London,

How to adapt to new shopping behaviours in a post-COVID-19 world

It’s no secret shopping habits change all the time. Consumer behaviour evolves and adapts. New technology, new ways of shopping, and new wants and needs all combine to shape shopping habits.

However, rarely have we seen shopping habits change quite so dramatically or quickly as they have during the course of the pandemic that’s swept the globe in 2020. Already beset by a sea of challenges as we ushered in a new decade, retailers have had to deal with locked down stores, consumers tightening their purse strings, social distancing, and a rush to be prepared for the ‘new normal.’

Stores are opening their doors again and welcoming back customers but the world is a very different place to the one it was a few short months ago. It’s easy to get overwhelmed – especially when there’s so much conjecture about what the future might look like. 

So let’s take a deep breath, a step back, and look at the facts. What do we know right now? How are customers behaving? And what can we, as the retail industry, do to give customers what they want?

Firstly, it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that CX is everything. According to McKinsey

“Analysis of the financial crisis of 2008 shows that customer experience leaders saw a shallower downturn, rebounded more rapidly, and achieved three times the total shareholder returns in the long run compared with the market average.“

Now, more than ever, delivering a first class experience to your customers – whether physically or digitally – should be the number one priority. 

At this moment in time, your customers are your most valuable asset and that means doing all you can to retain them, build loyalty, and give them what they want – which includes helping them feel safe when they’re in your stores.

Here’s the best ways you can adapt your business to give your customers what they want and succeed in a post-COVID-19 world:

1. Make omnichannel a reality

In their report, Adapting to the next normal in retail McKinsey say: 

“Digital-first and omnichannel retailers have pivoted more easily, but retailers that prioritized physical stores and face-to-face engagement over omnichannel strategies have struggled to respond.”

Prior to the lockdown the two top topics on every CEO’s priority list were sustainability and omnichannel capability. Now these priorities are screaming out to be addressed and, by doing so, you’ll springboard your organization into the future of retail.

The only way to do this is by being able to access the same real-time information across all your sales channels. You need to provide customer convenience across stock, purchase, payment, delivery and return. And you should be able to use tech to provide a personalized CX, for example through levelling up your clienteling by integrating your POS  with a CRM solution.

With real-time access to the same product, stock, order and customer information everywhere, all stores and online sales channels are unified. Not only does this benefit the customer, it will increase your sales and help you make better decisions. Think how much easier the last few months would’ve been if you had an accurate, real-time view of, and access to, your inventory including all the locations where it’s stored. Instead of being blind, you would’ve had complete visibility and, as such, been able to make decisions based on data rather than intuition.

2. Sell and fulfill everything everywhere

With real-time data across all sales channels, you can sell and fulfill everything anywhere and handle returns everywhere. It’s this that’s going to be crucial as we move forward. Having the ability to ship from store, create micro fulfilment centres, and turn closed stores into dark stores is one of the most important things you can be doing right now – both to be ready for the ‘new normal’ and to safeguard your business in the event of further disruption to the status quo.

According to Forbes:

“Eighty-seven percent of consumers say businesses should continue to provide delivery and curbside pickup to reduce the need for in-person transactions and twenty-five percent say that this is the only way they will buy unless it’s an emergency.”

The same applies for returns. If a customer buys a product in store, they’ll want the option of returning it via post and vice versa. To meet your customers’ needs in a cost efficient way you need to, not only amplify your store fulfillment possibilities with Click-and-Collect (BOPIS), Click-and-Reserve (ROBIS), Endless Aisle and buy, reserve and pickup in other stores, you also have to turn your stores into fulfilment centers, meaning ecommerce orders can be shipped from your stores and that stores can ship orders placed in other stores. 

In short, the role of the physical store, while still hugely important, is drastically changing. A study from Intu and the Javelin Group found that while in-store sales will remain important, they are increasingly only one part of a retail store’s function, such as click-and-collect purchases, in-store orders, ship-from-store and customer service functions. Your job is to make this a reality for your customers.

3. Accelerate digitalization

Omnichannel capabilities, unified commerce, and real-time retail can only happen with the right technology in place.

The McKinsey report added:

“To increase operating efficiency and effectiveness, companies should aim to incorporate technology across the business. Before COVID-19, retailers were already deploying digital use cases, including seamless checkout, pricing, promotions, assortment optimization, and robotic process automation in the back office. However, few retailers managed to scale across the value chain, typically because of factors including a lack of top-down ownership and ambition, insufficient capabilities, siloed ways of working, outsourced IT functions, and legacy systems.” 

The pandemic has shown us two things: one, customers now expect brands to have a seamless, omnichannel offering, and, two, retailers further along in their digital transformation journeys have been able to weather the storm far better than those who have resisted change.

It doesn’t stop there either. With physical distancing in place, customers expect contactless payment options, mobile points of sale, and improved convenience across every touch point.

If you want to accelerate your digital transformation and make unified commerce a reality, we can help. Get in touch and one of our team of experts will be in touch to show you how.

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