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 Marci Weisler, Chief Commercial Officer at Vengo.
What will the re-opening of retail look like?
MW: Stores will take a phased approach, continuing to push on online ordering, curbside delivery and then getting people back into the store, at distance and with new guidelines and experiences. Store layouts, in-store experiences, testing, try-ons, and even traffic patterns will be reassessed and reinvented. While this is a huge disruption and challenge, it gives new creative license to break away from the tradition and experiment with new and more innovative ways to do things.
What should retailers be doing now to prepare for the re-opening?
MW: Retailers need to rethink the entire in-store experience, given both health and safety guidelines and consumer behavior, from traffic patterns to layouts, to experiences. They need to take advantage of tech-forward solutions to marketing, sampling, selling, and stocking. Many shoppers are antsy to get out but they will be hesitant to touch and feel and spend time in crowded stores. There needs to be engagement but at a distance. At Vengo, data-driven sampling through interactive digital kiosks is core to our offering. As person-to-person sampling will be on hold, we’re offering new and innovative ways to enhance the sampling experience, both in-store and out, by extending our platform to the shopper’s mobile phone, making the sampling process easy and sanitary.
How will COVID-19 impact consumer behavior over the long term?
MW: Over the long term, consumers want to get out and be social, but they’ve also realized what they can accomplish at home–through media, eCommerce, apps and other digital channels. There will need to be real value to going to the store. And there’s value in the store coming to the consumer–digitally and through unattended retail channels that are strategically placed where people go throughout their day–she can buy headphones at the gym when she’s at the gym. Contactless payments will also continue to grow in adoption.
What will be the lasting effects of COVID-19 on brick and mortar retail?
MW: Retailers have been going through a reckoning over the past many years as competition and digital adoption has grown. COVID-19 serves as a great accelerator. Time is going to be condensed and programs that were on five-year plans may now be on two-year or even shorter plans. Those who can adapt and move quickly, leverage new technology, understand the new consumers, and provide engaging and valuable solutions will endure. With real estate also going through a reckoning, there could be some really interesting experiences that tie in retail, once the high threat of the pandemic has been mitigated by vaccine and/or cure.
What retail technologies will see adoption accelerated due to COVID-19?
MW: I’m biased but we are seeing huge adoption on our contactless sampling solution. Related to that we’re bringing solutions that can take the place of testers that are no longer valid. Data, particularly opt-in consumer data, will be very valuable as the cross-channel shopping experience expands and needs to be united.