Convenience has been the driving force behind many advances in retail. From broadening product ranges to increasing opening hours, retailers have long been adjusting their offering to fit shoppers demands. And e-commerce is no different. Websites are available 24 hours a day allowing shoppers to browse when and where it suits them, and various forms of payment are accepted. Advances in logistics have made same-day delivery and international shipping widely available.
Shopping behaviour has changed a lot in the last few months, increasing the need for digitalised solutions. As lockdown measures gradually ease, shoppers in some markets have demonstrated an increased willingness to return to stores, as opposed to shopping exclusively online. However, concerns around hygiene and physical distancing will remain. New shopping methods have sky-rocketed, like ‘buy online, pick up in store’ and, for instances where the product is not already available in-store, ‘buy online, ship to store’. Consumer behaviours that have been established during the pandemic will most likely remain and expectations of convenient contactless options will continue to grow.
Catering to this shift in behaviour will require retailers to examine the bottlenecks in the customer journey. For example, in a traditional store, customers typically wait in line to purchase items. Long waiting times are a common complaint, impacted by the number of staff on duty or the number of customers present at the time. A smarter approach could be to use surveillance technology to count the number of shoppers in the queue and alert staff to open more tills when a threshold is reached. However, this strategy depends on the availability of staff. Self-checkout tills offer an alternative, as they ensure that transactions can be completed regardless of the number of staff on duty. They also help to minimise personal contact, which may alleviate concerns around hygiene.
Although a truly frictionless experience would satisfy the need for convenience, humans are social creatures at heart. Lockdown has taken its toll on the population and some interaction may be welcome. This is where the in-store experience has an advantage over online transactions. People-counting technology and video analytics can help retailers to ensure that staff are located in the parts of the store where they are most needed. Achieving the balance between convenience and giving the customer what they need during a difficult time will be critical.
The post-pandemic landscape offers retailers an opportunity to directly align with new customer behaviours. Convenience and safety are front of mind for shoppers and prioritising processes that meet their needs will ensure loyalty. Implementing these processes also allows retailers to be agile and prepared to withstand future shifts, ultimately strengthening their position during challenging times.
Louise Hobroh is global solution marketing manager at Axis Communications
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.