The telecom industry was put under immense pressure to provide quick solutions to the newly emerging retail pain points COVID-19 caused. The landscape underwent a fundamental change such that simply reopening doors, once it was safe to do so, was not enough. Today, the customer experience is even more important than ever before. Retailers have to be mindful of not just a customer’s needs and wants for products, but for the methods in which they prefer to purchase. COVID has forced a widening of retail channels, providing customers with every opportunity to shop, no matter what their preference is.
So, what can retailers do to meet rising expectations?
The answer is in omnichannel. What once may have just meant ‘e-commerce’ now envelopes an entire world of purchase possibility as omnichannel incorporates essential methods of retailing that are beyond the traditional.
Omnichannel solutions like buy online, pick-up in-store; reserve online, pick-up in-store; buy online, return in-store; curb-side pick-up; e-commerce; queue management; and anything in between is now a part of the omnichannel suite of solutions. Whether it’s return, buy, or pay, making it happen anywhere is the name of the omnichannel game.
Now, with a need for alternative purchase avenues at an all-time high, these retail opportunities have proven their worth. Understanding what practices are going to stick and which will evolve into a “new normal” is essential for entering the post-COVID era with confidence.
- Adaptation to Omnichannel Experience is Key
- Moving into the Future of Telecom with Omnichannel Solutions
- Consideration 1: Open Purchase Channels Create Possibility
- Consideration 2: Stores as Fulfillment Centers
- Consideration 3: Customer Centricity
- Consideration 4: Essential Employees
- Omnichannel Retail is What’s Next
Adaptation to Omnichannel Experience is Key
COVID-19 shook up the retail world to its core, and as a result, telecom businesses were forced to adapt— fast. Technologies that were once considered a “nice to have” became a pivotal piece of staying in business. Online platforms, alternative retailing, and flexible, touchless transactions are “must-haves.”
But now that the social distancing practices are honed and new methods of retailing have been implemented to meet customer expectations, it’s time to think about what’s next.
But where should retailers begin? It’s not just stores that have changed but consumer expectations, purchase patterns, browsing frequency, and channel considerations have also shifted due to this pandemic. Some of these changes are new, and some have been lingering in the retail background waiting to be added into store processes.
Powering a connected experience in telecom retail means the customer can shop with your business how, when, and where they want without having to turn to a competitor. The process should be seamless regardless of the platform, and the experience should feel the same. Solutions that enable cross-functional and crossplatform selling should include advanced reporting, transparent vendor and inventory management, a lightning-fast point-of-sale, and a customer relationship manager that keeps you connected. It’s these unified omnichannel experiences that build loyal relationships between consumers and your brand by managing and meeting the expectations they have.
Moving into the Future of Telecom with Omnichannel Solutions
Wireless retailers have shown what they’re made of. They’ve adapted to the unknown and are ready to take on the challenges of the post-COVID future.
But there’s a lot to consider: what does your timeline look like? What budget can be allocated where? What updates and additions are a must-have and what can wait until some normalcy returns?
While there’s no right answer, it’s important to consider all the avenues your business can take and strategically map its triumphant return. Leveraging digital omnichannel solutions in every corner of your business.
Here are 5 considerations for implementing an omnichannel retail strategy:
Consideration 1: Open Purchase Channels Create Possibility
Buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS); buy online, return in-store; and reserve online, pick-up in-store (ROPIS) are three incredibly efficient ways of wireless retailing whose usefulness will extend far into the post-COVID era. With approximately 83% of consumers saying they would prefer to return to the physical store to make purchases, BOPIS, BORIS, and ROPIS are a great step in meeting customer demands while keeping everyone safe. Not only are they useful in providing safety, but they also open up retailing avenues for consumers to shop exactly how they want.
And we can’t forget about the “anywhere” options. With retailing being stifled by COVID restrictions, opening avenues of convenience will go a long way to continued patronage from your consumers. Buy, return, and pay anywhere options ensure customers can get the products they need when and where it’s easiest for them to do so.
Buy anywhere: Whether they’re most comfortable in-store, online, or a through a combination of both, opening purchase pathways keeps customers buying from your store.
Return anywhere: A customer may buy online or purchase from another location but come to their usual wireless retailer (that’s you!) to return an item. Taking returns not originally purchased at your exact location goes a long way towards building customer loyalty and creating a positive experience.
Pay anywhere: An emerging offering, the ability to pay for a purchase anywhere is an essential piece of the “new omnichannel.” No matter where a customer purchases, pay anywhere bridges quells concerns customers have of physical retail in the time of a pandemic. They can pick up their purchase in person and pay through a link texted or emailed to their mobile device.
The “anywhere” mentality reduces contact points (and thus, COVID transfer concerns) while enabling an even more touchless retail experience. Supporting social distancing efforts protects store employees and shoppers alike— especially the immunocompromised ones. Retail can now truly happen from anywhere and implementing future-focused “anywhere” technologies showcases how serious telecom retailers are about supporting customers into the post-COVID reality.
