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Shopping has long been a highly social event. A significant cohort of people shop in-store for the gratification of the process, whether it ends with a purchase or not. Retailers, in turn, have curated their store experiences to cater to shopping as a recreational activity. Especially in recent years, store formats have transformed to be more exciting, engaging, and interactive.
And then COVID-19 hit and most retail stores were forced to close their doors. While most government restrictions are easing and stores are reopening, retail won’t return back to normal. Physical stores will always be important to the retail experience, but consumer shopping behavior is shifting. And with that, brands will need to reimagine the role of their stores and importantly, the role of the associates within them.
The Rise of the Purposeful Shopper
The onset of the pandemic pushed consumers out of their typical buying routines. According to research by McKinsey on consumer sentiment and buying behavior, shoppers swiftly adopted a digital way of life, focused on contactless or low-touch ways of accessing products and services. Think online shopping, as well as curbside pickup and digital payments in-store.
This new normal (which is really anything but normal) has ushered in several consumer behavior trends that are likely to stick around for the foreseeable future. With an increased focus on health and safety, shoppers are becoming more mindful of what they’re buying and where they’re buying it from. Instead of heading to a store to browse — what most people did for pleasure before the pandemic — the consumer now is shopping with intention.
What you get is a shopper in-store who is looking to maximize every moment, minimize risk and make every dollar count. Experiential touches won’t be sufficient to woo them anymore; minimizing contact and maximizing efficiency will. The pandemic has produced a more purposeful shopper who will demand the flexibility of truly omnichannel brands that understand their new obsession for contactless everything.
Meet the Omnichannel Store Associate
Like with the new consumer, there is a new breed of retail store associate. Even though high-touch store services are off the table for now, shoppers are still looking for trusted guidance. It is more important now than ever before that associates can super-serve every shopper. This means every store employee needs to be thoroughly trained as well as equipped with the right tools to make the most of every customer interaction.
But as people choose to social distance and stay home, we see store traffic numbers that won’t drive sales volume like they did before. So, how can associates be productive during these times? When you have an omnichannel store associate, their value stretches beyond the four walls of the store. They are able to quickly and easily shift between selling in-store, selling from home, and even online agenting.
At home, omnichannel store associates can leverage remote selling capabilities to stay connected with customers. With access to robust shopper information, they can continue to build meaningful relationships with customers while also moving merchandise and making sales. The best part, customers shop remotely and pay remotely, which is right in line with their intensifying desire to go digital.
Omnichannel store associates can also be immensely helpful to online shoppers. They can assist with style recommendations, fit suggestions, in-store appointment setting, and more, all within the realm of the website. Even more, for those working from the store, they can send photos and pictures for a virtual shopping experience that’s reminiscent of the in-store one. Trust is often built in-store, but it also pays dividends outside the store, too.
COVID-19 Drives New Retail Model
Times of drastic disruption are perfect for change. The retail industry has an opportunity right now to learn from evolving consumer behaviors to set a new model of retail. It can be summed up with one word: omnichannel. The future is one in which stores and ecommerce are part of a single integrated strategy, with the store associate at the center. Learn from the purposeful shopper and embrace the omnichannel capabilities behind contactless engagement.
NewStore is the essential omnichannel store solution for enterprise retailers. The company combines mobile POS, order management, and inventory into a single cloud platform, creating a joyful shopping experience from service to sales to fulfillment. Learn more at newstore.com.