Forbes Technology Council : COUNCIL POST May 21
Over a year after Covid-19 first hit the U.S., all systems seem to be pointing in the right direction. A number of effective vaccines have been made available throughout the country, and we’re seeing a return to schools, events and other activities we once took for granted, such as shopping. Retailers that rely on in-store traffic are preparing for an increase in customers, especially as the warmer spring months have arrived.
All that said, it’s likely Covid-19 will impact society’s psyche well after the pandemic subsides. Consumer expectations will have changed, and customer experiences will need to have changed with them as well.
Luckily, new problems create new solutions, and emerging technologies are giving retailers smart, safe and seamless solutions to invite customers back into their stores. Here are several ways new technology can boost in-store experiences immediately and in the future.
Technology That Drives The New Customer Experience
For the foreseeable future, many consumers will be hesitant to linger in stores, looking to “get in and get out.” To get them to stick around, retailers will need to cater to the customer’s specific wants and needs, as 80% of consumers note that they’re more likely to opt for a business that offers them a personalized experience. As a result, retailers should create in-store experiences that are compelling as well as safe. This can be accomplished through the use of technology that creates a seamless experience, allowing both browsing and purchasing to be completed in less time. Touchless or self-checkout kiosks can reduce friction in the buying process, and the once-derided QR code has found a new lease on life, allowing consumers to learn about products and store policies without having to have close interaction with salespeople.
Mobile apps can also be seen as an enhancement to the in-store experience by giving customers in-store product info, which products are in stock at the store and a store map or layouts for easy product location.
Leveraging AI To Optimize In-Store Purchase Volume
As many retail locations look to rebound from this tough period, they’ll focus on maximizing purchase potential from every store visit. If you’re one of the 71% of retailers that cite lack of “real-time inventory visibility” as a top obstacle, then finding technology solutions for your business that assist with daily items like POS systems while optimizing inventory is crucial.
As the use of AI and IoT technology increases, we’re seeing many technologies that can collect and analyze data to give business leaders actionable operations insights.
Mobile Connectivity To Drive Customer Satisfaction
In many cases, the pandemic has taught consumers there are many things they can live without. An unsatisfying in-store experience isn’t something many customers will be willing to endure anymore. The effort to go to a physical location must be worth it and customer satisfaction will be a key metric. Stores will have to up their game by rewarding their most loyal customers. Techniques ranging from exclusive mobile-app offers to personalized journeys beginning when they park their car will be drivers of customer satisfaction. Stores will need to monitor this in near real time by increasing customer feedback points and awareness to ensure operations are making customers happy.
Lighting That Does More Than Illuminate
Have you noticed your natural mood or biorhythm drop upon entering a boutique, nail salon or department store? There’s a good chance it was because of unnatural lighting. Doing something as simple as replacing existing lighting fixtures with light that more closely mimics natural light can help release serotonin, a natural hormone that is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. This can not only help get people in the door but also in the mood to make purchases.
Beyond the emotional impact of proper lighting, modern lighting can also address today’s challenges in a very direct way with light technologies that help store owners handle the ongoing disinfecting of spaces and surfaces — all from the lights above their heads. Disinfecting lighting, technology that my company provides, and similar solutions that use UVA and UVC light to disinfect spaces has started to be adopted by retailers, schools and even professional sports teams across the country, while the CDC even included ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a method for schools to reopen at a cost of less than a dollar a day.
In returning to in-store shopping, consumers will expect safety to be an ongoing priority. In fact, a recent study from Ipsos found that more than 60% of shoppers said they’d “stop shopping at a retailer not taking health and safety seriously.” Even before entering, most consumers want to know what safety precautions a store is taking, whether it’s mask requirements, capacity limits or the ongoing disinfecting of surfaces. Additionally, employees will have similar expectations and deserve to work with the assurance their workplace environment is safe.
Developing and maintaining a constant level of increased sanitization level will give consumers confidence and help maintain in-store traffic.
The leaders and managers of retailers across the country who can make the necessary changes quickly and cost-effectively and emphasize long-term solutions driven by emerging technologies will have the best chance at thriving under the rules of the new customer experience.