Like nearly every other aspect of life in 2020, holiday shopping will be different this year. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns are forcing people all over the world to adapt their holiday traditions, travel and gatherings in ways big and small — even as small as a trip to the grocery store to pick-up a few essential items.
When it comes to shopping, consumers are still eager to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones; however, they’re growing increasingly reluctant to wait in long lines, are significantly more mindful and deliberate about safety measures and will seek to maximize control over their holiday shopping journeys. As a result, retailers must be flexible and prepared for all scenarios, bridging both physical and online worlds together this holiday season.
Contactless payments, online ordering, mobile scanning and curbside pickups are all examples of low-touch ways to conduct shopping and play a key role in providing shoppers the degree of control they desire. Solutions like self-checkout can also enhance COVID-19 safety measures by helping to facilitate social distancing and minimize direct contact between customers and staff.
That being said, in the absence of an associate serving as a buffer between the shopper and any system issues, it is critical for retailers to ensure a seamless, in-store experience from start to finish this holiday season. In order to facilitate successful consumer journeys, retailers must embrace flexibility and adopt an “always on” approach.
Empowering consumers with flexible shopping journeys
The global pandemic has forced retailers to be more flexible in order to ensure the safety of staff members and consumers. As public health measures continue to change, consumers require a range of shopping journeys — they shop in stores and online; they make purchases using a variety of payment methods; and they take advantage of convenient offerings like curbside pickup, delivery or self-checkout.
As a result, their loyalty to retailers can shift quickly when a particular shopping experience falls short of their expectations. Flexibility facilitated by technology plays an important role in ensuring that shopping journeys deliver what matters to consumers this holiday season.
According to the recent Nielsen International Grocery Shopper and Technology Survey, commissioned by Diebold Nixdorf, respondents expressed interest in solutions that could help alleviate everyday shopping annoyances like waiting in line at the checkout counter or trying to buy an item that is currently out of stock. Seventy-seven percent of shoppers indicated they would prefer to self-scan their purchases in order to leave the store more quickly, and 65% indicated they would opt for self-service if their baskets hold fewer than five items.
Consumers crave flexibility in their journeys. Retailers that offer flexible shopping journeys, particularly during peak shopping times, will be more appealing to consumers seeking both safety and convenience.
Maintaining an “always on” approach in-store
Flexibility isn’t just limited to a successful consumer journey or a successful retail strategy — it extends to the staff as well. Stores remain dependent on staff members to replenish, service and check-out consumers. Implementing a variety of self-service solutions offers retailers the added benefit of empowering staff to do more higher value-added work to enhance the shopping experience.
For example, a staff member can leverage technology to monitor and manage self-service devices remotely so that they can anticipate or quickly respond to any malfunctioning devices.
Staff members can also use a mobile, self-help app that leverages AI to self-resolve incidents 24/7 using a built-in, virtual assistant to leverage the same knowledge and intelligent decision trees used by field service engineers. This helps reduce time to resolve issues by eliminating the need to dispatch a field service engineer.
Apps like these can reduce the retailer’s total cost of ownership while increasing self-service solutions’ availability to consumers. In order to ensure that consumers’ desired journeys and solutions are “always on,” retailers should also ensure that staff is “always on” as well by equipping their team members with tools to aid self-resolution and facilitate tailor-made experiences in-store that really make a difference.
Tapping into “always on” support systems
Beyond simply installing self-service equipment or training store staff to facilitate smooth consumer journeys, it’s critical that the equipment is readily available — at all times — whether it’s self-service, POS or staffed-checkout. Any downtime, especially during the busy holiday season, can cause a massive loss of revenue for a retailer. To achieve a state of “always on” for self-service solutions, retailers need to structure and manage support for the technology in their stores. In many cases, this involves implementing remote and/or proactive support services.
Remote monitoring and support allow issues to be identified and interruptions to be fixed more quickly, significantly increasing the overall availability of in-store solutions to consumers. Proactive support boosts store efficiency, not only by resolving issues before they occur, but also by reducing or eliminating time-consuming, troubleshooting tasks that must be performed by staff when customers encounter interruptions in-store.
By working closely with technology providers to ensure that all service tickets are closed before the peak days start, and service engineers are available around the clock with a broad inventory of parts available, retailers can ensure “always-on” store operations.
The 2020 holiday shopping season poses a number of challenges to retailers, but it also offers new opportunities to empower and delight consumers by offering flexible shopping journeys and seamless solutions when they matter most. Successful retailers will leverage a variety of self-service solutions and deliver an “always on” approach to grant customers much-desired control over their shopping experiences this holiday season and beyond.
Lynn Beattie is director, retail strategy, at Diebold Nixdorf.