Decoding the new normalcy: Adapting to change in customer preferences

Technology | 3 minutes to read

01st Mar, 2022

The retail industry has undergone several drastic changes and is still recovering from the aftershocks of subsequent covid-19 variants. As a result, digital adoption along with tech-enabled retail solutions have become survival mandates for businesses worldwide. Understand how virtual retail solutions have helped build a contactless model for safe and customer-centric retail execution.

Snapshot:

    • Start-and-stop market environment along with eCommerce competition have forced retailers to rethink their modus operandi

    • Virtual retail model along with virtual brand consultants have helped decode some answers to optimize customer engagement across digital channels

    • Creating an omnichannel, contactless model is the way forward for retailers looking to maximize sales in the new normal

    As the world navigated through the start-and-stop pandemic phase, the word “disruptions” have had new meanings with positive connotations. Nothing in living memory has transformed human lives to the extent that the Covid-19 pandemic has. Every aspect of life, be it personal, social, or professional, have been catapulted to adapt to & embrace ‘the new normal’! The response to this change has been quite interesting. The new mandates of ‘social distancing’ hit at the very core of human nature and their inherent need for social interaction. However, technology has helped humans evolve from lack of ‘physical interaction through ‘virtual’ connect over video/conference calls providing some semblance of ‘human connect’, albeit virtually.
    The retail industry has been no exception to these disruptions. Start-and-stop market environment coupled with the rise of eCommerce giants have pushed retailers to go virtual for substituting walk-ins with call-ins. Tech-enabled retail solutions powered by retail analytics have also been instrumental to executing a connected omnichannel retail model in the recent past. The pandemic has forced retailers to rethink their modus operandi and upskill in store promoters to fast-track digital adoption.

    Adopting virtual retail solutions

    Given the pace of change, retail models have evolved to meet the requirements of customers with deep-rooted inclination towards traditional retail & preference for guidance from in store promoters on purchase especially of discretionary items like consumer electronics, or even personal products like skincare and grooming. Let’s look at how every aspect of retail, right from promoter management to personalizing customer engagement strategies (and much more) have undergone a change.

    How important is a retail promoter or brand consultant?

    The importance of store associates or brand consultants in retail is a well-established norm. Further these associates are crucial to enhancing the brand’s reputation and boost in-store customer experiences through knowledge about the merchandise and inventory. Retail promoters are responsible for delivering a tailored service and selling experience across both digital and physical channels.

    However, with necessary social distancing guidelines, customer are wary of engaging with store associates in person and brands are radically evolving their retail operations based on customer preferences. While some brands have already tightened their sail, many are still navigating the tides on uncharted waters.

    Omnichannel retail, a go-to-market choice of all brands today, deals with the aforementioned challenges and provides instant gratification to brands that seek temporary comfort. The dominance of eCommerce has made it a much-required evolution of the instore associate into virtual brand consultants. By adopting the omnichannel will provide the much-needed boost to retail sales management across stores.

    Read our latest blog “How can Retailers Optimize Returns as a Growth Strategy?” to learn how retailers should iron out their returns processes to maximize customer loyalty and sales in an otherwise dwindling market environment..

    The story of transformation

    Let’s start with the ecosystem challenges that have become a springboard for the industry in these trying times:

    • Decreased store footfalls resulting in loss of sales and retail promoter bandwidth
    • Missing out on purchase-ready customers walking into stores
    • Optimizing retail investments (store presence, count) amid curtailed/ staggered operations
    • Lack of readiness of store promoters as per changing customer preferences for ‘virtual’ interaction instead of ‘in-person’

    How virtual retail is the solution for not just COVID but much beyond?

    The above-mentioned challenges can be addressed to quite an extent by resorting to alternate methods of engaging with self-isolated customers. Retailers today need to orchestrate Phygital stores for providing contactless shopping experiences. Brands can replace physical with virtual viz. customers can interact with store staff over a video call & get product demo or clarify their queries before making any purchase decisions. Thus, store ‘walk-in’ can be augmented by ‘call-in’ to a significant extent.

    Other than maintaining customer engagement that otherwise would have been lost with poor walk-ins, there are additional fringe benefits brands can expect from contactless retail solutions. This model can help brands drive deeper market penetration irrespective of brick-and-mortar store presence, allow flexibility in store operations, and optimize promoter utilization amid limited walk-in.

    While the above are just broad challenges & solutions and might vary based on the product category, the unanimous voice across all retail formats is to go closer to the customer, with no-touch contactless modes of engagement.

    There is no single retail solution to address these changes and rather there is a need to look at a multi-pronged approach to gear up retail for sales success in 2022 and beyond.

    Just to check all the boxes the multi-pronged approach should lead the brand to S-T-A-R-T

    • Shift Walk-in to Call-ins
    • Transform promoter conversations from instore to virtual
    • A Unified user journey right from query generation to final sale
    • Record all data points for stronger future-ready insights
    • Trade-off every digital tactic for incremental impact

    Conclusion

    Retailers need to strengthen the groundwork that provides future-ready support to streamlining store operations. They need to let go of the legacy models and build connected, data-driven Phygital store models to maximize sales. Smart retailers and vertically integrated brands have already implemented tech-led retail solutions to maximize brand visibility, boost customer engagement, and retail compliance scores across stores.

    Contact us to orchestrate customer-centric experiential retail for sales success through our 360-degree integrated retail solutions.

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