We are now nearing the end of September, the new iPhone 13 has been launched, and telecom retailers are entering the start of the busiest retail season of the year. Now, the holiday season would be a hectic one in a normal year, but with COVID variants threatening in-person shopping, and increased demand for flexible, convenient, and personalized purchase channels, the pressure is on for retailers to perform. Safety will also continue to be top-of-mind for businesses and customers alike and if they haven’t already, retailers will need to implement a range of protocols that satisfy the comfort level of every shopper.
What does this mean for telecom? Essentially, a hyper-focus on convenience, flexibility (which enables personalization), and safety will be the turning point for retailers who want to lock in profitability despite the unpredictability of the current retail landscape.
Elevated convenience in retail
Gartner predicts, in its 2021 report, that hybridization of retail segments is going to grow in the final quarter of 2021 and continue into the New Year. “Consumers are clearly still interested in having physical locations available to them,” says Gartner, but they are also after quick, efficient transactions—especially during the pandemic.
“Global searches for ‘along my route’ (+1,000%) and ‘curbside pickup’ (+3,000%) both soared, year-over-year. Convenience [has become] a key differentiator in retailers who [are] able to quickly pivot.”
While alternative retail methods were waiting in the wings in previous years, from 2020 onward, processes such as buy or reserve online, pick up in-store (BOPIS and ROPIS), curbside pickup, and expedited delivery took center stage. It’s clear that for customers, convenience is no longer just about walking into a store and knowing their product is in stock; it’s about learning about products online, seeing availability before going into a store, finding retailers in their area that carry the brands they love, providing real-time feedback about their purchase experience, and being able to complete the purchase and take home their items in a way that makes the most sense to them.
How to improve operational convenience:
- Offer a solution that improves your store’s online presence and makes store information, with product availability, easy to find.
- Make store reviews easily accessible so that customers know you can provide them with exceptional service.
- Focus on improving alternate purchase channels like adding curbside pickup, BOPIS and ROPIS, or same or next-day shipping.
- Ensure store information is accessible in a format that satisfies the increased use of mobile devices
Your convenience toolkit:
Pointy from Google is the all-new integration from iQmetrix that not only gets your store information online but also uses proximity to connect your offering with customers searching for products in your area. Your products, with availability, will be available on Google search pages as a browsable catalog so customers know exactly what to expect when they come in-store. Pointy is also optimized for mobile: this is important because 82% of smartphone users consult their device when researching a purchase, and 67% of shoppers say they plan to confirm that an item is in stock before going in-store to purchase it.
TracPoint further enhances your online presence by getting your positive customer reviews in front of customers who are searching for products you carry. Peer reviews are a key influence on consumers, so ensuring that your top comments are seen is essential. TracPoint encourages reviews for your store and helps promote them on search engine results pages so your store gets more traction.
Omnichannel technologies aren’t new, but their application is now much more commonly expected by the average shopper. Being able to complete a purchase on their terms, a customer is far more likely to continue to transact even if the ability for in-person retail diminishes in the next few months. Preparing for the holidays means opening up channels that enable convenience including curbside pickup, BOPIS, and ROPIS, along with providing same- or next-day shipping, to ensure customers are choosing you over e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Improved flexibility breeds increased loyalty
In a busy season, a crowded store compounds the pressure to create a great experience for every customer. With rigid processes and inflexible systems, doing so can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
Flexibility is important but it’s even more important to know what kind of flexibility your customers expect. Telecom is a unique sector of the retail market, with transactions ranging from quick in-and-out accessory purchases to hour-long phone activations. For this reason, injecting flexibility into the transactional piece of the retail puzzle is essential.
How to enable flexibility in telecom:
- Let customers reserve or purchase items online so they can pick up their purchases when it works for their schedule with the assurance that they won’t be affected by a product being out of stock.
- Provide flexible payment options that lessen the burden for customers who wish to buy expensive, high-end items.
- Alleviate wait times and optimize sales associates’ time by having customers join a virtual queue with the option to include their reason for visiting the store.
Your flexibility toolkit:
We’ve already mentioned omnichannel, but because of its flexible nature, it’s worth mentioning again. Allowing customers to buy or reserve items online gives them peace of mind that the perfect gift (for a loved one or themselves) that they envisioned isn’t ruined by the product not being in stock when they have time to shop. Letting purchases be completed over the phone or online, to then be picked up later, means the customer doesn’t have to manipulate their busy schedule to buy from your stores.
Flexibility in retail also extends to a customer’s payment options. PayBright, an iQmetrix integrated partner, offers payment financing options that decrease the burden on a customer's wallet during a typically expensive time of year. Telecom can have high-margin items, which may add to the stress if a customer is aiming to satisfy a tech-heavy wish list. PayBright’s offering lets our store be paid in full while the customer can pay for the item in smaller increments but take their purchase home with them on the spot. Not only does this mean more sales are closed during the busy holiday season, but it also allows your business to provide an elevated, positive retail experience amongst the season’s chaos.
Maintained safety in retail despite uncertainty
In-person retail isn’t a given when you consider new COVID-19 variants and individual consumer levels of comfort when it comes to shopping in-store. So retailers need to maintain the focus on safe retail not only in their physical storefronts but across all retail channels.
First of all, it's important to offer more than one way to buy. This may not necessarily mean having an online store (though, with a strong lean towards shopping online in recent years, having an e-commerce platform isn’t a bad idea); it could mean implementing ways of extending the physical store experience to satisfy best practices for safety.
How to maintain safe retail practices:
- Manage lineups and minimize in-store wait times while still giving customers the chance to shop physically.
- Offer diverse channels that provide multiple options for shoppers to buy.
- Offer remote payment features that allow customers to pay from their mobile devices, alleviating the dependency on an available payment terminal in a busy store.
Your safety toolkit:
Busy stores are inevitable during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean long lineups have to be a part of the season! Queue Management allows customers to join a virtual queue and when an associate is ready to help them, they will get a message letting them know to return to the store. Stores are easily able to manage store capacity limits and maintaining social distancing while ensuring every shopper gets exceptional service. Customers skip the line by joining the queue, so their holiday shopping plans go uninterrupted by long waits.
Once again, omnichannel is the hero of the holidays. Offering multiple retail channels lets customers purchase however they want. Be it a purchase that starts online and ends with the customer picking up the purchase in-store (or curbside) or takes place virtually altogether, omnichannel provides the resources for businesses to elevate the purchase experience while maintaining a safe environment for COVID-era shoppers.
Distanced payment options, that let customers pay while maintaining social distancing, are not only providing safe retail environments but are also widening the payment possibilities for customers and retailers alike. Remote Pay lets customers pay for in-store purchases from their mobile devices. When customers choose distanced, contactless payments that involve their own payment devices, retailers lessen the burden on associates to keep physical terminals sanitized, which saves time and money. And without a dependency on physical workstations, retailers can start phasing out these devices and reply more heavily on the mobile payment options that customers are starting to prefer more and more anyway. It’s a win-win for every party involved.
Preparing for the holidays means paying attention to the trends that are driving customer behavior. Honing in on ways to elevate convenience, improve flexibility, and maintain safety in the retail space will result in success, no matter the unpredictability in the retail space (and the world) this holiday season.
Learn more about the solutions powering holiday success.