In the after-effects of the pandemic, as we move further away from fear and anxiety towards a holiday season that is filled with hope, bounce back and fully vaccinated retail staff as well as fully vaccinated shoppers, even with the rise in online purchases, there is undoubtedly going to be an increased footfall in the retail stores in preparation of the gift-giving season.
Through much of last year (2020) and a greater part of the beginning of this year (2021), given the Covid restrictions, many stores had a limit as to how many customers can be in store at a given point in time. With many of these restrictions being relaxed globally this holiday season, there is a need for brands to be ready to tackle large crowds and long lines at the checkout counters resulting in frustrations and potential loss of sales during a potential peak period.
A recent case of concern was when a leading footwear store had its flagship store closed due to the breaching of COVID restrictions during a product launch which drew huge crowds outside the store despite the advisories on crowd management. Nobody wanted this to happen, but it did!
So how do you get your retail business including the stores, your brand.com, marketplaces, mobile apps, etc. to be ready to welcome the holiday season shoppers and give them access to your products, payment methods, and order fulfilment options from wherever they please and whenever they please while offering them great service and amazing shopping experiences? There are a few ways that brands can adopt to tackle the basics while reopening stores, and potentially improving customer experience and sales.
In stores, other than the products, the staff is crucial in giving the shopper a pleasant shopping experience. With increased crowds, the store staff needs to be trained to not only be quick in their service and checkout but there is a need for them to be good in their product knowledge so that they are able to assist customers promptly. The knowledge will help the store to be more efficient in tending to customers’ queries and improve their shopping experience. This in turn helps to manage the crowd and allows the store to serve more customers within a shorter amount of time, decreasing the wait time for customers waiting to enter the store.
Keeping Covid restrictions and requisites in mind, the staff needs to be trained to handle social distancing and product handling as per policies set up. Having masks and hand sanitizers handy is mandatory and certainly goes a long way.
Deploying the right retail software tools both in-stores and at the head office is crucial for getting the right product at the right time to the right place in the right quantities, and in effect, empowering you to offer an enhanced shopping experience to your customers that makes them buy more, buy fast and buy again! Retailers who leverage an integrated supply chain, POS, CRM, Promotion Planning, and Analytics tools stand to gain in a competitive market from business benefits such as efficient business plan for channel/store based on historical sales and the economic scenario, for example ‘sales during seasons (festivals)’. Some of the most important software that every retailer must invest in are:
1) Point of Sale (POS)
Benefits of an innovative POS software for your retail business notably include making it extremely easy to manage your retail business by significantly simplifying daily business tasks such as maintaining customer details and buying history, better promotion, inventory, and loyalty management, simple invoicing, quick checkouts, secure payments and many, many more.
The last thing you want is for the checkout to be slow and frustrating for the customer enough to leave the queue and not buy anything. Having a faster POS workflow not only reduces wait time but also allows employees to concentrate on engaging the shopper and potentially selling more through the checkout process.
With an efficient and easy-to-use POS system, instead of fumbling around with unnecessary checkout processes, retail store staff will be able to offer cross-selling and up-selling recommendations and convince the shoppers to purchase other items to complement the customers’ original purchases.
2) Mobile POS (mPOS) system
Nothing beats being able to purchase items without even going to the checkout counter and queuing up. Since there will be a long line of shoppers at the checkout counters, why not make use of the opportunity to sell items to the people in the queue? Having an mPOS system opens up a lot of opportunities – inventory can be checked on the go, applicable promotions can be looked up, additional items can be purchased while waiting in the queue, adequate social distancing can be maintained in-store, and secure billing can be completed making the shopping experience a truly memorable one.
Shoppers who just want to grab a small item are able to purchase it quickly from dedicated counters that have the mPOS system in place. Meaning, shoppers who just want to buy a single item would not have to wait in line and can be in and out of the store faster. This allows the retailer to clear customers faster, maintain a healthy queue, have a quicker inventory turnover, and keep the shoppers happy.
Making the transition from traditional retail to being an omni-channel retailer during this festive shopping season while the pandemic is still around, makes it hassle-free for stores to limit the number of people in the store and in the checkout queues, and yet improve the store’s revenue and get more sales while still maintaining good COVID practices.
Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) or click and collect is something that is up and coming around the world. It is important for shoppers who are not able to head to the shops during office hours to be able to still browse and pay for the items and pick up the item when it is convenient.
This allows customers to purchase items online without even stepping into the store and mingling with other shoppers. This arrangement will free up the store to allow other shoppers to enter and it will help the store to not lose sales due to COVID restrictions and impatient or anxious customers.
Given the store’s limited capacity and limited shelf space, it is difficult for all the products to be displayed in-store. Having the endless aisle option will open up the ability for customers to view the entire inventory and pick out items either to be shipped to their homes or reserve them for picking up another time.
This opens up more choices for customers to choose from, while at the same time keeping the number of shoppers low in stores. Endless aisle will also allow staff to have a clearer view of the availability of items. They are able to provide prompt alternatives and offer other options to shoppers when stocks run out, saving time from checking the inventory physically.
If you have an online/omni-channel presence, the data you collect online is also very valuable. The online buying behaviour may be different from that in the stores. Hence, it is important for you to analyse the online data to figure out how to properly promote and structure the online purchases.
The online purchase behaviour can also be a piece of additional information for in-store buying behaviour – it can show you what are the typical items that are purchased together and this might help you figure out your store planogram – that is, deciding which inventory to prioritise when planning the display on your shelves.
Successful retailers know their customers (almost) personally. Not only do they know what the customers are buying and what they want to purchase, but also their behaviour outside the store such as their hobbies and interests, important milestones, etc. By analysing all that information, they are able to provide stellar customer experiences across all channels, particularly in-store. Stores are aware that the day they stop knowing their customer is the day they lose that customer.
It is definitely a difficult time for retailers during this festive season in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, it is also an opportunity for retailers to show their customers the adaptability and ingenuity of the store and impress them positively.