eStar chief growth officer Alison Crosbie explores why omnichannel is more important than ever in the new retail world.
It is official, the world has changed and has done so at an alarming rate. Many retailers are finding this change difficult because of the pace at which it’s occurring.
Retailers around the world are seeking advice and guidance as to what the future consumer will look like, what changes are required to survive and grow in this new world which continues to evolve at pace.
The omnichannel retail strategy has heightened its importance during COVID-19 as a result of two dynamics brought on by the new COVID consumer:
- The return to physical retail will be slow
- Consumers who do return to retail wish to spend less time in stores
Omnichannel becomes a significant contributor because it will stimulate and prompt the return of customers in store and it will allow consumers to be better prepared when consumers venture into stores.
The past successful tactic of running “in store events” will not be successful for some time.
The two omnichannel activities seen to best align to the new needs of the “COVID Consumer” is the presentation of inventory transparency and click and collect. This should form the basis of every retailer’s omnichannel strategy.
Having accurate and intuitive “Check stock in store” experiences on product detail pages enables consumers to see if a product is available in a store the consumer selects. This is a proven foot traffic driver.
Pre COVID data shows 25% of consumers will not venture into a physical location unless they know a specific product of interest was in stock and available to view.
Click and Collect
The offer of click and collect has steadily grown in popularity over the last few years with on average, 40% of online orders being fulfilled in this way (this grows beyond the 70% range during Christmas period).
More importantly, 85% of those in a recent survey said they purchased extra items once in store to pick up their order.
Recently, the ability for retailers to offer a “contact-less” version of this pick-up service has been looked upon favourably, to reduce anxiety. However, the evolution of click and collect should be looked at in other ways. Retailers must now consider how to keep this low contact option available and enable it to scale.
Another strategy we are seeing is the use of Dark Stores. Instead of closing underperforming sites, successful retailers are turning them into “dark stores”.
This type of store format is a retail outlet designed for the purpose of picking and dispatching online orders, ideally for customers within close proximity. The purpose of this store format is to increase capacity and scale for processing online orders.
However, if designed right, this can also become a valuable click and collect (and return) location. Bed Bath & Beyond in the US has planned to transition 25% of its stores into regional fulfillment centers and Kmart Australia has permanently converted three of its locations to this store format.
While many retailers have temporarily activated dark stores during shutdown periods, this retail strategy is seen as the future. Blake Morgan, author of The Customer of the Future is quoted in Forbes as stating:
“Even after the coronavirus has subsided and consumers try to return to some kind of normalcy, we’ll be faced with a new normal. Shoppers who have experienced delivery, curbside pickup and eCommerce will likely adopt at least some of those habits into their everyday lives. Many stores may still limit the number of customers inside at a time or instill social distancing measures. Dark stores help ease all of those transitions while still protecting customers and employees."
Recently eStar undertook a comprehensive study into the COVID-19 consumer and what it means for eCommerce.
The study takes a comprehensive look at the following:
- Defining the new “COVID-Consumer” mindset
- Explain why COVID-19 influence permanent change in the consumer’s mindset
- Define how retailers must plan and prepare to survive and thrive
- Show what the key business activities need to look like for retailers to meet new “COVID-Consumer” expectations
Download the Whitepaper here: Retail for the New World