During COVID-19 and Beyond:
5 Technologies You Should Think About ASAP
When’s the best time to implement software that makes it easier and safer for your customers to shop? Right now.
Social distancing measures aren’t going away anytime soon, and retailers should be paying close attention to the new realities of omnichannel merchandising and delivery. The right software investments now can help merchants weather the economic downturn and enter the holiday season in the strongest position possible.
“Retailers who put off technology decisions that address changing market needs are going to have a harder time recovering,” says Bernardine Wu, CEO of consulting firm FitForCommerce. “While it’s important to manage cash, it’s dangerous to sit on the sidelines instead of investing in the now and in the future.”
Here are 5 technologies that you should consider implementing now:
1. Buy Online Pick Up Curbside (BOPUC)
Adopted by the grocery industry well before COVID-19, buy-online-pick up-curbside has been gaining traction across retailing. Merchants that include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Books-A-Million, and DSW have recently added contactless, curbside pick-up as a way to keep store personnel employed and get merchandise to consumers faster and more efficiently.
FitForCommerce Pro Tip on BOPUC:
Your customer will need a dedicated method for letting you know they’ve arrived that doesn’t involve getting out of the car or entering the store if they are on foot.
“Consider a mobile app or a phone number that is separate from your main customer service line,” says Terri Pucin, a digital commerce expert and Senior Consultant at FitForCommerce. “The best apps allow the customer to indicate when they are on their way, and track them into the parking lot so the associate comes out with the order as the customer pulls up.”
Merchants across the retail spectrum are learning that despite COVID-19, consumers aren’t happy about delayed shipping times, and they’re being vocal about it on social media. Head off some of the discontent with a chatbot that helps consumers with customer service issues, including updated item arrival times and loyalty program membership numbers and rewards totals.
FitForCommerce Pro Tip on Chatbots:
In addition to technology, you should expect a fair amount of upfront work to seed the chatbot, and ongoing human oversight to make sure it is running correctly after launch. The more testing you can do upfront the better.
3. Pay Over Time Apps
Payment over time, traditionally called “layaway,” was created to stimulate consumer spending during the Great Depression in the 1920s and ‘30s. The practice made a comeback in the last few years targeting the shoppers in Gen Y and Gen Z who prefer debit over credit. Now, with our current economic travails, pay over time apps are likely to increase their appeal to a broad range of consumers.
FitForCommerce Pro Tip on Pay Over Time Apps:
There are many new and established players in this space. Make sure you are comfortable with the obligation your vendor requires of the consumer, which can range from zero fees if payments are made on time to monthly late charges.
4. Contactless Payment
Contactless payments allow a consumer to use a chip-enabled credit card or digital wallet to complete a purchase via payment terminals equipped with near-field communications (NFC) capabilities. The consumer holds up a credit card or a digital wallet to a reader, without store personnel needing to touch the form of payment, another safety feature when stores reopen.
FitForCommerce Pro Tip for Contactless Payment:
You may need to update your POS to handle the new technology.
5. Back In Stock Reminders
Merchants who offer back-in-stock reminders have a leg up on competitors who don’t – it can build loyalty, drive higher cart size and increase purchase frequency. Home Depot is currently employing this technology, allowing it to keep in touch with consumers via email updates so they don’t feel like they need to constantly hit the refresh button, a frustrating experience.
FitForCommerce Pro Tip for Back In Stock Reminders:
Your update emails can do double duty for other marketing messaging, including reminders about loyalty programs or upcoming sales, or to promote new products in the same or adjacent categories as the out-of-stock item. “Make every communication count,” says Robin Kamen, Senior Consultant and CMO at FitForCommerce.
Overall FitForCommerce Pro Tip for the 5 technologies you should think about implementing right now:
In addition to your tech selection process, you will also need to run parallel exercises to understand how you will need to update operations that include order management and fulfillment, finance, and marketing.
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