As stores across the country start to lift their shutters and in-store shopping restarting, Rory O’Connor, CEO & Founder, Scurri asks what are the next array of challenges, areas that retailers need to be mindful of in the weeks and months ahead.
Retailers have a key role to play in ensuring that stores, once again welcoming and safe for consumers who have abstained for several weeks. With a greater sensitivity to prices, an increased digital commitment and a strong attention to hygiene, stores will have to make an extra effort to be attractive to customers. It’s hard to make definitive assumptions about what lies ahead, but here are some trends that we see growing and that we think will continue for a while.
Reduce fear and improve security
What we currently see and experience when shopping is a number of initiatives put in place to improve the hygiene and safety of customers and staff: plexiglass screens, the encouraged use of gloves and masks, store aisles transformed into one-way lanes; explicit rules regarding the distances in queues. We have also heard that AI cameras may be deployed to measure the social distance between shoppers with a view to reminding them when that distance is not being adhered to.
In-store messaging, whether via audio announcements or digital screens, will remain an essential tool to inform and assure consumers and employees that security measures are in place.
Though we disagree with the fact that cash is another victim of the pandemic, contactless has undoubtedly become the main payment method with many stores, such as IKEA refusing cash altogether. What is interesting is that an April report from the FT stated that the value of euro banknotes in circulation had increased by the largest amount since the 2008 financial crisis, indicating that many people in Europe have responded to the pandemic by hoarding cash.
There are some extremely interesting examples of contactless payment on the market that could prove become more widely adopted in the months ahead. One of those is snabble, a self-checkout app from Germany. The app, which is used by several major retailers in Germany, including IKEA, allows shoppers to scan using their mobile devices and simply pay in the app once finished without having to queue at the checkout. Technologies in general which will help shoppers avoid queues in some way or form could prove a major boon to retailers.
Brand loyalty and habits
The brand-based community will reach a whole new level. If this trend was already on the rise before the Covid-19 pandemic, it should explode in the coming months. During this period, consumers have forged relationships with brands; brands that have been seen as tirelessly helping their community during the crisis; those who were able to adapt quickly by bringing them new services; or those who engage with them by creating or enabling new social habits or healthy routines. Making a lasting impression on these consumers and creating an expectation that it will continue after containment will benefit brands in the long term. We have seen many examples of brands going the extra mile to look after their customers during this time. A renewed sense of tribe and lasting brand loyalty will ensue, and the brands that will benefit from it will be winners.
Another point worth making though is that COVID-19 saw more people than ever shop online. This includes older generations who previously would have considered online shopping as a pain. Now these consumers are used to doing their weekly shop we can imagine they’ll be less inclined to grab a trolley in-store and queue in the months ahead. In addition, as customer shopping paths include more digital touchpoints, consumers will expect businesses to have the omnichannel presence, online and offline, that they have promised but often missed over the years. previous years. Collecting and managing data transparently and inventively will be essential to deliver more personalized products and experiences.
Showrooming and sensory marketing
Showrooming and sensory marketing will play a central role in encouraging a worried consumer to re-enter the store. It may take a long time but eventually shopping will need to become a fun experience for consumers if retailers are to gain the competitive in-store advantage. After a long period cooped up at home, consumers are desperately in search for glimpses of normality and fun.
Special events, demonstrations, pop-up stores, new product discovery opportunities and compelling digital content will all help consumers to enjoy the in-store experience again. The desire to reconnect with a more experiential universe will open up opportunities for brands and allow them to be more creative at the point of sale. It is an opportunity to redefine and rethink the atmosphere in shops and public places.
If we question the future, this crisis will no doubt have lasting effects. We know that consumer expectations and purchasing behavior will change; the comfort brought by digital – and a greater dependence on digital technologies in general – will increase. The management of queues and how payments are handled will continue to evolve. The desire for repeat reinsurance among customers and employees, including safety communications, will remain strong; the demand for items to be delivered or picked up near the store will only increase.
Overall, the brands that can welcome customers back to their physical stores in a way that makes them feel secure and makes the shopping experience more enjoyable will win out in the months ahead.