While there was once a sort of magic when receiving a package in the mail, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this experience much more commonplace and lackluster. People have gone over a year without normal in-person interactions, even those as simple as smiling at someone at the grocery store or receiving specialized customer service in retail locations. This absence has increased the need for in-store shopping now more than ever.
Keeping technology at the forefront
While before the pandemic brick-and-mortar stores seemed to be at odds with their ecommerce-only counterparts, worldwide lockdown has pushed for omnichannel experiences like curbside and in-store pickup services. As our society transitions into a new post-pandemic normal, technology must stay a key component linking in-person and online shopping together. In 2021, customers demand an omnichannel shopping experience where they can choose what functions are done online and in-person. This is why there must be seamless integration between online shopping and in-store technology, including kiosks and click-and-collect.
More solutions include:
- Self check-out
- Curbside pickup
- Buy online/pickup in store (BOPIS)
- Smart vending machines
Making the checkout process quick and simple
Buyers must face the internal battle of the desire for shopping to be a fast in-and-out process while also reaping the benefits of positive social situations. Shoppers are used to simply adding items to their cart online and checking out, especially after this being the safest option during lockdown. It is important to keep this process easy so people can experience the missed in-store interaction while avoiding long lines to check out.
Multiple retailers have already started using this system, with the Sam’s Club Scan & Go checkout system being at the forefront. This approach gives customers the choice of having a social interaction with a cashier, using a self-checkout kiosk or scanning with a mobile app.
Remind customers of in-store shopping value
The role of in-store sales associates will also need to ramp up to reiterate the value of an in-store experience. Shoppers would otherwise not see the benefit of going to the location over ordering online. The experience can be heightened for customers by having sales associates become brand experts on the products they sell. This way buyers look forward to coming in and having a positive interaction when they try out beauty products, learn more about a laptop’s features or shop for a new vehicle.
Retailers can also encourage a happy reunion by inviting customers in-store using coupons and email campaigns advertising special events that can only truly be experienced in person. This includes an increase of “we missed you” messaging to welcome customers back post-pandemic.
In the meantime?
Immersive technology solutions have allowed shoppers to have a personalized shopping experience from the safety of their homes. Video-first retail technology platform Go Instore has partnered with some of the world’s biggest brands to provide this service and has seen a 500 percent increase in sessions since the pandemic. Buyers simply jump on a video call and are connected with a live, in-store product expert to create a hybrid shopping experience.
While one could see this virtual shopping experience as only a bridge back to the world’s new normal, technology trends don’t show the demand for an omnichannel experience going anywhere.
Another way businesses are staying virtually connected to shoppers is meeting them in their natural habitats. Contextual commerce is the art of engaging with customers while they are doing something else and offering a convenient point-of-sale without the pain points of a traditional retail structure. It is also about lowering the barrier to purchase. Examples of contextual commerce include:
- Your smart refrigerator seeing you are out of eggs and ordering more online
- Receiving location-specific recommendations while you are shopping
- Augmented and virtual reality shopping to see items in your home
- Ordering groceries via Google Assistant
- Shopping through Instagram posts
Interested in how you can improve your retail experience for shoppers? Check out our technology services and let us handle the rest.