07th Aug, 2020
, , Designation
Retailers globally are facing a host of challenges, courtesy to the new global guest. As the world emerges from the liminal space of lockdowns into a new psychological and social territory, shoppers will be disquiet about whether visiting retail stores will increase their exposure to the virus.
Yes, Retailers need more than a Checklist of Sanitization Practices
So, what retailers need most right now is an agile, customer-centric approach they can deploy immediately. An actionable vision that sets them apart and entices people to hit the stores is the need of the hour. However, the best part is, innovative ways of keeping the stores relevant were already being prototyped on a smaller scale before BC (before COVID). Making a move to virtual retail will allow brick-and-mortar stores to cash in on this moment of transition to pivot towards a more resilient, sustainable, and meaningful future.
To win in adversity, retailers need to embrace virtual retail and look through layers to control costs better, operate more efficiently, and engage customers in new ways to transform the in-store experience. So, for better or worse, only the most agile and adaptable in the retail industry is likely to survive and thrive.
Virtual Retail to bring a Better In-Store Experience for Connected Customers
Brick-and-mortar allows for a more experiential shopping that creates engagement, brand experience, as well as excitement. But still traditional retail businesses are stuck between sales burnout and long-term financial commitments associated with the cost of operating a physical retail space. This is why the demand for virtual experiences will be substantial in the future as the virtual model mimics traditional retail minus the extra cost/ hassle.
And in the store, that means equipping store managers and associates with better technology and innovation.
Transition to virtual retail will allow brick-and-mortar stores to deliver in a downturn. So, what’s the catch?
Convert your Store into a Stage
Reducing contact and limiting crowds is the need of the hour, but what about retailers outside of the essential category? They need to think out of the box, like using space as a service- may be a kind of performance on stage. Retail stores can use displays to showcase their products, which could be purchased by signaling a staff member who has a tablet to show you the complete product demo in the form of videos.
With contactless shopping gaining the clout in the era of social distancing, retailers can also look up to other industries that already offer similar services, in a creative way. For instance, if you can book a dinner table for 8:30, why can’t you book a shopping experience for 5:30 at the nearest store? With consumers being more reluctant to wait in long and stay put, socially distanced lines for casual shopping can make the experience easy and worry-free.
Cut through the Noise with Video-Powered Communication
In order to bring an additional degree of personalization to your remote customer, face-to-face interaction through video calls will enable customers to interact with an in-store consultant in real-time. It’s more like replicating the in-store shopping experience virtually where to store agents will act as virtual shopping assistants to provide a comprehensive view of product size, fit, and quality. A quick virtual demo and/or assessment, instructing customers how exactly to use the product will bring in a human touch to keep customers engaged in a virtual world.
Virtual retailing through video calls will enable retailers to increase their geographical reach and help them cut down operating costs with lesser physical retail stores.
Immerse the Consumer in a Stimulated World- In-Store Experience with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Retailers must look to develop a virtual commerce strategy by leveraging technology to create an immersive experience. The AR technology layers virtual elements in the real world, as seen through a smartphone or tablet. However, VR technology is more exciting as it recreates a real-life setting digitally, but consumers are not yet comfortable wearing VR devices even at home or to use it beyond just playing games. Retailers need to decide the application to leverage in-store or out-of-store use.
In-store applications would involve a consumer interacting with AR or VR either within the actual walls of a traditional retail store or even through the windows, adhering to the new normal of social distancing. On the contrary, out-of-store applications would enable consumers to connect and engage with the retailer virtually anytime, anywhere. For instance, a retailer can leverage 3D channel by virtually replicating the in-store experience and benefits.
Once you figure out an idea of where exactly to invest, whether the in-store application or out-store, recognize the customers who would like to leverage an AR or VR solution. Remember, AR & VR have the potential to address the pain points and personalize the customer experience.
Let’s Jump into the Future of Retail to create a base of Brand Loyalists
Equipping your first line retail employees with new tools and technologies is the mantra for retail success since it allows access to:
- Customer’s history and preferences to deliver an unparalleled customer experience
- Inventory levels and in-store stock to enhance the supply chain
- A digital alternative to a product that isn’t available in the store
Set concrete financial or engagement goals that ensure ‘virtual retail’ is creating value for your business. But evaluating the virtual approach at regular intervals is a must because doing so will keep you nimble-footed at meeting consumer expectations with a still-developing technology platform.