“Fast-Forward” on Retail Experience

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The COVID-19 pandemic will have a “fast-forward” effect on certain things, namely in the way we shop with retailers. The transformation was already in progress, but will now happen faster than expected.

Many consumers, particularly in the biggest cities, already shop mostly online and have orders delivered by retailers at home – groceries, clothing, electronics, furniture, etc. The pandemic forced most consumers to do the same.

Some consumers suddenly realised that you can actually do shopping online, having the same offering. Others realised how secure and comfortable it is. Others even noticed how effortless and seamless it can be.

On the retailers side, those who thought it would be hard, and procrastinated their journey to be on-line, finally adopted technology, subscribed to e-commerce platforms (like Shopify) and are now in a much better position to compete.

Opening an online operation, allowing consumers to buy from “distance” also required a customer service setup. Again, many retailers accelerated the adoption of multi-channel customer interaction technology (like Zendesk).

The way we shop, will surely change for good. Going forward, consumers will shop much more online (accelerating the trend of the last decade) and only go to brick & mortar shops when the need exceeds “shopping”.

What I mean is… many people go out shopping (in malls, etc.) not only because they need to buy something, but because they are looking for social interaction and distraction, with family or friends.

This is not news, and that is exactly why malls and retail parks started opening restaurants, cinemas, bowling alleys, entertainment venues for kids, etc. People go there not only (sometimes not even) to buy stuff, but rather to socialise.

The same will now apply to the wider industry – big, medium and small retailers. Meaning everyone will have to do something to attract people to their shops. Of course not all can or have size to build cinemas, so they will have to build Experiences.

Big successful retailers are already pioneering this. Apple designed all their shops with a focus on customer’s experiences. Offering a modern and innovative environment, that unlocks creativity, inspires learning, and encourages connections.

But how do you know what “experiences” will attract customers? Once more, technology can help. Experience management platforms (like Qualtrics) allow companies to reach out and understand customers’ needs, wants, drivers.

That insight can then be turned into action to baseline experiences and improve continuously.

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