March 2020… a period that shook the retail landscape and in which we, too, were challenged to switch fast and launch new technologies and innovations. I would like to list the most important ones in this blog.
1. The digital customer counter
While the non-food retailers experienced a huge decline in in-shop traffic and began to orientate themselves strongly online, the food retailers were being overwhelmed by people in the shop. Food retailers were faced with a major challenge: how do we ensure a safe shopping environment for both customers and employees?
In order to switch quickly, stewards were deployed or our own shop employees were at the door to monitor the number of customers. A good, but – you guessed it – pricey solution.
The need for an alternative was great and so the digital customer counter was created. This ‘digital porter’ replaces the employee or steward and has a ROI of one month. For example, Delhaize recently indicated that they save more than three million euros per month thanks to this digital application.
2. Need for clear communication
Digital communication in the shop is not new. But COVID-19 increased the need for clear communication to the customer. What COVID-19 measures are in place in the shop? How many customers are allowed in? What’s okay? What’s not? The clearer your communication to the customer, the safer they feel in the shop.
As new measures were regularly introduced, retailers who already embraced digital screen communication had a big head start. The digital signage messages can be quickly adapted from one central platform, allowing retailers to communicate in an efficient way, and always be up-to-date.
3. Self-service kiosk becomes indispensable
COVID-19 gave an enormous boost to online shopping. More and more customers discovered the advantages of the online story, where not only the speed is experienced as ‘pro’, but the wide range of products is also appreciated. Everything is available, or at least within reach.
Even pre-COVID-19, we noticed the need for a similar ‘online experience’ in the physical shop and we are convinced that this trend will continue at a rapid pace post-COVID-19. The customer prefers to order a product that is not in stock in the physical shop immediately on the spot. The customer doesn’t accept no for an answer because they can order this online anyway, right? ;-)
The in-shop e-shop offers a nice alternative to meet these expectations with your physical shop. The full range (which is certainly also interesting for smaller retail areas) is available in the physical shop through this self-service kiosk. You can order an item that is out of stock yourself directly through this kiosk and have it delivered to your home or in the shop. This interactive application is already proving successful with customers such as Torfs and Jeans Centre.
Another advantage of online shopping is the many filters that allow you to make a custom selection of products, based entirely on your preferences, with just a few clicks.
The customer also expects this ‘online ease of choice’ in the physical shop today. The ‘Digital Wine Guide’ at Corsendonk is a good example of how you can translate the online ease of choice into an in-shop application that guides the customer in choosing the right bottle of wine, but things like the Essential Gear Wall at Decathlon are also a good fit, since you get digital product advice in the physical shop.
And what about after COVID-19?
One thing is clear: the COVID-19 pandemic led to a number of innovations that would otherwise have taken place much later. Many ‘operational’ innovations gained momentum, such as contactless payment and services like Shopify. In addition, online shopping also received an enormous boost, as a result of which even smaller self-employed people suddenly dared to go online.
But the physical shop isn’t dead; on the contrary!
COVID-19 made it clearer than ever that people need social contact. People obviously miss meeting up with friends, family, or in the shopping street. Shopping is more than just ‘buying a product’. People are looking for experiences, for interaction. And let that be precisely the thing where you can make a difference with your shop. You can stimulate all the senses in your shop, something that the online story will never be able to match perfectly. ;-)
On the other hand, different technologies are already allowing you to connect the online and offline story, which will only increase post-COVID-19. An in-shop e-shop, digital product advice, or a digital product guide are just a few examples of how you can seamlessly integrate the online benefits into your physical shop and meet your customers’ high expectations.
By thinking about how you can enhance this experience with technology now, but also how technology seamlessly integrates online ease of use into your physical shop, you’re guaranteed to make a difference in the post-COVID-19 era!
We like to brainstorm with you about which technology offers added value in your shop. Would you like more inspiration or information? Then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.