4 Ways Online Appointments and Tech Can Shape Retail’s Future


It has only been several months, but donning masks and socially distancing at the mall have quickly become our new normal. While our previous way of shopping may not be gone forever, no one knows exactly what the next year or two holds. What we do know is that for the near future, no company — particularly those in retail — can afford to continue operating under a “business as usual” mantra.

According to new research from Engine Insights, 62% of consumers are willing to visit a brick-and-mortar store upon reopening as of Aug. 21-23. While almost half of consumers are feeling ready, they are still slightly anxious about getting back to in-store shopping, amidst continued health concerns, new social distancing rules and in-store capacity parameters. 

For retailers, the real challenge is ensuring their customers feel safe when returning to stores. To gain the confidence of consumers, many new measures need to be put in place. These times call for flexibility, adaptation and rethinking what it means to serve your customers.

There are four core things that all companies — particularly retailers — will have to do: 

1. Control crowds in brick-and-mortar locations

When stores reopen, people will need to maintain socially-distancing, but how do you guarantee safety for your customers? By managing the number of visitors on the floor at once.

Every country, region and state have different takes on what that occupancy limit should be. Technologies that enable footfall management can help retailers control how many visitors are allowed in-store at one time, and customers can schedule their visit slots in advance. This eliminates waiting in line outside of a store, allowing crowd control without the lines. It also leaves retailers the time to sanitize between customers.

2. Make more processes digital

Every retailer is scrambling to develop a more robust e-commerce business model right now, and accelerate their digital transformation. But to rise above the rest, you have to do more than shift to an online model — you also have to tweak your services that can’t be delivered online, so that they can be delivered safely.

If you sell goods, you know that not every purchase works with a delivery delay. If you sell services, you know that not every service works remotely. You can address both of these challenges with click-and-collect technology enabling customers to buy online and pickup in-store, or curbside and virtual queuing so that no one has to wait in an actual line to be served.

3. Reach customers through remote appointments and virtual events

For those services that can be delivered remotely, you will want to integrate with your existing virtual conferencing software or better yet integrate your own fully-native voice and video feature through a remote connection, in order to go virtual. This will enable you to hold 1:1 appointments, broadcast live events that include registrations, reminders, follow-up communication and the ability to showcase specific product pages in an event livestream, bringing your attendees to their product of interest with just a single click. 

4. Plan for the next generation

Lastly, it's crucial to have more than "now" in mind — you also have to plan for the next generation. And we don’t mean the next generation of COVID-19: We mean the next generation of customers. After months of social isolation, your future customers are going to expect different things than they do now.

The ability for a company to create personalized experiences through technology — experiences that make their customers feel connected, understood, and cared for — will be the next great brand differentiator.

John Federman is CEO of JRNI, a company designed to facilitate powerful personalized experiences that increase conversion and revenue, customer loyalty, and lifetime value, both in person and remotely. 

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