Founder of Society of Speed.
Technology has advanced rapidly when you look at how far we've come in the last decade or two, even when comparing the mobile phones of 2000 versus today. It's changed the world. Something else changing the world is the COVID-19 pandemic. As we get used to our new normal, technology will play a major role. For retailers, technology will be the most important tool in their journey to survive.
While businesses have transformed daily functions the within retail space with safety protocols, they have also stepped up their efforts on the digital front. Through a challenging time, even the smallest retailers have done an exceptional job. The big question is: what does the future look like?
A virtual conference isn't just for holding meetings, it's a sales opportunity, too. There's no need to miss out on new clients or sales meetings when you can simply connect via your phone or computer. You can meet someone in the comfort of your (and their) own home, and save the environment by avoiding travel. It's a win-win.
Of course, virtual conferences also offer a unique training opportunity. It will allow business owners and managers to get all of their staff in one place to roll out new initiatives and training sessions. There is also the opportunity for collaboration that virtual conferencing allows. Opportunity teams can be put together to focus on specific outcomes. Now is the time for innovation and retailers will have to move fast to keep up.
Lauren Sommer, Director of Moi Moi Fine Jewellery, says “I believe the COVID-19 situation has resulted in a lot of us boutique retailers to reevaluate how the traditional sales experience is done, especially if we want to continue to thrive.”
Sommer goes on to say “By introducing new services such as Live Help video consultations and our new Home Try-On service where we send out sample engagement rings to our customers to try on at home, we have been able to replicate the personalized service our customers normally get in our stores but instead, in the comfort of their homes. If other boutique retailers can find their unique way to still reach their customers, they can still grow at times like these”.
Contactless has been in use for several years, but it has taken on greater importance now as people aim to mitigate what they come into contact with. Banks the world over have raced to change contactless limits and how often a pin is needed. It is the smartest and safest way to protect both the customers and the employees.
Varun Ashok, Director of Mobile Experts, says “With the majority of the shopping centres closed, we’ve had to come up with new ways to service our customers. We have over 30 stores across Australia, but nobody would leave their homes to shop.”
Ashok further goes on to say that, “We introduced new services such as Mobile Experts Comfort, so our technicians can do door to door repairs. At the end of the day, phones will always be an essential part of our daily lives and as long as we can serve our customers, we believe we can still thrive in the market.”
Retailers will be forced to adapt and continuously create new experiences to engage customers. While we are in uncertain times, technology will allow retailers to provide their colleagues with the right tools to serve customers effectively and productively. It will be the key to ongoing success. For any retailer who has survived thus far without an online presence, that's over. Now is the time to build a website, create social media accounts, and start engaging with customers wherever they can meet them.
While we don't yet know what the new normal will look like, we're starting to get a clearer picture. Online is going to play a large role in this. In fairness, many businesses have been moving online in recent years. With many people working more hours than ever, the convenience of online ordering is necessary.
The biggest retailers in the business have been crafting omnichannel strategies for years. They have gone out of their way to blend online and physical channels to engage customers in how they want to be engaged. While the pandemic has changed the in-person interactions we are used to, the digital element has to take precedence.
If you're going online, then you have to create a seamless digital brand experience for your customers. You have to meet your customers where they are and as they move with the times, so must you. It could be that you provide an app where customers can book online slots to visit your store, it might be that you offer a wide selection of your products online, or perhaps your customers can scan their products and pay for them via an app. Of course, it might be a combination of all of these things. Ultimately, retailers have to ensure that they are the ones wearing the inconvenience versus it being on the customer.
Now is the time to invest in online acquisition to make up for the reduction in physical foot traffic. This will require a reallocation of funds after a review of your budget, but online marketing is going to be key to capturing customer attention and introducing them to your digital brand experience, from your website to your social media accounts. Pay attention to keyword performance, the shop-ability of your social channels via clickable content and featured products, and consumer intent.
With the increase in app downloads during the lockdown, it's time to invest in your own if you haven't already. Your digital experience should be zero friction. Customers expect more from digital, from the stability and speed of sites to quick delivery times. Your page should be optimized for shopping. That means highlighting the highest margin products, and making the more prominent and the most popular products easy to find.
Boost loading speed, and use consistent marketing messages across your sites. Now would be a good time to look at your landing pages as well.
The key to survival in any industry and success in any circumstances is to adapt. That has always been true for retailers, but it has never been truer than now as we face unprecedented changes in how we live our daily lives. The pandemic has changed the entire world and for traditional retailers, technology has provided an opportunity to adapt to this new normal. While many businesses will fall, fail, and disappear, technology will stand to save many more.
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