The Covid-19 pandemic triggered prolonged store closures and challenging social distancing measures which proved to be the final nail in the coffin for some British retail giants, especially those on the high-street.
But that isn’t the case for all retailers, and some have flourished in recent weeks, becoming a beneficiary of pent-up demand.
Global IT services company Fujitsu retail and hospitality business development director Paul Kirkland tells Retail Insight Network how retailers can capitalise on the re-emergence of the high-street following the lockdown.
Customers are willing to shop in-store
One retailer taking advantage of the repressed demand is clothing retailer Primark. Despite not having an online presence, the budget-friendly clothing and homeware store has managed to not only survive but also pledge to return its £72 million in furlough cash due to its record-breaking sales.
It’s clear that the appetite for in-store shopping is back, but how can other retailers capitalise on the re-emergence of the high-street and satisfy the 85% of fashion consumers who have completed half or most of their purchasing online during the pandemic?
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It’s about emulating the frictionless experience they have become accustomed to, and providing a consistent, evolving customer experience across all of the channels retailers engage with customers on.
The power of in-store automation
With Covid-19 causing a seismic shift to online shopping, it has meant thousands are now privy to the ease and efficiency e-commerce platforms offer. It’s therefore imperative when consumers return in-store to enjoy the physical experience it offers, they aren’t left disappointed.
To avoid this, investing in self-service devices will be crucial, as not only does it assist with social distancing, but it also removes the manual process of administrative tasks, and the costs associated with such lessens.
Similarly, when staff are no longer occupied with transactions, it allows them to focus on customer service, in turn increasing customer retention. Providing a choice between self-service devices and personal manned customer experience is key.
If retailers still aren’t convinced that self-service devices are the way forward, they must think again as 45% of consumers rank self-service checkouts as their preferred method of payment.
Looking forward, retailers must cater to the 34% of consumers who state that efficiency would persuade them to shop in-store rather than online.
Failure to do so may cause consumers to choose the clicks over bricks when looking to update their wardrobe in the upcoming months.
The impact of an omnichannel strategy
Although the high-street will bounce back, it would be naïve to believe that online purchasing, which became essential over lockdown, will be reversed in its entirety.
Instead, retailers must now find the sweet spot by designing an online presence that compliments physical stores; satisfying customers during both encounters to create a balanced experience.
This is where a solid omnichannel strategy comes into play.
Retailers must continue to work with their target customers to sell via their own website; making sure their user experience is up-to-par.
A focus on the click-and-collect option, which became a lifeline for many customers over the last 12-months, should also be prioritised, as the share of shoppers buying online for a pick-up will increase compared to pre-pandemic.
Not only will retailers sprucing up their e-commerce site be a priority, featuring on third-party websites, such as social media platforms and marketplaces, should also be a focus. That way, consumers can browse, review, engage and ultimately buy into products whenever and wherever.
That immersive customer experience across social platforms we are all used to engaging with is key to driving additional sales and customer loyalty.
As we enter a post-pandemic world, the retail landscape has become a dichotomy of the digital and physical and stores need a foot in both to succeed and thrive.
If there is one lesson to take away, retailers need both an efficient online and offline presence. After all, one can no longer survive without the other.