Rethinking Retail: Why Retailers Must Digitise To Survive

by Sachin

According to the EY Future Consumer Index on global behaviour and sentiment, consumers emerging from lockdown remain deeply cautious.

The lockdown has forced retailers to rethink how they operate and how they can provide this new kind of shopper with a pleasant shopping experience. Now more than ever, retailers need to provide customers with reasons to visit their physical store, giving them the confidence to be in store by making social distancing measures a priority.

As well as having these health and safety protocols in place, which are crucial in the immediate term, retailers are also thinking more about how technology can help them provide innovative new shopping experiences to savvy consumers. With resources that can provide competitive pricing for retailers, retailer can grow their businesses significantly. 

So with brick-and-mortar stores now reopening, how can retailers ensure customers come back? It could very well be that technology is the answer… in this article, we explain why.

Cashier-Less Stores

Self-service checkouts have become increasingly popular in UK stores in recent years, giving customers the option to avoid long queues and pay for their items themselves.

In a post-covid-19 world, we should expect this to be a trend that skyrockets, in a recent study showing that two-thirds of consumers prefer to pay this way in order to speed up transactions and to minimise contacts with others. 

While most supermarkets in the UK already offer self-service, German supermarket brand Aldi, has, in the past, been reluctant to follow the trend. However, since the pandemic, the popular supermarket chain has now announced it will be trialling this checkout option in some of its UK stores.

We can expect this trend to only grow, especially with company’s like Amazon Go planning to launch here in the UK.

Amazon Go is the first store of its kind where no checkout is required. This futuristic supermarket is kitted out with cameras and tracking devices, allowing customers to simply enter the store using the Amazon Go app, take the products that they want, and then leave. 

In the new world of social distancing and minimal contact, it’s not hard to imagine how well this way of shopping will take off in the UK. 

Contactless Payment Solutions

Perhaps one of the most prominent changes within physical stores will be the vital need to provide contactless payment solutions to customers. Before the pandemic struck, the consumer preference to pay via contactless was already well on the rise. Now with cash payments widely discouraged due to heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19, this consumer preference is sure to stay in place.

Retailers, therefore, must really listen to this trend and ensure they have the right solutions in place to offer their customers flexible payment options. 

UTP Group is the leader in providing credit card machines to small-to-medium sized businesses. All card machines include contactless technology and are pre-configured to accept transactions up to the new contactless limit of £45. 

This has truly been a saviour for UTP’s customer base since lockdown began, allowing them to provide customers with a safe and secure option to pay for their products and services.

And now shops can reopen, having contactless payment options in place will remain vital in helping your customers feel comfortable enough to return.

Sensor Technology To Manage Footfall 

In recent years, advances in footfall technology has enabled retailers to observe shopper behaviour. This valuable data has given businesses the ability to keep a tally on entry and exit points, monitor customers as they move, and generate heat maps in order to provide valuable insights to drive business growth. 

Post-Covid, this technology is also helping retailers to control the number of customers accessing stores at any one time, ensuring maximum capacity is not exceeded.

Online Business Channels

While we are focusing on how retailers are using technology to welcome back customers to their brick-and-mortar stores, it’s important to mention the need for online channels in a post-Covid world.

The reality is, not everyone is going to feel completely comfortable returning to the high-street. And so, if you haven’t realised already, it’s time to take your business online also. One thing we know for certain coming out of lockdown, is that a strong online presence is essential for any business

Those businesses who have been most successful and stress-free throughout lockdown already had a strong online presence and digital marketing strategy in place. Those who did not, struggled to reach customers. We can never be too sure when the next lockdown may be, so take the time to learn from this experience in order to better prepare for the future.

It’s clear to see that the pandemic has resulted in a drastic shift in consumer behaviour that retailers have not before experienced. The journey to welcoming back cautious customers will not be easy, but technology and digital solutions could be the very thing that boosts consumer confidence and has them returning both in the short and long term.

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