Bar a few exceptions, we’re all buzzing to see the high street open once again. People on pavements – socially distanced, of course – shops serving customers, and the combination of sunny weather and outdoor tables forcing us all to throw some layers on and enjoy a pint (…or two, or three).
The noise, vibes and feeling of a little freedom has been sorely missed so far in 2021, and it’s also been a turning point for retail too.
LIVING IN A PHYGITAL WORLD
Since the start of the pandemic, it feels as if retail has been in an either/or phase – we’ve either been locked down and forced to shop online, or we’ve not. As far as our high street goes, it’s been a bit like the Hokey Cokey. But no matter how much we’ve loved our hassle-free online experience, many customers are happy to be saddled with bags galore, engaging directly with sales assistants and the thrill of trying on new clothes. But sooner or later we’re going to get to a point of plateau. The initial rush to the brick and mortar stores will fall away to more consistent and sustainable levels as customers aren’t about to turn their backs on the convenience of online retail anytime soon.
Now, retailers need to focus on how to better connect and engage with their customers across all channels moving forwards. This means innovating to turn browsers into buyers and improving communication with customers to stay front of mind.
FROM TILLS, TO TWITTER: LEVEL UP CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
As retailers look to do whatever it takes to keep customers happy, from the tills to Twitter, brands are taking customer experience to another level everywhere. Some retailers are looking at appointment bookings, extended hours on a store-by-store basis tailored to local shopping trends and removing unnecessary shopping steps to better serve their customers… So if a customer finds the product they want in the fitting room, why queue to pay when they could buy it from a phone in just a few clicks? Smart (and safer).
Removing traditional pain points from the in-store experience, like struggles finding a particular product in store, or the right product size, complexities of Click & Collect, and not getting assistance fast enough, just scratches the surface for areas to innovate to make it simpler and quicker for customers to get in and out. This is particularly important when it comes to retailers operating a bricks and clicks model where consumers will expect to receive the same convenience and engagement with a brand regardless of how, when, or where they shop.
Shops will become more than just a shopping destination because, if high street retailers are going to compete with online, they need to offer experiential initiatives that go beyond discounts and a window displays, to get customers through the doors. We’re starting to see fewer, but better stores, as high street retailers tap into emotion, connectivity, discovery and community – to up their game in this department, and bring high-touch, sensory-driven experiences to customers.
PUT PARCEL-PANIC IN THE PAST
Customers might have been able to wait around for that parcel to arrive during lockdown, but now as we move back to normality, customers aren’t able to wait around anymore and leaving them in a panic about where their parcel is, needs to become a thing of the past.
In the online world, retailers can bridge the gap between expectation and reality for delivery and returns by automating tracking and post-purchase communications to reduce customer contacts and deliver more connected experiences – all of which puts any shoddy in-store experience to shame and makes your customers click.
EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE
It’s less about location, location, location, but more about experience, experience, experience.
It will be the retailers that can understand where their audiences are and connect with customers through the right channels that will rise to the top in a post-pandemic world of commerce.
Click here to see more about the hottest customer experience trends trailblazing through retail in 2021.