Traditional Retail in a Socially-Distant World

Technology | 3 minutes to read

21st Jul, 2020

‘Retail is no longer about location, today it is about technology’

In a sense, the Covid-19 pandemic has paused the present, forcing us to live in the future. Today, consumer behavior is undergoing a complete makeover as to why go out when you can have things delivered at your doorstep? And this is where the traditional retail can quickly latch on to by infusing virtual experiences with a human touch when it’s tough to compete on cost and convenience.

India is now stepping into a new evolutionary stage of retail as more people are sticking to the basics of social distancing and shopping online from the comfort of their couch. But in spite of the rise in e-commerce sales in recent years, studies show that people spend more time when shopping in-store than online. And that’s good news!

Covid-19: The Shot in the Arm for the Retail Industry

The continuous growth in digital and telecom infrastructure has provided dependable internet access in everyone’s pocket, enabling seamless connectivity for people across the nation. The total number of Internet users in India is set to increase from 665 million in 2019 to 829 million by 2021. Therefore, the inherent potential of the market is undeniable, with digital literacy on the rise.

E-commerce in India still remains exceptionally underpenetrated with only 50 million online shoppers and out of which hardly 20 million are the active monthly purchasers. This gap indicates the need for traditional retailers in India to extend their capabilities and find ways to make digital more human to deliver a personalized experience to their customers, especially during this unprecedented time. And the key is human-powered online communication.

Make your Bricks Click in today’s Digital Age

Although it’s no easy time to be a brick and mortar retailer, the future for traditional retail doesn’t have to be as bland as it looks. Yes, and it’s time for the in-store experience for an upgrade and leverages the benefits of traditional, in-person shopping in ways that digital websites can only dream about.

Video-Powered Communication is figuring out a New Footing in the Retail World

With social distancing the only proven measure to contain the pandemic, face-to-face communication online through video calls will enable customers to interact with a virtual store consultant in real-time. It will not only bring an additional degree of personalization to your customer interactions but also will give them an accurate idea of the product size, fit, and quality they are interested in. This one of a kind experience available only at traditional retail stores will help brands:

  • Replicate the in-store shopping experience online
  • Store agents will act as virtual shopping assistants, providing customers with a comprehensive view of the product
  • Video calling allows customers to get real-time, personalized customer experience on any device, at a time and place of their choice

According to a survey by the Nation Retail Federation, a paradigm shift in consumer behavior due to the Covid-19 epidemic includes the following:

  • 9 out of 10 customers have changed their traditional shopping habits
  • >50% of customers have ordered products online that they would usually purchase at the store
  • 6 out of 10 customers say they are worried about going out at the store due to the fear of being infected

In a nutshell, the Covid-19 outbreak will mark an inflection point in the way the retail industry operates and retailers that offer support across multiple platforms will be head and shoulders above their competitors.

Retailers- It’s time to Gear-up for the New Normal with Virtual Retail gaining the Clout

With shoppers expected to avoid physical shops, the complete architecture of retail will change with social distancing as a key component. Customers will be hesitant to go out to places where it is crowded or isn’t enough social distancing, or the hygiene standards are not up to the mark. Hence, video calling can be an effective solution that offers the traditional retail experience served on a virtual platter. Real-time product demos give the customer a 360-degree view of the product, thus creating a personalized shopping experience resembling an authentic in-store one.

Increased Geographic Reach through Online Presence

There is no doubt that an online presence can help expand the retailer’s customer base exponentially. For instance, silk saree or regional handicraft retailers can leverage the online platform to sell their goods to customers all across the nation and even establish themselves on global marketplaces. But connecting with the customers virtually to showcase your new product will surprise them with unexpected, caring gestures.

Cut down operating costs with lesser Brick and Mortar Stores

Traditional retail chains can get rid of the high additional costs of physical store space and recurring expenses in the form of rent, electricity, and other maintenance expenses. Once you build rapport and a firm virtual presence, having lesser stocked up stores can help increase profits and reduce expenditures.

The COVID Comfort

With numerous options and the convenience of sitting at home to shop, retailers can capitalize on the increasing online customer base. In order to make the virtual shopping experience as personal and as convenient as doing Face Time with a friend, retail stores can leverage messaging apps, especially among millennials and generation Z. Video calling is the next best thing to bring items to life like never before- exhibiting the product details that give customers the confidence to buy.

Virtual Demos and Appointments to keep business going

57% of customers feel more confident in making a purchase after watching a product demo. Retailers can leverage the mobile tech to connect to the customers through virtual demos and appointments digitally. For instance, retail stores dealing in household appliances or skincare products can offer virtual demos and consultations for their customers. They can provide free 5-minute virtual assessment, instructing customers on how exactly to use the product. This strategy to personalize customer experience from afar will enable the retailers to keep customers engaged even after the panic from the outbreak abates.

The One-Off

The need for digital immediacy has never been greater for the retail industry. Change can be unsettling, but it comes with enough opportunities for retailers to move forward and transform the shopping experience into a comprehensive and enjoyable experience offering more value-added services.

Video calling, together with other real-time communication solutions, makes it easier to simulate brick and mortar shopping experience, providing a seamless and unified customer experience. With personalization of face-to-face communication and data analytics from online interactions, virtual retail through video calling combines the best of both worlds. 

Virtual retail opens the door for companies that don’t currently have a significant presence in retail. However, it would be interesting to see whether such companies create a new retail model and dare to disrupt the status quo of Amazon, Reliance, and other giant retail leaders?

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