The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed customer behaviour, strengthening existing trends and ushering in new ones. 2020 may have been the most disruptive year in the history of modern retail.
Some of these changes are temporary, but others will last long after the pandemic is over. To succeed in 2021, we must be willing to embrace them. Here are three retail trends to look out for this year:
1. Hygiene remains vital
For obvious reasons, in-store hygiene became paramount in 2020. Social distancing and handwashing have become second nature, and we have all become hyper-aware of shopping situations that feel unsafe. This is now a key factor in consumer decisions:
- Nearly half of all shoppers say that the enforcement of safety measures is the most important factor in deciding whether to return to a store.
- 47% base their shopping decisions on whether a store enforces the wearing of masks.
- Over a third will only shop at a store with adequate social distancing signage.
Even after the pandemic, these behaviours are likely to persist:
- 68.5% of Brits now wear a facemask whenever they are out in public. This is up from just 7.8% in March 2020. This habit is likely to continue after we have eradicated the virus. We may see the same normalisation of mask-wearing that occurred in East Asia after the SARS outbreak.
2. Safety goes high-tech
In-store safety measures had to be basic at first. Floor markers and queuing signs became a common sight in 2020. However, now that safety is set to become a long-term customer priority, shops will be willing to invest in more sophisticated solutions:
- 58% of shoppers are more likely to use contactless payment as a result of the pandemic. Stores will need to support digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Android Pay in order to stay relevant.
- Virtual fitting rooms will use AR and VR technology to allow shoppers to try on clothes remotely.
- Inspired by Amazon’s cashierless stores, retailers will aim to create a touchless checkout experience. This could be achieved using a combination of contactless payments, QR codes and customer cards on file. A recent survey found that a third of customers would switch to a supermarket that offered these options.
3. Omnichannel becomes the norm
2020 was the year when the distinction between eCommerce and bricks and mortar disappeared. From buying online and collecting in-store (BOPIS) to engaging with customer services via social media, customers have grown to expect a seamless omnichannel experience:
- The average consumer now uses 6 touchpoints when buying an item, compared to just 2 in 2006.
- Two-thirds of purchases now begin on a smartphone.
- 64% of customers expect immediate assistance across all channels.
- 87% of customers think that stores need to work harder to provide a seamless cross-channel experience.
This may sound like the customer is asking a lot, but the benefits of embracing an omnichannel approach are undeniable:
- Companies who prioritise omnichannel engagement retain 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for those who don’t.
- The lifetime value of an omnichannel customer is 30% higher than that of a single channel consumer.
Simply having an online presence won’t be enough in 2021. In order to make the most of the shift to omnichannel, you will need to:
- Have a well-designed app that is linked to your other services. This should allow customers to check stock levels and make purchases to collect in store. You can also integrate rewards and bonuses into the app in order to retain customer loyalty.
- Respond to social media queries quickly and in a consistent tone of voice. See every interaction as a chance to build a relationship with your customers.
- Be mindful of your online reviews. 93% of customers base their purchasing decisions on these. Try to engage (politely) with customers who leave negative reviews and see if there’s a way to improve their experience.
VoCoVo: helping you to embrace the future
Whether 2021 follows our predictions or throws us another curveball, things are easier with VoCoVo in your corner. Our equipment is designed to create a frictionless customer service experience, making life easier for colleagues and customers alike:
- Headsets and Call Points facilitate social distancing. Customers can call for help remotely and colleagues can answer their queries from anywhere in the store.
- Headsets allow you to respond to overcrowding by calling for help when queues start to build.
- Keypads speed up the checkout process by allowing colleagues to insert and resolve queries without having to leave the till.
- VoCoVo allows you to match online service in-store. Call Points allow Click & Collect customers to pick up items without queueing and integrated telephony means that you’ll never miss a customer call.