Consideration 2: Stores as Fulfillment Centers
While e-commerce has proven itself as a powerful retail tool, the in-store experience is truly the best way to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Even the biggest of online retailers — think Amazon — will never be able to fulfill immediate delivery expectations like in-person businesses can. While one-day and even same-day shipping is incredibly fast, nothing beats a customer paying for an item and walking away from the transaction with their purchase in hand. A more robust integration between online offerings and in-store sales is the key to making physical store fulfilment possible.
32% of retailers enable BOPIS, and 75% of retailers enable buy online, return in-store. These are the emerging trends in omnichannel solutions that telecom retailers should be aware of. Leveraging the purchase trends and customer comments, gathered from your point of sale or retail management solution, can help stores predict what is needed in physical and virtual stock rooms without being left with too little or too much of any product. It is all about finding fulfilment balance. 76% of retailers pull from store inventory to complete online orders but that isn’t stopping them from implementing online to in-store alternatives in the next year — about 86% of retailers surveyed said this was the case.
Consideration 3: Customer Centricity
Telecom retail has always been customer first, but keeping expectations, perceptions, and feelings of shoppers in mind is not just important, it’s essential.
Instilling confidence in the in-store visit is now a vital role of wireless businesses. Activations, upgrades, and troubleshooting are just a few of the many services retailers offer that are much more effectively administered in person but if the customer is worried about physical retail, they won’t risk patronizing your business in these ways.
Right now, data shows that the ideal customer journey begins online, whether that be buying a product or booking an appointment to come in-store. This insight into how customers are changing is key to understanding how they’re feeling and what they need to return to your physical location. Part of this journey will include leveraging software to provide the safety and convenience your customer’s want.
Customers are looking for any reason to leave their homes, responsibly. So, the idea of coming into a telecom store to make a purchase is enticing, but a line outside a retailer’s door is a huge deterrent. Queue management helps stores manage expectations by lessening wait times. Just imagine the kind of experience your store could provide if a shopper were able to pick a time they’d like to wait in line, see estimated wait times, and remain socially distanced without losing their spot. ith a QR code for the customer to scan, they are connected to a queuing system that ensure the retailer makes time for that customer without making them physically wait in line. Through a queueing management software, retailers can add customers to a list and get in touch with them when it’s their time to come into the store. It satisfies the customer’s need for inperson support without overwhelming the store or causing painful lineups outside.
Consideration 4: Essential Employees
It’s likely that with the lessened foot traffic, your staffing needs have changed. COVID has forced wireless retailers to rethink what their in-store is going to look like and how employees are going to facilitate a great experience, even at a distance.
Telecom retail isn’t always a quick, in-and-out experience. Purchases in this category are often expensive and setup, renewal, or upgrades can take 30-minutes or more — it’s a complex industry with even more complicated transactions. But even if they’re in need of wireless services, customers won’t wait around forever so retailers are tasked with engaging customers even before they enter the store.
Mobile shopping is an offering that gives customers access to a proximity-based online store. It has all the offerings a telecom retailer has in-store, but there’s no need to have a sales associate present for the shopping experience. Combining mobile shopping with pay anywhere technology, a customer could process an entire transaction themselves and have an employee hand-deliver the item to their car or person— that immediate delivery is still possible without having to step in-store.
But omnichannel solutions can’t do all the heavy lifting alone. How you optimize employee skills and staffing levels will dictate how successful the first entry into post-COVID is for your business. Stop spending too much on staff when it’s not needed and start optimizing the well-honed skills of every employee to boost productivity, efficiency, and profits. Strategic staffing and appointment scheduling both are great ways to maximize your new in-store capacity.
Omnichannel Retail is What’s Next
With COVID-19, omnichannel has evolved to incorporate so many methods of retailing that will benefit telecom. The pandemic may have disrupted the wireless industry at large, but it also exposed gaps in process that were stopping retailers from becoming true leaders in the market. But with new solutions come further considerations for wireless businesses. Will e-commerce teams be pitted against in-store sales teams? How will front-line associates be compensated if sales are being completed online? Will goals be company-wide or location specific? Reporting will be essential to answering these questions and the insights pulled from comprehensive performance data will be the key to preparing staff and stores for the next normal.
The omnichannel solutions that were once deemed “nice to have” are what will now separate the success stories from the retailers who are getting by. Building a comprehensive digital strategy, supported with procedures aimed to optimize these new retail methods, will help telecom businesses prepare a future that remains deeply rooted in online offerings and customer-centricity.
iQmetrix provides intelligent retail management solutions designed to power telecom. With software built around enabling retailers to deliver an “anywhere” strategy through multi and omnichannel retail solutions, iQmetrix helps wireless retailers make data-driven decisions that will support them in the future of the industry. Passionate about helping leading brands in telecom grow, iQmetrix is ready to provide next-gen digital omnichannel solutions for retailers looking to thrive in the post-COVID retailing era.