At the height of COVID-19, almost half of humanity was under some form of lockdown. People were forced to work from home, learn from home and shop from home.
In the retail industry, online shopping globally surged during the pandemic to the tune of $26.7 trillion USD. Consumers bought everything online because it was essential. But shopping online also showed its benefits, being fast, easy, convenient and personalized. It provides access to a slew of product details and information which may not be readily available in a physical store. It puts the customer in control.
With the pandemic on the wane, there’s an implied expectation that people will continue to shop online because of the aforementioned factors. Consumers would simply eschew in-store shopping because it’s so limiting and cumbersome. But that isn’t the case.
In-store shopping is thriving and has bounced back almost 14% compared to pre-pandemic levels. While it’s not an even 50/50 split, 57% of consumers prefer to shop online and 44% prefer to shop in-store.
People like online shopping because of its speed, ease and convenience. However, people also want to shop in-store because it’s a social, fun and kinesthetic experience. It’s up to the retail industry to ensure the technology people are accustomed to online is also available at the in-store locations they want to visit.
Offer Buy Online Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS)
One of the great benefits of online shopping is after a customer places an order, shortly thereafter, it is waiting for them at their doorstep.
If waiting for delivery (only 26% of retailers actually offer same-day delivery) or paying for it (45% of consumers abandon an online shopping cart once their order does not qualify for free shipping) are not options, the in-store equivalent is BOPIS. This is where customers place an order online and picks it up in store when it’s convenient for them – such as coming to and from work or while running errands. BOPIS gained popularity during the pandemic and is preferred by 72% of consumers for its convenience. In fact, 35% of shoppers would use BOPIS more if retailers made it a permanent option.
Despite its popularity during the pandemic, only 44% of top retailers offered BOPIS or a curbside pickup option by October 2020.
FOR FURTHER READINGCurbside Pickup: A Post-COVID Competitive Advantage
Offer In-Store Technology
At the height of the pandemic, the thought of walking around, browsing and asking store associates for product information wasn’t an option. It was get in, get what you want and get out – as quickly as possible and with little to no interaction with retail employees.
Now, people are ready and more comfortable shopping in-store. What remains from the pandemic is the desire for limited contact with store associates. This is achieved through technology such as:
- Handheld scanners
- Smart shopping carts
- Self-serve checkout kiosks located across a store
- Retail robotics that provide personalized answers, discounts and information relevant to the shopper
People are returning to in-person shopping because of the desire to touch and feel items. Scanners, self-serve kiosks and similar technology bring the e-commerce experience of tapping and swiping into the store and give consumers control over how they shop.
Provide More Information on Item Availability
From a customer perspective, product availability is paramount. Whether online or in-store, they want to know the item they’re ready to purchase is in stock BEFORE they buy. However, the retail supply chain crisis made this infeasible at times, which impacted 85% of retail brands:
- 50% of brands have run out of stock
- As noted in From Clicks to Ships: Navigating the Global Supply Chain Crisis, 40% of shoppers say the items they wanted to purchase have not been available at all
- 33% of customers have switched brands to ensure they get the items they want faster and cheaper
Retail supply chain crisis or not, if customers are shopping online, they want to know where their order is always. If they’re buying in person, they want to see fully stocked shelves. If they don’t see fully stocked shelves, they want to know when the items they want will be in stock again.
FOR FURTHER READINGHow Retailers Can Use Mobile Technology to Thrive During the Global Supply Chain Crisis
The Future of Technology and the Retail Industry
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology’s role in retail was to make shopping fast, easy, safe and personalized. As people return to in-store shopping, technology’s role is...exactly the same.
Inside a store, people still want to shop quickly and conveniently. They still want to shop in a safe environment. They still want personalized information served up at a moment’s notice. Most importantly, they want products to be available when they want them.
Because if they don’t get it, they’ll switch retailers. Technology is there to ensure that doesn’t happen because when it does, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than simply keeping an existing customer happy. That’s a cost no retail business wants to incur.