After two years, society has shifted to better navigate new COVID-strains, flexing social distancing rules and everchanging ‘new normals’. Now with a clearer path to the future, retailers should optimistically devise post-pandemic strategies that account for changes in customer behavior. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in retail and helped reshape customer expectations. There is no going back.
Three imperatives rise to the surface as retailers look toward the future:
- Deliver compelling in-store experiences
- Move forward with omnichannel technologies
- Give shoppers choices in payment methods
E-commerce grew in popularity over the past two years. A recent study found that 60% of customers prefer online grocery shopping over in-store shopping, a 45% increase from November 2020.
That percentage drops as shoppers get comfortable with in-store shopping again. Whatever happens, retailers cannot ignore the in-store experience. In some cases, that means expediting the checkout process with technologies such as machine vision, smart cash drawers, contactless payments, and mobile POS, and other management solutions.
But in cases when shoppers aren’t rushing through stores, retailers can keep them there longer by providing compelling experiences. For instance, REI offers classes on camping, biking and other activities. A store in Manhattan, STORY, reinvents its retail space with a theme-based approach every six to eight weeks. Nike’s store in Soho features a basketball court. These types of experiences keep customers engaged and may lead to purchases they weren’t planning.
Retailers continue to flirt with the idea of omnichannel technologies, but the pandemic has given the concept a significant boost. Out of necessity, retailers accelerated the integration of physical and digital shopping efforts so they could continue operating through shutdowns.
As the pandemic wanes, shoppers will continue to expect omnichannel experiences, such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup in Store) and curbside pickup. Retailers have an opportunity to take what they learned during the pandemic and make it better.
For instance, they need to refine integration technologies that connect ordering apps with inventory systems, POS and payment processing. The better they are at refining the omnichannel experience, the more likely they are to keep customers coming back.
Retailers need to ensure customers have a choice of how to pay for purchases. Contactless payments surged in popularity during the pandemic, but consumers still want to use specific types of purchases. In fact, cash use increased during the pandemic and demand for technologies that enable cash payments, such as Self Check Out (SCO) and self-serve kiosks, is growing too.
With cash continuing to be of importance and the need for self-service payment options gaining traction, investing in innovative POS technology is becoming an industry theme. Solutions like smart POS cash drawers, cash automation technology, cash management systems and contactless payment options, are enhancing POS stations. It’s time to leverage modern functionality and connectivity in the retail space.
Smart drawers that wirelessly connect to the network allow cash payments to be included in a mobile payments arena. mPOS systems bring payments to the point of purchase/decision and offer the payment flexibility consumers desire. Why force your customer to stand in a check out queue waiting to pay, just because they want to pay in cash? A smart drawer, like apg®’s smartttill allows multiple staff members to make change on cash transactions, from a single drawer, while maintaining full cashier accountability. You can improve cost-effectiveness of POS hardware, while streamlining the purchase journey for your customer.
Brining the POS to the point of decision allows shoppers to bypass checkout lines—giving them a smoother path to purchase. It also gives store associates an opportunity to interact more with customers: refocusing their time from mundane tasks to crafting a positive shopping experience. Cash automation and cash management systems, meanwhile, replace the manual effort involved in tracking and reconciling cash transactions and end-of-shift counts. You can learn more about smart drawers and cash management systems here.
The pandemic created real challenges for retailers but it also allowed them get creative. Going forward, retailers need to continue innovating to keep attracting customers to stores.