After the toughest year in retail history, the end is finally in sight. Non-essential stores are expected to reopen on the 12th April, and customers are keen to get back to the high street. But how will these customers behave when they return?
The pandemic is bound to have triggered some permanent changes in consumer priorities. The more you know about what your customers want, the easier it will be to adapt. That’s why we interviewed consumers from the UK and the USA about their post-pandemic shopping plans. From social distancing to omnichannel shopping, these are the customer experience trends that matter in 2021.
1. Prioritise safety
The idea of retail as a dangerous environment would have seemed ludicrous at the start of 2020. Sadly though, it is now only too real. Although the vaccination programme should help to calm these fears, some anxieties are likely to remain. Our survey shows that safety will be at the forefront of customers’ minds when stores reopen:
- 39% of shoppers will leave a store that isn’t adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- A third of these customers will never return.
- 43% say that a lack of social distancing is their biggest shopping frustration.
For customers to feel comfortable in your store, you will have to show them that you care about their safety. This is where we can help:
- Headsets encourage social distancing by allowing colleagues to communicate remotely.
- Call Points allow customers to ask for help without having to get close to colleagues.
- Headsets can be integrated with self-service checkouts, allowing you to authorise purchases from a distance.
- Smart CCTV cameras can be linked to headsets to alert colleagues when an area is becoming crowded.
2. Provide a seamless omnichannel experience
The pandemic has permanently blurred the boundaries between online and in-store shopping. Click & Collect has become a lifeline for thousands of customers who are keen to minimise time spent in stores. In-store returns for online purchases have also become increasingly common, as has turning to social media for customer support. Our survey shows that this behaviour is likely to continue after the pandemic:
- 52% of consumers will shop both online and in-store for fashion products.
- 49% will do the same for electronics and home appliances.
- Most customers will continue to do their grocery shopping in store, but 31% will do at least half of it online.
The modern customer thinks nothing of switching between channels on their way to making a purchase. 73% of consumers now shop across multiple channels, while 85% regularly start a purchase on one device and finish it on another. In order to keep these customers happy, you need to make this process as smooth as possible. A key part of this is bringing your in-store service into line with your online service. This is where VoCoVo shines:
- Call Points allow Click & Collect customers to check if their order has arrived without queuing.
- Colleagues can contact the stockroom via their headsets to check on the status of online orders.
3. Improve colleague knowledge
Technology has given customers access to a wealth of information about your products. Consumers are better informed than ever, and they are keen to do their own research before making a purchase. Our survey found that 23% of shoppers will research a product online before purchasing it in store, and 42% will use their phone to do research while they are shopping.
This puts you in a precarious position. Customers expect correct information, and they will become frustrated if colleagues can’t deliver:
- 82% of customers feel that they sometimes have more knowledge about products than colleagues.
- When this happens, 21% will leave the store to do their own research.
- 12% of shoppers cited a lack of knowledge amongst colleagues as their top frustration.
In order to retain these customers, colleagues must have immediate access to accurate information. This is another area where VoCoVo can help:
- Headsets allow newer colleagues to request information at the push of a button.
- Our conference feature allows you to set up separate channels for specific areas of knowledge. Colleagues can select the relevant channel and contact an in-store expert.
- Our message casting feature allows you to send updates to all colleagues at the same time without having to call a meeting.
4. The need for speed
The days of retail therapy are not completely behind us. Our survey shows that 16% of customers are looking forward to shopping socially with friends and family. For many though, the priority will be getting in and out of the store as quickly as possible.
Even before the pandemic, customers were impatient when it came to queuing. A 2015 report found that 86% of shoppers would avoid a store with a long queue, and 70% would be reluctant to return to a store that had kept them waiting. With safety concerns now added to the mix, customers are even less willing to wait:
- 24% of UK shoppers say that queueing at the checkout is the most frustrating part of in-store shopping.
- 25% would be more likely to return to stores if service was faster.
VoCoVo is designed to eliminate friction at every turn, so that you can serve more customers in less time:
- Keypads allow checkout colleagues to call for assistance without leaving their position. Tasks such as replacing a till roll or replenishing change can be carried out without holding up the queue.
- Headsets let you authorise self-service purchases with a single voice command.
2021 will be a make or break year for retailers. With a little help from VoCoVo, you can be sure to rise to the challenge.