COVID-19 transformed the retail industry like no other, but it also exposed a lot of the areas where retail was already heading — especially when it comes to the rapid acceleration of omnichannel and e-commerce.
According to Nielsen, COVID-19 fueled a 50% increase in omnichannel shopping across the U.S. For the grocery retail industry, a survey by Mercatus and Incisiv found that online grocery will account for 21.5% of total grocery sales by 2025 — more than a 60% increase over pre-pandemic estimates.
With so much technology and innovation driving the industry to fuel this online growth, it’s important that retailers focus on the key changes that will drive real value, especially as they relate to the customer experience. Let’s take a look at the top three retail experience trends that retailers should be paying attention to — and acting on — today.
1. Growth in BOPIS and Curbside Pickup Fulfillment
According to Anyline’s 2021 U.S Survey of Consumer Attitudes, six in 10 consumers have used curbside pickup during the pandemic, with 80% of those respondents adopting the behavior in response to the pandemic. What’s more, 75% of consumers surveyed intend to continue with their pandemic-driven shopping habits even when COVID-19 is behind us.
The surge in demand for safe and convenient fulfillment options has driven retailers to make BOPIS and curbside pickup a priority. But as consumers make these changes in behavior, expectations will shift as time goes on, and shoppers will demand even faster and more frictionless pickup experiences. This is especially true when there’s a direct correlation between the shortest wait times and high customer satisfaction ratings.
To meet these challenges, retailers must implement a fast, adaptable and optimized workflow. To future-proof BOPIS and curbside processes, retailers should scale resources for peak periods using barcode- and optical character recognition (OCR)-enabled mobile apps.
Smartphone devices equipped with these functionalities enable quick order picking by automating the picking process with speed and accuracy. Store associates can also speed up the pickup process by using these mobile devices to scan and record a customer’s ID when purchasing drugs, alcohol and other restricted items.
2. Increased Need for Data-Driven Inventory Management
The rise in omnichannel fulfillment options comes with its own inventory challenges that can make or break the customer experience.
Customers can get extremely frustrated if store availability is inaccurate online or if their order fulfillment gets delayed. Similarly, employees who pick items for these orders waste precious time and resources when they get an erroneous view of what’s on the shelves.
Improving retail operations with data-driven inventory management can make a big difference in both shopper and staff satisfaction. This means using digital tools to improve the overall data quality of each store, increasing transparency and accountability across all channels.
Additionally, poor inventory management can lead to excess or expired inventory that gets wasted, resulting in unsustainable practices and devastating revenue losses that affect the bottom line. Retailers can reduce waste by collecting accurate inventory data that tracks expired products and ensures safe, fresh items are always stocked on the shelves.
3. Rise in Contactless Last-Mile Delivery
Our recent survey also indicates that 70% of Americans want a contactless digital alternative to proof-of-delivery signatures for their high-value packages. Consumers, now more than ever before, are relying on the safe and reliable delivery of their packages. Whether it’s perishable items, medication or valuable products, there’s a real demand for a contactless delivery workflow to ensure the parcel reaches the consumer.
As consumers continue shopping online rather than in store this pandemic, retailers can work with last-mile delivery companies to give consumers a contactless verification process to ensure their packages are tracked, verified and accounted for.
The current demand for fast, safe and confirmed contactless delivery seems unlikely to let up, and “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, which allow drivers to use their own devices to capture recipient IDs, is an effective and inexpensive way to safely meet these expectations.
The Key to Winning in Retail
For the foreseeable future, the pandemic will continue to shape consumers’ behavior and preferences when it comes to when and how they shop. Whether through curbside and BOPIS fulfillment options, data-driven inventory management or contactless delivery, retailers have an opportunity to make the shopping experience as fast and seamless as possible.
By implementing the technology that will make these initiatives a reality, retailers will be sure to see an increase in customer satisfaction and a return on their investment now and for years to come.
Christoph Braunsberger is president of Anyline Inc.