There is no doubt that 2020 changed the retail landscape massively; seeing businesses have to adapt in order to maintain a structured and convenient service. As consumer worries continue to play a part in the decrease in store visits, digital technology is being relied on more than ever.
Prior to Covid-19, retailers were exploring various digital technologies, while pushing digital transformation to provide a better and ‘unique’ customer experience. The pandemic has only increased the need for this as we saw a significant decrease in consumers visiting retail stores (as well as government restrictions in place).
Although consumers wish for a convenient service, they’re also demanding a more ‘safer experience’. This is where the pressure for retailers to provide tools to encourage this, has come into play. Consumer confidence is now in question and the need to aid their concerns has become even more important.
One of the technologies we’ve seen emerge in recent years is the possibility of pre-booking appointments for GP’s digitally, as well as the rise in online appointments. Retailers have also begun tackling the issue of social distancing and overcrowding in stores by implementing virtual queueing technology to speed up customer journeys in-store, whilst providing safety to shoppers and retail workers.
Along with the possibility of pre-booking appointments, online platforms and digital services are being built to allow shoppers to plan store visits, book remote appointments and engage with ‘try before you buy’ initiatives; we have seen this with L’Oréal’s augmented reality application, allowing shoppers to try on make-up virtually before purchasing in the app or in stores.
Tools such as these help retailers with the transition in focus of meeting digital demands.
One of the technologies we’re seeing accelerate is smart checkouts. This is where a fixed and structured checkout process is replaced by a non-structured model. Amazon Go is a strong example. Customers enter the store with the Amazon Go app to take items they want and leave. As the store is partially-automated, customers do not have to encounter a cashier or a checkout point. This protects both parties during the current climate.
The Amazon Dash Cart was introduced in 2020. It automatically detects items with sensors, cameras and computer vision algorithms. It allows customers to skip the checkout line in a physical store by charging the credit cards attached to their Amazon accounts.
The Amazon Dash Cart is designed for small shopping trips with room for two bags. The cart has a touchscreen that allows customers to access Alexa shopping lists and a scanner for coupons.
We’re beginning to see businesses in the UK adopt something similar; Tesco are investing in technology that will allow it to open cashierless stores to compete with Amazon Go’s “grab-and-go” grocery offering.
It is predicted that Smart checkout tech will process $387bn in 2025.
‘Scan-and-go’ is also a new technology which has emerged that allows customers to avoid traditional checkout processes and quickly pay for products at specialised terminals, using handsets or newer mobile applications.
This technology again limits the interaction between customer and cashier.
Click and collect isn’t a new service, however, it has seen a new lease of life in the wake of the pandemic.
A survey that was conducted by retail SaaS provider, Qudini, found that 42% of the respondents are more likely to use click and collect services at retail stores, including pharmacies, due to the outbreak of the virus.
26% said they are “more likely” to use click and collect services with “other retailers in general”.
The backend of 2020 saw an increase of virtual experiences. John Lewis launched an IOS application with an AR feature, allowing customers to try a range of products including Christmas trees and virtual cookery classes.
Although this technology will come at convenience for retailers, they also have to ensure that the process is conducted with limited faults. If mass amount of shoppers choose the click and collect option, they will have to make sure that every customer receives the product they are looking for. Product availability and mass demand will be an issue retailers will have to contend with.
There’s no doubt retailers will be opting for these changes going forward, in a bid to retain customers and attract new customers. As a result, the more retailers that implement new technology, the competition to ‘be different’ from other retailers will become difficult. Brand loyalty is key, customers will shop with brands they can trust.
Post Covid-19, the state of Ecommerce and high-street shopping remains to be seen, but we expect to see a lot more engagement between brands and consumers on the digital front in 2021 and beyond.