Post-Pandemic Retail: Are We Ready to Face the New Normal?
The unprecedented consequences of the novel COVID-19 have forced customers to rethink their 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 prefer 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 become the most important pillar of consumer experience.
Most believe the onset of this pandemic will only bring the worst days for offline markets and services. However, some view the rush to transform offline markets into safer and 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 is critical for a business. Several approaches can be attempted to ensure an organization continues to grow in a situation as grim as the ongoing pandemic.
Some of these may include customer surveys and feedback, which can also help improve the experience a company delivers.
The breakthrough changes that markets seek 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 unique perspective on the current retail market.
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, adversity always brings itself a thousand new opportunities!
How is retail going to get affected?
The pandemic has caused large-scale damage to retailers’ understanding of how their customers move through the market and the factors influencing their purchase decisions.
So, retailers must change how their stores function to match up with present-day customer expectations.
Customer feedback can be collected to understand better what makes the post-pandemic consumer base feel safer.
Many customer surveys conclude that customers prefer physical shopping experiences over everything else.
Furthermore, as people continue to explore new emotional and social territories, the virus has left them wondering about it. As a result, retail stores must navigate through every change carefully.
Businesses can align dedicated teams with collecting customer feedback regularly. In addition, the systems can be upgraded and revamped for companies with an existing call center agent support system to keep up with these trying times.
How should the change begin?
Innumerable new situations have occurred since the arrival of COVID-19, and it is necessary to remember 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. Therefore, the exact needs to be done, keeping customer feedback and experience in mind to avoid further losses.
However, tweaking store layouts to fuel business progress at a pace better than before is essential. In addition, establishing an emotional and comfortable rapport with your clientele is much more crucial.
Customers are now very conscious of personal hygiene, social distancing, and public safety. This means escaping the worst outcomes of a significant upcoming crisis. As a result, retail stores must adapt to changing customer habits quickly and efficiently.
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.
Regardless of industry and scale, businesses 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 cheap and easy to maintain and provide great psychological support to consumers. Buyers will undoubtedly feel safer in every offline retail market experience.
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. Therefore, permanent measures 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. In addition, not having too many customers occupy the same space will 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 crowd reduction. 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 them without even entering 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 products and surveys can ease the process even more.
5. Technological advancements
The 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 to be safe and secure while shopping in their preferred ways.
Such technological upgrades can also help conduct regular customer surveys and collect feedback.
6. Reimagining personalized experiences
Retail stores must invest in 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 each buyer’s preferences and choices better.
7. Rethinking traditional techniques
Sampling is an essential 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. However, equal investment is also needed to revamp the pre-existing methods of customer surveys and customer feedback.
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