The pandemic has introduced new rules to retail
Many retailers have already resigned themselves to the fact that things might take a very long time to get back to the way they used to be. Some of them have already started preparing for a completely different future. Before the pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores were already struggling against e-commerce players and the pandemic has made things even worse for these stores. Research has shown people will likely keep their shopping habits when the pandemic passes and this is why brick-and-mortar stores must start playing by new rules to keep up with e-commerce players.
Meeting Basic Expectations
At the very least, brick-and-mortar stores must comply with safety and health regulations to meet basic customer expectations. These include mandating the wearing of masks, enforcing physical distancing, using contactless payment options, introducing self-service options, and speeding up their services. Limiting the number of customers in the store to reduce the chances of infection and to reduce customers’ anxieties around being infected will also be hugely important. This is why businesses are encouraged to install storefront doors that make controlling the number of people in the store easier and that can be locked and unlocked easily to facilitate this.
In addition to meeting minimum customer expectations at their physical stores, retailers must also offer seamless e-commerce experiences. People have come to expect it and they are likely to continue doing so. Retailers must make it easier to browse for products, research them and select, purchase, return, or exchange them simply and conveniently.
Customers have also come to expect excellent digital shopping experiences, so retailers should ensure their online stores are mobile responsive, offer integrated services such as pick-up and delivery as well as ensure a seamless experience across all their sales channels, websites, and mobile apps.
Retailers have for decades offered special experiences and services in their stores to attract customers. Retailers know that holding special events, sales, and promotions makes customers spend more time in their stores and therefore end up spending more money.
Now, retailers have to rethink this strategy and come up with compelling and extraordinary services and experiences that would make customers risk getting out of their homes to visit a store for an extended period of time. Remember that the fears and anxieties surrounding getting infected are not going away for a lot of people for a long time and retailers have to understand this. In addition to giving people a justification to come to their stores, they have to also offer experiences that make people let go of the behaviors they have adopted and what they have come to expect from retailers, such as at-home deliveries.
One area where digital commerce beats physical commerce is its unlimited potential. There are many areas where retailers can take advantage of technology to offer better services – services they would not have been able to in physical stores. A good example is the use of social commerce to sell on social media while incorporating other digital aspects such as multimedia content, reviews and recommendations, peer and influencer support, gamification, and service or product personalization.
Things are unlikely to go back to the way they have always been in the retail space. Because of this, retailers must find ways of bridging the gap between their physical stores and digital stores to not only increase their revenue online, but to also attract customers to their physical stores and increase their revenue there.