COVID-19 has turned virtually every aspect of our lives upside down. Yet the paramount importance of the
consumer experience in retail has remained unchanged â€“ if not grown in importance â€“ as retailers look to
implement safety protocols for employees and customers while offering an engaging in-store brand
experience that addresses rapidly shifting consumer behaviour and expectations. As the economy continues
to re-open to varying degrees, retailers have taken the health and safety of consumers and employees
extremely seriously, ensuring shoppers see and experience a safe in-store environment â€“ a critical
driver of traffic, conversion, and a confident consumer mindset.
While necessary contactless retail driven by health and safety precautions may be the new normal, there
is also significant opportunity for retailers who not only want to survive, but thrive. Contactless
innovation has, perhaps unsurprisingly, grown an estimated 20% since the start of the pandemic
acceleration of what likely would have happened across the industry over the next few years.
Verizon is an example of a company that has seen the opportunity in contactless innovation (disclosure:
Verizon is an OR client). With a commitment to making the consumer experience as contactless as
possible, the company has accelerated augmented reality and digital payment kiosks, and has launched
Verizon Visa - a dedicated credit card that, among other things, allows users to add to the credit card
to their mobile wallets for digital, contactless-use. Verizon has also moved to an online appointments
system for its stores and created a co-browsing system that links employeesâ€™ Verizon tablets to
customersâ€™ phones to allow for a seamless, contactless shopping experience.
As retailers rethink and redefine the in-store contactless shopping experience, five things can help
1. Engage consumers prior to arriving in-store
Proactively letting customers know about safety measures put in place, new or updated processes, and
enhancements to merchandising theyâ€™ll experience once in-store will ensure they know what to expect
while building connection and trust. Doing so will send a message to consumers that their time is
valuable, their safety is important, and the customer experience will remain strong â€“ all before they
step foot in a store.
2. Leverage data to personalize the in-store experience
As stores go contactless and shoppers spend less time in-store browsing, personalized experiences will
become even more critical to fostering brand loyalty and driving conversion. Consumersâ€™ time in-store
needs to be time well spent. Platforms such as OR gather, analyze, and integrate data to create
store-specific profiles which allow retailers to tailor smarter store design, go-to-market strategies,
and campaign execution.
3. Optimize store operations
As retailers adjust to a new contactless normal, many are looking for operational efficiencies at the
store level. The drop in consumer spending experienced at the outset of the pandemic, coupled with the
investment required to make stores contactless, means identifying both revenue drivers and cost
efficiencies can make or break retailers. Platformâ€™s like OR can have a significant impact on the bottom
line â€“ a study found that OR contributes between 3% and 8% over five years to top line revenue and
drives significant cost savings from reductions in print spending, localized printing, storage and more.
The platformâ€™s workforce management module also helps identify labour-related cost savings by providing
insight into level of effort (LOE) that increases productivity and reduces non-sellable hours.
4. Empower the front line
For years retailers have prioritized the front line, recognizing the role they play in bringing a brand
to life in-store and fostering brand loyalty. The global pandemic, however, has elevated the importance
of the front line more than ever before. As stores go contactless, employees should be armed with
knowledge, training and messages that allow them to meaningfully engage with customers in a way that
keeps them coming back.
5. Learn and evolve
With the pandemic not yet over, there may still be a lot to learn about consumer preferences and habits.
Samâ€™s Club is an example of a company that has evolved their curbside offering to meet demand based on
an opportunity they saw to better serve their customers â€“ Curbside Concierge gives seniors and those
that are immunocompromised the opportunity to shop from their car and have a Samâ€™s Club employee pick
their items â€“ often based on a handwritten list. As consumer needs and preferences evolve, so too should
COVID-19 has accelerated our contactless retail future, and touch-free technology will undoubtedly drive
the future. Check-in apps that allow retailers to contact trace if needed will likely become the norm,
and new contactless technology will continue to be explored such as 7-Elevenâ€™s pilot of a new payment
option for iPhone owners that would allow them to use Siri to pay for gas from their car using only
While retailers face todayâ€™s challenge of implementing strict health and safety measures while providing
a superior and memorable in-store experience, retail leaders shouldnâ€™t lose sight of the many
opportunities facing them as well. Strategic retailers are gaining a competitive advantage by optimizing
their store operations and offering a personalized, innovative, and safe in-store experience.