Contactless Retail; Safety Sells

Originally Posted at DC Velocity

new technologies help keep office workers safe, they are also ensuring that shoppers stay healthy by dramatically reducing physical touchpoints for purchases and returns.

In many ways, Americans are slow to embrace change—we are all still waiting for the paperless office to arrive, after all. However, adversity can be a big catalyst for change; just months into a global pandemic, technology skipped over the paperless office concept and rocketed businesses into the “officeless” experience via new omnichannel worker applications.

In much the same manner that new technologies help keep office workers safe, they are also ensuring that shoppers stay healthy by dramatically reducing physical touchpoints for purchases and returns.

How important is safety when it comes to shopping? According to an Oracle blog, “safety is paramount, as 58% [of those surveyed] were fine to shop in-store with proper safety measures. Retailers needed to quickly retool to change their traditional shopping and remove the high-touch customer service and replace it with a digitally-enhanced self-serve experience that replicates as much of the ‘normal’ shopping experience as possible.”

The desire for a safe and contactless shopping experience is not a fad that will dissipate as vaccinations inch us closer to a pandemic-free world. For example, brick-and-mortar chains such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Urban Outfitters, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all cited Buy Online Pick up In Store (BOPIS) systems as a game-changer on recent earnings calls. This new retail experience drove Thanksgiving Day 2020, online U.S. sales up 21.5% to a new record $5.1 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.

Adopting innovative BOPIS safety methods such as smart shelving helps ensure customers feel safe while also providing the merchant with valuable data that promotes insights into the customer journey and enables enhanced personalization. Unlike a legacy pickup solution that uses lockers, requiring shoppers to come in contact with door handles touched by many people, smart shelving uses touchless QR entry codes and computer vision technology with laser guidance to protect and point out staged item locations. The valuable consumer data comes from systems such as iPickup, which can also display discounts on compatible items to the one being retrieved, or suggest different products if the item is being returned. All this data is instantly captured and used to replace store associate interactions with personalized, digital experiences in a new contactless, self-serve, and safe manner. The aforementioned Oracle blog also underscores the value of applying personalized consumer data by stating, “49% of shoppers make unintended purchases while picking up their item in-store.”

The concept of a safe and contactless shopping experience is not a fad that will phase out over a post-pandemic time frame—it’s now a fundamental shopper experience sought after by consumers. Sterile environments and limiting personal contact is now the requirement for shopping. Merchants need to embrace this customer experience through technology that offers both a higher level of engagement and the flexibility to move more merchandise vis-a-vis data analysis. Those who embrace BOPIS and smart shelving will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace and achieve a greater degree of customer loyalty.

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