The coronavirus pandemic has challenged retailers at every level of their businesses, from navigating supply chain disruptions, to managing physical store closures, to ramping up shipping and delivery operations to serve customers staying at home. But despite the upheaval, consumers’ expectations for a flawless, frictionless and personalized shopping experience remain mostly unchanged.
Consumers still dictate where and when they shop, how they pay, the timing and method of delivery, and what after-sales services they would like to receive.
In today’s retail landscape, the consumer experience can be just as important as the product itself in differentiating one store from another. As retailers adapt to the “new normal,” they must continue to invest in their commitments to consumer centricity, as well as integrate technology that supports optimized customer journeys — now and in the post-pandemic future.
Knowing your customer is the (crucial) first step
The coronavirus pandemic has shined a spotlight on the shifting demands of consumers; gone are the days when a “one-size-fits-all” approach would keep satisfied customers coming back again and again. Now more than ever, retailers must examine customers’ individual needs, brand preferences, and purchase histories in order to deliver a satisfying consumer journey including an optimal checkout experience for that particular shopping trip.
By analyzing the strategy and data around a store’s existing checkout process, including key friction points, retailers can create customer profiles to help them define the standards of a positive experience for a variety of different customer needs.
Deploying tech to adapt to changing needs
At a time when social distancing is critical to public health, store digitalization and technology become more important than ever in ensuring retailers can operate smoothly and customers’ needs are met. An “always-on” technology approach can help retailers adapt to changing circumstances by offering a number of benefits:
- Flexible, adaptable and highly connected systems across an ecosystem that allow for an optimized, collaborative and multi-vendor strategy
- Always-on availability that creates an end-to-end, connected shopping experience — regardless of whether the customer journey starts or ends at home, on-the-go, or in the store
- Self-service tools, including UV lights to clean self-service machines and “endless aisles” that enable customers to shop on an in-store digital touchscreen with their choice of payment method, that put the customer in control
- High levels of connectivity and openness in customer journeys, allowing retailers to respond to situations like COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic underscores the need for retailers to adopt a consumer-centric approach based on deep understanding and analysis of their customers’ needs and preferences. We’re seeing an acceleration to digital and the critical importance of technology in creating seamless and frictionless customer journeys, as well as adapting to changing consumer demands and unforeseen events.
The pandemic will pass, but the always-on nature of retail is here to stay. Retailers who embrace the opportunity to adapt will position themselves to thrive in the future.
Lynn Beattie is strategy director at Diebold Nixdorf.