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.
With a better idea of what the next year will look like, businesses are starting to plan for the reemergence of retail - in the new normal, and beyond.
So, what does this mean for the wireless store experience? In part one of this series, we talked about how COVID-19 will change the wireless industry. In part two, we’ll cover what that change means for the wireless store experience, including:
- What changes to wireless retail are being planned for or implemented right now?
- Of those changes, what will stick in the long term?
- More importantly, what investments are worth the time and the money for wireless carriers, and are an investment into the future, and not just the interim new normal?
Let’s get into it. Here are 4 ways the wireless store and wireless customer support will shift in the coming years, and beyond:
We’ve seen a trend in stores moving to mobile POS to enhance the customer experience in store — taking the transaction to the customer rather than have them waiting in line at a desktop terminal.
Expect to see this trend even more, but with the short-term goal of providing safe social distancing. Customers are keen to come back to stores, but line ups take up a lot of space, and in a smaller store layout it limits the safe space for other customers.
Now, mobile POS will be about ensuring the customer can be met anywhere in the store, and the store associate can stay on their own device and limit the use of common equipment in the store.
Expect to see store layouts change drastically by Q3 2020. What does a change in store layout look like?
- Wider aisles
- Reduced seating
- Sanitation stations
- Intelligent self-serve products that are designed to speed up service and decrease time spent in store.
Although the layouts and seating/communal spaces will likely go back to pre-pandemic standards after the end of the pandemic, the use of intelligent products in the store to automate customer service for those customers who value fast service, will remain.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, helping customers was primarily about guiding them toward finding the products and services they wanted. Now, customer support looks more like part of an end to end journey, as focus for in-store will be on speed over quality.
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 the sale and upsell add-on products for additional revenue.
So, what will that look like?
In-store support shifts to online support
As we move out into a “new normal,” sales reps will be spread across both digital and in-store placements. The focus will be to assist the customer as much as possible online and only use the in-store time to complete the sale.
The question a lot of people are asking is: will the shift to online go away after COVID-19?
I don’t think it will.
As I’ve written in a part one, customer behavior will shift long term as online engagement and online shopping for wireless products becomes habitual. Consumers have had to shift their buying patterns during lockdown, long enough realize the convenience of making online purchases. So, having online support to support that shift just makes sense to support a newly formed habit.
It’s also cost efficient since sales associates online can serve many more customers than in store. And still can drive customers to the nearest store to pick up their device, satisfy the customer’s need to touch and feel the device, and satisfy the retailers need to gain add-on revenue from additional purchases made in store.
In the short term, we’re already seeing initiatives for appointment-based retail. For example through Verizon’s Touchless Retail initiative, the online customer support will be used to ease the transition for the customer back into the store, for the next few quarters, while social distancing will limit the number of customers in store. This will be accomplished through eCommerce platforms that will match up employee scheduling data, with appointments setting, to limit the number of customers as well as sales associates in the store.
Although appointment setting will not be as crucial post-pandemic, the convenience from the customer’s perspective of knowing a sales associate is there and ready to help, with the information given before-hand, may in fact be enough to maintain demand for customer appointments.
Wireless transactions can take a long time, as we all know, and any opportunity to decrease customer frustration and keep them coming to the store, should be taken. What’s more is the increased efficiency in employee scheduling. And with those efficiencies gained, and per Shoptalk’s Retail Framework for COVID-19 in the coming years, we can expect some real advancements in employee scheduling technology.
The new wireless store experience
Wireless carriers led the COVID-19 response with a brand-forward, customer-centric response, through waiving fees for data overage, and changing up messaging to customers to be community focused. Now in the path to the reemergence of retail, carriers have the opportunity to continue that customer-centric approach by ensuring the customer’s return to the store is smooth and as safe as possible.
Want to learn more about how iQmetrix is enabling a smooth transition to the store with appointments-setting capabilities for our wireless clients?