COVID-19 has changed the way we shop overnight. Many businesses quickly adapted and found new ways to create sales, support their consumers, and offer the same great experiences. But as consumers suddenly pivoted to a reliance on curbside pick-up, contactless payments, and ship-to-door, it's no longer a question of if things will go back to "normal;" it's how retailers will respond to the shift in consumer expectations.
As the Learning Program Manager for Knowledge Management, I engage in a lot of meaningful conversations with wireless retailers who are on the frontline of change and seeing consumer behavior shift in real time. I've pulled some real life examples from some of our clients who are creating game-changing experiences as consumer expectations evolve.
Read on to learn more about how to optimize your business through COVID and beyond!
Meet your consumer where they are
Before the outbreak of COVID, helping customers was primarily about guiding them toward finding the products and services they wanted. Now, customer support looks a little different, and retailers have been forced to get creative to meet the consumer where they are.
The idea now is to limit the time a customer spends with a store associate, which runs counter to the goal of spending more time with the customer to ensure a great experience and complete a sale. But the more options you have available for consumers (appointments, delivery, in-store pickup, phone calls or Zoom consultations), the easier it will be to shop with you!
For example, I was able to order my groceries online, but what made it even better was that my local grocery store started offering more than just food products. I was able to order home goods and things like nail polish, which seems simple, but the experience was seamless and gave my family a sense of normalcy. My doctor's office was offering phone or video appointments. All our prescriptions were delivered to our doorstep, and as a mom to three kids, this was huge!
All of these are great examples of how retailers can meet their customers where they are – at home, online, at the curb, or in store!
Create a solid online presence
Consumers are checking online for store hours, inventory availability, store precautions, and more. Use this to your advantage and make the information accessible. If you don't already have an online presence, you'd better catch up!
A great example of creating a solid online presence is our client, NH iPhone Repair, whose owner went live on Facebook to indicate to customer's that their store was open and talk about all the different safety precautions they were taking for staff and customers.
I thought this was great. Not only did it provide a nice personal touch having the owner speak to customers, but from a consumer perspective, it was helpful information. Not every company is as quick to update their e-Commerce website, or even has an online presence. Utilizing social media has proven not only necessary, but an expectation. As a consumer, I know that I've really had to rely on turning to Facebook and other social media platforms to find what a company’s open status is during the pandemic and I appreciate businesses that are open about their hours during COVID.
A couple of other clients of iQmetrix started leveraging social for things like Tech Tip Tuesday, promoting additional phone cleanings when returning repaired devices, or offering discounts to nurses or front-line workers. How incredible is that?
A word of caution though: If have are offering services online for convenience, be sure the physical store experience is just as convenient, or you'll have frustrated customers.
For instance, my local furniture store was offering curbside pick-up with pay online. When I arrived, their staff brought the furniture piece outside, but would not load the furniture into my vehicle and could not help with loading. I was left outside the store with a heavy piece of furniture and no way to get it home. This was such a missed opportunity for the store to take it one step further and offer loading services. What should have been a painless shopping end to end experience did not end up that way; it was the right idea but their execution was a fail.
Think about the experience you are creating
Similar to the above, whatever service you are offering, think through the details. What does the process look like for you and your staff? Like my experience with the furniture store, it was a great experience until it wasn't. Think about the safety of your consumers and your staff while also ensuring that shopping with you is a seamless experience: any perceived problems should be thought of and met with solutions.
For example, our client All Things Wireless set up one of their sales associates with a laptop, enabling them to travel around processing manual payments for sales. This was a good way to reach customers who might be comfortable having those 1:1 interactions, but not comfortable going to the public store themselves. A problem, a solution, and a seamless experience!
Implement BOPIS and ROPIS
Buy online and return anywhere is quickly becoming an expectation for consumers.
Gone are the days of browsing and jumping from store to store to find that item. BOPIS and ROPIS are trending in retail; it not only creates a safe and convenient shopping experience, it takes your business to the next level.
Pick-up options, like buy online, reserve online, and curb-side ordering, allow your business to control the experience your customer has. From the condition of the purchased product to the service provided upon delivery, this tactic allows you to create the extension of your brand experience with your customers while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
For example, during the height of isolation, Jaye from SelkirkCell said they were staying very busy with curbside pickup. Customers would wait outside while their staff would process the sale and activation process inside, then bring their phone out to them once it was ready.
Your customers are keen to come back to your store, but line ups take up a lot of space, and in a smaller store layout it limits the safe space for other customers. BOPIS and ROPIS are one way to not only help your customers feel safe, but enable that convenience that they're coming to expect.
Have you enabled buy anywhere yet?
The experts agree: We are emerging from the slightly (not so slightly) chaotic reaction of the pandemic and entering into a response phase. Businesses everywhere are shifting from a “how do I keep my business afloat, while also change to a remote workforce, and keep my stores open” mentality to an “okay, now what?” strategic thinking.
Learn how your business can continue to adapt to the changing market while moving the needle on your strategy for in-store success.