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Building a Profitable Post-COVID Store Experience

Posted by Amanda McLaughlin on Jul 19, 2021

Last updated on July 29th, 2021 at 01:50 pm

Inside for the better part of a year, consumers discovered that shopping online was actually just as fulfilling as shopping in-store. And easier.

In response, retail brands around the globe began pumping effort into ecommerce to meet new demands. Physical-only brands despaired, some scrambling to get online stores off the ground.

With the belief online shopping is the future, many shut down their stores to downsize and streamline. Others, however, are revolutionizing how they use their stores by embracing physical shopping and unifying it with their digital channels. 

The Post-COVID-19 Retail Landscape

Contactless payments are the UK’s preferred way to pay. 83% of the UK population use contactless payments now with cash usage declining by 35% last year. The U.S. isn’t too far behind. By 2025, contactless mobile payments will surpass half of all smartphone users. Overall, online interactions have risen dramatically, and customer-employee interaction has reduced quite a bit.

Despite that, many of us discovered we enjoy human connection and engagement (go figure.) We’ve unearthed a love for shopping locally, and now the charming couple that run the bakery are Dave and Julia, instead of nameless faces. 

The difference now is that we prefer engagement to come with a convenient shopping experience. 

Shops are open again, and footfall is slowly creeping closer to pre-pandemic levels. But the in-store consumer’s tastes are different. Customers expect a single, accurate view of product availability, regardless of whether they are shopping on mobile or in-store.

Building Profit in Post-COVID Stores

More from in-store

People crave connection, so there will always be an appetite for brick-and-mortar. Customers are beginning to tip-toe across shop thresholds again, but they’re doing so with a little more trepidation. Minimizing contact is a priority, and consumers are watching you closely to see how you’re actively mitigating risk to them and your staff.

Contactless experiences are valued highly and sync incredibly well with consumers’ latest expectations: frictionless omnichannel experiences. Treating your store as an IRL version of your website, with solutions like endless aisle, is the convenience customers want and encourages them to always leave a store with something in hand (or on its way via delivery). 

Simply having the ability to search a product online, then stroll into a store with confidence knowing it will be there to buy, is liberating. It also helps keep unnecessary ‘hands-on’ interactions to a minimum. 

Leaving a customer’s side can be disruptive to the shopping experience, so the best omnichannel solutions help staff access information, like inventory, across your entire organization through iPhones. Technology like this allows your staff to “save the sale” and spend more time with customers. They can also offer personalized recommendations, cross-sell and upsell, and then accept payments via mobile. They effectively remove all barriers to making the sale—all without leaving the customer’s side.

Shipping and BOPIS

Unifying digital and physical channels presents further opportunity to please customers by offering buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) services (otherwise known as click-and-collect). Aside from convenience, BOPIS services bring a number of additional benefits, such as reduced returns. What’s more, customers often buy additional products when they pick up their items from physical outlets.

Not only is there more potential revenue to be made from offering BOPIS, but your profit margins are more significant on items as customers absorb some of the cost of the last mile. 

Of course, this is only possible if you have an iron-clad integration between your ecommerce business, stores, and systems. Your point of sale and OMS need to offer a complete overview of your inventory and how it moves across your organization. 

Returns

Consumers view returns as fundamental to the shopping experience. In the UK, almost 9 out of 10 shoppers will deal with a return policy at some time. Yet returns can lead to lost revenue if not handled correctly. As of 2018, UK shoppers return £7 billion of purchases every year. For the U.S., returns in 2020 alone accounted for over $400 billion in lost sales for retailers. These numbers are on the rise across geographies because of the recent surge in online buying.

Businesses need to offer free and seamless return policies, leveraging their physical stores as drop points, to keep up with customer demand. However, it’s critical that companies can track returns and re-integrate them with sellable stock to remain profitable. Doing so will help reduce more revenue being lost and maximise the amount gained by making more stock marketable. 

Pleasingly, improving return policies will help reduce the obscene amount of wastage from retail. Better return policies mean the 336,000 tonnes of the UK’s disposable fashion that is binned and sent to landfill or incineration has the potential to be sent back to stores to be re-sold. 

What Next?

There has never been a more direct relationship between customers and brands. Omnichannel solutions are perfectly suited for how we live our lives and they happen to be exactly what customers are crying out for. So, where do you focus?

Have any more questions? Get in touch and we can help you on your way to omnichannel bliss.

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