This article is part of Raydiant’s Re-opening of Brick and Mortar series which interviews top retail industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the sector, how retailers should prepare for the re-opening and what trends, challenges and changes are expected over the next few months.
The following is an interview we had with Imogen Wethered, CEO and founder of Qudini.
What will the re-opening of brick and mortar retail look like?
IW: Right now the government is grappling with how to reopen stores in a secure way that protects the public, but if more stores reopen, this could lead to excessive queues outside of stores that could risk public safety.
The majority of consumers will not be willing to return to stores if they believe they are putting themselves at risk. It’s up to retailers to restore consumer confidence by ensuring adequate social distancing processes are in place.
What should retailers be doing now to prepare for the re-opening?
IW: Even outside of lockdown, consumers will be avoiding stores as much as possible, suggesting that to build customer confidence in visiting them, brands will need enhanced customer management processes that ensure social distancing inside and outside of stores.
Allowing customers to pre-book their visits online or managing walk-in customers in virtual queues that update them by SMS and smartphone as their turn draws near can help with this.
How will COVID-19 impact consumer behavior over the long term?
IW: Customers are significantly reducing their time in store as much as possible, so brands wanting to build more personalized relationships should take their one-to-one services and events online to engage with customers. Based on younger demographic interest in video services, it’s likely that this interest extends beyond the Coronavirus outbreak – the present day could act as a catalyst for ongoing virtualized brand interactions in the future.
There’s also a strong demand for BOPIS services, suggesting that stores will serve more as contactless fulfillment hubs for the foreseeable future. Therefore, retailers should offer store entrance and curbside pick-up that enables customers to have an efficient and contactless pick-up experience.
What will be the lasting effects of COVID-19 on brick and mortar retail?
IW: Judging by the current interest in virtual service options, we could see many consumers and retailers realize that quality and effective service can take place through online channels, saving retailers both time and resources.
Right now, we’re also seeing consumers of all age groups opting for BOPIS services to reduce their risk of exposure to the pandemic. We could see this interest extend beyond the confines of Covid-19, which will have a significant impact on retailers’ omni-channel offerings.
What retail technologies will see adoption accelerated due to COVID-19?
IW: We are seeing a strong demand for queuing systems and appointment scheduling software that allow retailers to enable social distancing for customers wanting to enter their stores. In fact, we’ve had many retailers coming to us saying they wouldn’t reopen their stores without the software in place.