Hands Off! 4 Ways COVID-19 Has Ushered In Touchless Retail


Do you remember the last time you went out in public and didn’t think about what you touched? With COVID-19 and repeated public health messages to wash our hands regularly, we are all more conscious about what we touch

A significant driver of the customer behavior changes we are seeing is an increased desire to avoid touching surfaces that other people may have touched. As COVID remains a health concern for many months, what does this mean for retail?

1. A move to online shopping

Phygital: a relatively new word that merges “physical” and “digital.” It refers to how online and store environments integrate to create a smooth customer experience.

More customers than ever are buying online; therefore, it has never been more important to have integrated channels that make it easy for the customer to shop with you. Every step of the customer journey must work seamlessly, with easy purchasing, efficient click-and-collect or curbside pickup operations, convenient options for returns, and customer support.

It needs retailers to abandon separate teams working in silos and requires integrated systems so colleagues can support customers via multiple channels.

Phygital increasingly includes sales enabled social media, such as Instagram Shoppable, and customer services teams have been expanding resources to reply to customers using social media direct messaging and live chat channels.

2. Contactless ordering

Customers have adopted the use of apps on their own devices to order goods. While many retailers’ websites are clunky and not easy to use on mobile devices, apps offer a better experience. App ordering is increasingly used by hospitality brands to allow customers to pre-order so the customers can literally grab and go.

Large brands like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts introduced order-ahead apps back in 2015, and it’s a model I’m expecting to expand across retail. It’s a small step from click-and-collect to using store hubs for quick turnaround deliveries.

3. Contactless payment

Payment is a big chunk of colleague time for retail stores and time required at registers is being transformed by touchless technology. Self-checkout, self-scan apps, contactless payment and payment-free technologies are driving change.

Retailers need to rethink the checkout area footprint and recalibrate how much resource to invest. It is essential to match the colleague resource to changed demand driven by new customer behavior and deployment of technologies that change the service model. Time and Motion studies that measure how long payment and fulfilment take in this new world are the foundation for you to model the colleague resources required.

4. Delivery routes

Retailers are looking to partners to provide rapid delivery services to local customers, as Instacart and Shipt are doing in grocery. Multiple order routes bring operational complexity as retailers juggle customers instore, online orders and partner orders pinging a mobile device. Customers using touchless options expect convenience and failing to deliver on their expectations is a sure-fire way to get them to try out your competition

Touchless technologies meet an important need for customers and retailers that understand where touchless improves their customer journey will be set well to succeed.

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Simon Hedaux

Simon Hedaux is founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a productivity partner that helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimize budgets.

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