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Five Ways to Maximize the Contactless In-Store Experience

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 – if not grown in importance – 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 – 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 – an 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 employees’ Verizon tablets to customers’ phones to allow for a seamless, contactless shopping experience.

As retailers rethink and redefine the in-store contactless shopping experience, five things can help ensure success:

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 they’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 – 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. Consumers’ 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. Platform’s like OR can have a significant impact on the bottom line – 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 platform’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. Sam’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 – Curbside Concierge gives seniors and those that are immunocompromised the opportunity to shop from their car and have a Sam’s Club employee pick their items – often based on a handwritten list. As consumer needs and preferences evolve, so too should retailers.

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-Eleven’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 their voice.

While retailers face today’s challenge of implementing strict health and safety measures while providing a superior and memorable in-store experience, retail leaders shouldn’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.
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