At a time when store visits feel uncomfortable and recreational shopping has been hit hard, it can be challenging for retailers to balance new regulations with the comfort of customers. Tried and tested methods to increase dwell-time and encourage impulse purchases simply don’t work anymore. In a lot of respects, it’s time for the retailer to act as therapist, introducing safe, reassuring and encouraging experiences that slowly reintroduce bricks and mortar shops as second nature once more. So, what are the safe stages of return to normal shopping which can be put in place now?
Stage 1: The comfort of contactless collection
A completely contact-free click and collect service where goods are placed directly in the trunk might seem counterproductive when you want customers to return to store, but it has both psychological and commercial benefits. As a first exposure, it reassures customers that their concerns are being taken seriously. By implementing an efficient booking system, with chat or SMS updates relating to their collection, it pushes the message that the retailer is effective and in control. From an economic perspective, orders can be picked and packed in-store, cutting fulfilment and shipping overheads, and customers will be saving in delivery costs too.
Stage 2: A quick click and speedy collect
Applying the same technology platform as kerbside collection, in-store Click & Collect will be vital for retailers who don’t have car parking space to offer kerbside pickup.
However, customers are still not keen to negotiate queues or spend too much time inside. With a modern Click & Collect solution they can be fast-tracked separately by selecting a precise ‘collection slot’, similar to kerbside click and collect. Additionally they can be offered, where possible, an alternate entrance to access the store and their goods. Again, this is a great opportunity to demonstrate best hygiene practice at all stages, use technology to assist while also showcasing helpful, respectful and efficient staff. The experience at the point of collection matters too. Building the click and collect area effectively into the store plan ensures there’s plenty of temptation within eyeline and more reasons to return.
Stage 3: More of the store, less of the staff
Further down the line, a more confident and flexible shopper may prefer to collect their items in a less time-restricted fashion. For them, a self-service collection point might be the most appropriate solution. Of course, this takes up some space so retailers may find that this sits better at a location deeper within the store. This presents visual merchandising opportunities as well as the chance to bundle appropriate in-store only deals into any push notifications, SMS or emails they receive regarding their order. Chat is increasingly being used – enabling customers to have conversational exchanges with staff, providing another opportunity to merge the digital and physical journeys. By scheduling collection windows during slower periods in the day, a hesitant customer may well find themselves browsing, and potentially buying.
Of course, there are other considerable benefits to encouraging click and collect. A store which fulfils its own online purchases has the edge in getting goods quickly into customers hands in the first place, plus all the operational savings that this brings. Being able to advertise on digital platforms stock available locally to the customer, a retailer can provide a compelling reason for the customer to return to the store environment. Additionally, customer confidence in making a purchase can often stem from perceived simplicity in making a return, should it be required. So, by the very virtue of offering a contactless click, collect and return service, there is further reason for even a nervous customer to visit a store. The result is a more cost-effective returns process and the potential for additional in-store sales.
As a brand, offering multiple ways for customers to receive their purchases can elevate perception and give you a competitive edge. In a time where everything is to fight for, offering a wide range of considerate, technology-driven choices will help retailers remind customers that the store experience is about more than just queuing. Ultimately, this will attract more customers and create a platform for customer acquisition at a point of huge disruption. Many customers have forgotten many of the positive aspects of in store shopping – it’s time to entice them back.
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