to think of your customer as the channel, rather than approaching in-store and online as silos. How are you showing you care, creating relevancy, and strengthening connections—online and off?

Certainly, brands’ digital and eCommerce strategies matter more than ever, but those faring best are putting customers first, rather than focusing on channel. They are weaving convenience and safety into every offering and communication and rolling out curbside pick up options, virtual shopping services and free delivery to the store or residence.

Taking these steps will help your brand nurture relationships and drive sales during COVID. Customers’ new or heightened preferences and behaviors will shape the future of retail, so mastering customer experience now, in the age of COVID, will position your brand to thrive once the pandemic is behind us.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Computers/Internet; Science; Society
KEYWORDS: retail; technology
A few interesting tidbits on what we may see in the future - unless ALL retails stores are bankrupt due to the PlanDemic, and all Malls shuttered. ;)

Full Disclosure: I have 18 years of Project Management/Retail Management behind me, post-Army. I managed an IT Section in the Army for a few years; I'm no computer whiz, but I could get projects scheduled and completed on time and on budget for our end users. So, this stuff interests me though I, personally, HATE to shop...for anything...but man I loved to part customers from their cash and give them a great buying experience while I did so when I was working Retail. ;)

1 posted on 08/27/2020 3:08:55 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

I haven’t shopped in retail stores for years other than Lowes, its all Amazon now, delivered in 2 days to my door.

I’m not a window shopper, board up all the malls, I quit them decades ago.


2 posted on 08/27/2020 3:22:36 PM PDT by baclava
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To: Diana in Wisconsin
Retailers are using Plexiglas; one-way aisles; earlier opening hours for at-risk populations; frequent disinfection of stores; occupancy trackers; hand sanitizer at store entrances, exits, and check-outs

All of which cause me to sit my happy heinie at home and shop online. If I shop online, I don't have to deal with any of that crap.

Note to retailers: I have never trusted you with my safety. I have no intention of doing it now.

As for your liability risk concerns, and I'll grant you those are huge, get Congress to pass liability protection for you.

Then we can all have a nice retail experience again.

3 posted on 08/27/2020 3:35:50 PM PDT by mewzilla (Break out the mustard seeds.)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

I like store shopping. I don’t want some unknown yayhoo pickin out my meat or produce. We dont travel or have friends, we live rural. I like going to a store with a list. I HATE the mask, I hang it off my glasses, I can’t stand it touching my face but I’d still rather do my own shopping.

4 posted on 08/27/2020 3:56:59 PM PDT by Pilated (.)
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To: Pilated

I made a few masks out of very light gauze fabric (baby swaddle blanket).

That’s what hubby and I wear, if we have to wear one (at stores, etc.)

5 posted on 08/27/2020 3:58:32 PM PDT by Jane Long (Praise God, from whom ALL blessings flow.)
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To: Pilated

we buy paper goods and the like via Walmart pick up

6 posted on 08/27/2020 4:25:42 PM PDT by UB355 (Slow Traffic keep riqght)
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To: Pilated
I agree about the shopping. I haven't used the Walmart pick up option (or any others) but I DO order all of my canned goods, paper goods, baking supplies, non-perishables, etc. on-line and have them delivered.

On the rare occasion I need to mask (we also live rural) I have a light, stretchy neck gaiter that I pull up. It's comfy, stops 'Karens' from accosting me, and my glasses don't fog up. No one has told me it's inappropriate.

7 posted on 08/27/2020 5:56:28 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (I don't have 'hobbies.' I'm developing a robust post-Apocalyptic skill set.)
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To: baclava

I now work from home instead of going into the office since mid-march. I hope I can continue but managers like people in cubicles. I guess we go back right after Nov 4 when Trump wins in a landslide.

I buy most everything at Amazon. Recent purchase are 4 Docker slacks. I buy shirts at Lands End or LL Bean. Once you know the brand and fit you can order and get more choices then many stores offer. I also get my groceries delivered and it only costs $4.95 for next day 2 hour window. If you order early in the day they deliver that day.

I can buy stock to make more money then I can earn at a job. I have internet service that I hope to make money with a website and selling some books. You see kids and adults making lots of money at Youtube and social media sites.

I can watch all sorts of tv shows and movies and podcasts and youtube shows either on the computer or thru the Roku box I have and all for FREE. I can avoid people too : )

8 posted on 08/27/2020 8:07:49 PM PDT by minnesota_bound (homeless guy. He just has more money....He the master will plant more cotton for the democrat party)
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