The unprecedented consequences of the novel COVID-19 have forced customers into rethinking their entire buying journey. The pandemic has developed a chasm between retailers and buyers, as more people are now shopping online out of necessity. Retail markets are facing the brunt of these behavioral shifts.
In fact, according to a study by Forbes, 87% of consumers are preferring stores. That offers touchless service and self-check-out options. It further adds that 60% of employees and buyers say a business’s sanitization efforts have now become the most important pillar of consumer experience.
Most believe the onset of this pandemic will only bring the worst of days for offline markets and services. However, some view the rush to transform offline markets into safer and much more hygienic spaces as a positive consequence of COVID-19.
Can the COVID-19 crisis have a positive impact?
Dealing with a crisis and strategically stepping out of it is critical for a business. In a situation as grim as the ongoing pandemic, several different approaches can be attempted to ensure an organization continues to grow.
Some of these may include customer surveys and feedback, which can also help improve the experience a company delivers.
The breakthrough changes that markets are seeking to regain lost consumer bases might result in a positive impact of COVID-19. These changes will lead to new layouts and designs, eventually leading to a new perspective about how the current retail market operates.
In addition to traditional methods like setting up call center support systems to understand what clients now expect. Now is the time to experiment with new techniques and ideas.
After all, it is always adversity that brings in itself a thousand new opportunities!
How is retail going to get affected?
The pandemic has caused large-scale damage to a retailer’s understanding of how their customers move through the market and the factors that influence their purchase decisions.
So, to match up with present-day customer expectations, retailers must make changes to how their stores function.
Customer feedback can be collected in order to better understand what makes the post-pandemic consumer base feel safer.
Many customer surveys conclude that a vast number of customers still prefer physical shopping experiences over everything else.
Furthermore, as people continue to explore new emotional and social territories that the virus has left them wondering about. Retail stores need to navigate through every single change extremely carefully.
Businesses can align dedicated teams to collect customer feedback regularly. For companies with an existing call center agent support system, the systems can be upgraded and revamped to keep up with these trying times.
How should the change begin?
Innumerable new situations have occurred ever since the arrival of COVID-19, and it is necessary to keep in mind that the virus is not over yet.
Therefore, the first and foremost rule is to adhere to the principle of flexibility. Flexibility and dynamism are the pillars that will fuel change in a market dealing with a pandemic.
Moreover, the transformation of retail store designs and layouts is a pivotal point around which the future of buyer decisions revolves. The same needs to be done, keeping in mind customer feedback and experience to avoid further losses.
However, while tweaking store layouts to fuel business progress at a pace better than before is essential. It is much more crucial to establish an emotional and comfortable rapport with your clientele.
Customers are now very conscious about personal hygiene, social distance, and public safety. This means in order to escape the worst outcomes of a major upcoming crisis. Retail stores need to adapt to changing customer habits as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What can be a good start?
Speculations related to how COVID-19 is on its way to making permanent changes to the world and its functioning are trending. Primary changes to maintain customer safety and social distancing are already being implemented in various ways.
Businesses, irrespective of their industry and scale, have introduced various online service methods. These include online support systems, Interactive Voice Response systems, etc., to deliver safer and enhanced offline customer experiences.
Highlighted distancing spots on floors, compulsion to wear masks and face shields, hand sanitization, use of glass shields between the billing counter and the buyers’ section, etc., are just some measures being implemented widely.
These are not just cheap and easy to maintain but also provide great psychological support to consumers. Buyers will undoubtedly feel safer for every retail market experience that they have offline.
This may be considered as yet another positive impact of COVID-19. As it will also provide a firmer base for collecting customer feedback and conducting customer surveys while we continue to fight the battle.
However, the need of the hour certainly seems to be that of more extensive. Permanent measures that promise to help the current situation in the longer run.
Some ways in which the present retail market can transform itself for a beneficial future are listed below:
1. One-way traffic
According to a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers claim that bringing down the traffic of a retail store into a one-way flow can tremendously reduce the transmission of the virus.
A restriction in customer flow will help cut down on direct exposure to the virus drastically. Not having too many customers occupy the same space will also instill a greater sense of safety in buyers.
2. Booking of shopping slots online
Given that contactless shopping will be the new norm, it is ideal for retailers to adopt systems that restaurants, doctors, and many other services offer.
Allowing customers to book their shopping slots in advance facilitates a quick reduction in crowds. This may also be concluded as a positive impact of COVID-19, as it will inevitably lead to more employees and customers learning and comprehending today’s technology better.
3. Enabling dual-entrance systems
A dual-entrance focuses on controlling customer concentration at one spot inside a store. It enables two-way movement in the store and allows quick entry and exit points for consumers who want to pick up products like packaged foods and drinks.
The other entrance can cater to buyers who want to look through and spend more time browsing through a store. This allows segmentation of the store, leading to multiple benefits like maximization of space and personalized customer experiences.
4. Drive-through retail experience
To add convenience to customer experiences, stores are now moving to drive-through experiences.
Setting up drive-through counters that allow clients to place their orders in advance and collect it without even having to enter a store is paving the way for newer, more comforting yet interpersonal customer experiences.
Setting up call center agent support and IVR systems to facilitate pre-booking of products and surveys can ease the process even more.
5. Technological advancements
Usage of touchscreen navigation within a store and AI-enabled interaction counters can help reduce person-to-person interactions. This, in turn, gives customers the confidence of being safe and secure while shopping in their most preferred ways.
Such technological upgrades can also help in conducting regular customer surveys and feedback collection.
6. Reimagining personalised experiences
Retail stores must invest in their call center agent support systems to track customer purchase history and offer more refined and personalized interactions.
They can also train their employees to interact with customers more confidently and offer personalized solutions.
Retailers must also analyze the social media interactions of their customer base to grasp the preferences and choices of each buyer better.
7. Rethinking traditional techniques
Sampling is an important step in the process of most retail market products.
Instead of using the same sample on multiple customers, retailers can collect feedback online after sending single-use sample products directly to consumers.
According to researchers writing for the MIT Sloan Management Review, in the USA alone, easier availability of products and frictionless interactions tempted 76% of consumers to ditch brand loyalty and shop from a new website or shop online.
Figures like these establish that embracing the new normal is the only way ahead for today’s retailers.
This involves understanding the latest technology, rethinking store layouts, helping employees and the clientele become tech-savvy, revitalizing existing facilities, and much more.
Setting up robust call center agent support systems is a must. Equal investment is also needed to revamp the pre-existing methods of customer surveys and customer feedback.