The COVID-19 outbreak has transformed retail. The pandemic has accelerated business transformation and changed customer behaviour. In a recent survey of supermarket shoppers, 27% said that they made fewer trips, while 34% said they had increased their weekly spend. People are doing bigger, less frequent shops in order to reduce their chance of exposure.
Customers now prefer an omnichannel shopping experience. This year has seen a huge rise in the use of Click & Collect and other BOPIS (Buy Online, Pay In Store) services. 80% of UK retailers now offer a Click & Collect service, an increase of 32% from 2019. The Click & Collect market is expected to be worth £9.6 billion by 2022, suggesting that this trend will continue long after the pandemic is over.
What does this mean for Christmas?
Christmas is a vital sales period for retailers. Nothing is certain at the moment, but the outlook for the high street is cautiously optimistic. Despite the financial uncertainty of the pandemic, 43% of UK shoppers plan to spend more than usual this Christmas. John Lewis has already reported a huge increase in sales of Christmas lights and Christmas hampers, suggesting that people have no intention of letting the festive spirit wane. It could be that, after such a tough year, Christmas celebrations have taken on an even greater importance for many.
It seems that safety concerns have encouraged many consumers to start their Christmas shopping early. A survey of UK shoppers in August found that 27% planned to shop earlier to avoid crowds. Retail sales grew by 6.1% in September, suggesting that these customers have stayed true to their word.
Many stores also made an effort to spread out the Christmas rush by starting their sales early. John Lewis opened its Christmas stores on the 25th of September and Waitrose began stocking festive items on 10th of September. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) also released a series of adverts in October, encouraging shoppers not to leave it too late.
Shop Early, Start Wrapping, Enjoy Christmas! Beat the rush this year and get your Christmas shopping done early so that everyone has the space they need to stay safe and deliver the magic of #Christmas! pic.twitter.com/uqrHr77kH3
— The British Retail Consortium (@the_brc) October 30, 2020
Streamline Click & Collect
We can still expect a busy December. The UK was put into a four-week lockdown at short notice, meaning that many who planned to shop in November will have to wait until December. With a high footfall likely, customer safety will be paramount. Every retailer will implement its own safety measures, and there are ways that communication technology can help:
Click & Collect will be a major part of this year’s Christmas shopping experience, with 47% of shoppers planning to split their purchases between eCommerce sites and physical locations. Customers favour Click & Collect because it reduces the amount of time they spend in-store.
VoCoVo streamlines Click & Collect with Call Points. These can be placed on your Click & Collect desk, allowing customers to request immediate assistance. Colleagues can respond to calls remotely via their headsets, and can contact the stockroom straight away to find out if an order has arrived.
This doesn’t just reduce waiting times. It also facilitates social distancing by allowing colleagues to deal with inquiries from afar. Call points allow you to leave Click & Collect desks unmanned. This reduces overcrowding further by removing colleagues from these areas until they are needed.
Train colleagues remotely
Many stores prepare for the Christmas rush by taking on temporary team members. In order to keep customers safe, newer colleagues will need to be thoroughly trained in the latest COVID-19 measures. Traditionally, newer colleagues would shadow more experienced team members in order to learn the ropes. But with social distancing guidelines still firmly in place, this is less practical than usual.
Our headsets solve this problem by providing a direct channel of communication between newer and more experienced colleagues. Newer colleagues can ask for help whenever they need it, and receive an immediate answer from an expert. This reduces the risk of newer colleagues making mistakes because there’s nobody around to help them. It also increases efficiency as experienced colleagues can get on with tasks while training newer colleagues remotely.
Keeping an eye on the future
Shoppers will remember the companies who went the extra mile during the pandemic. By prioritising the safety of your customers this Christmas, you can gain their loyalty for years to come.