Effective Multichannel Retail Strategies During COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the United States, setting back store reopening plans, small to midsized retailers must grapple with the realization that new consumer behaviors and protocols sprung from this health crisis will be here for much longer than initially anticipated. Fortunately, there are technologies and integrations available that are able to help retailers adapt and even improve operations in this changing landscape.
Advanced Store Queue Management
Local ordinances across the country continue to limit the number of people in stores based on square footage, which puts an enormous strain on small and midsized retailers with limited space to accommodate customers at a safe social distance. While big-box and other large retailers often have sizable parking lots to support a structured queue line, with markers on the concrete or pavement, others aren't as fortunate. Retail extension apps allow businesses to set thresholds at the store-level, and allow consumers to join a virtual queue via text and be alerted when it’s their turn to enter. Not only does this allow retailers to easily enforce compliance, but removes the challenge and deterrent of having no space for customers to wait for entrance, while also encouraging social distancing. This is an essential application for retailers in malls, and functions similarly to restaurant buzzers that alert customers when a table is ready.
Enabling True Multichannel Retail Capabilities
Especially during COVID-19, it’s important multichannel retailers take advantage of integrated supply chain management between e-commerce and in-store inventory. Enabling functionality so customers can purchase online and pick up in-store is essential to stay competitive with the larger e-commerce giants that offer free two-day delivery, such as Amazon.com. During checkout, shoppers are automatically directed to the closest store through geo-location services, and they can enter details of their car’s make, model and license number for curbside pickup. Upon arrival, store associates will have their order ready and bring it out for a seamless, touchless transaction. This same technology can also be used to allow for curbside returns for online orders. Although returning items has been a challenge during COVID-19, this functionality allows store associates to search for an order by email address or order number on a mobile device and effortlessly log the item back in the inventory management system without having the customer leave their car and set foot in a store or in a line.
This is also a particularly important feature for online purchases that require different sizes. Should a customer purchase shirts or shoes that don’t fit and return the products curbside, the sales associate has an opportunity to offer the correct size or an alternative item and have it shipped directly to the customer's residence. This can increase the probability that a return becomes an exchange, meaning the retailer doesn’t lose out on a sale.
Invest in a Simple Point-of-Sale System
There are plenty of great point-of-sale (POS) systems to help multichannel retailers support their business during COVID-19, but not all of them are simple to use. Avoid undervaluing the importance of simplicity as some systems are notoriously difficult for associates to learn and master. Larger retailers with many teams trained in these elaborate systems may not be at risk, but for a smaller operation with only a handful of experts, it could temporarily bring down a storefront should they leave.
There are many features that can help multichannel retailers adapt to changing consumer behaviors resulting from COVID-19. However, just as with any change thrust upon businesses, the key is to start small and focus on the technologies that enable a touchless, simple and safe experience for both customers and store associates, while adding new features as needed.
Matthew Carroll is president and CEO of Ignition Commerce, a certified Salesforce Commerce Cloud integrator that has performed over 80 integrations, known for leveraging proprietary IP and reference architecture to integrate multichannel e-commerce sites at a fraction of the time.
Matthew Carroll is president and CEO of Ignition Commerce, a certified Salesforce Commerce Cloud integrator that has performed over 80 integrations, known for leveraging proprietary IP and reference architecture to integrate multi-channel ecommerce sites at a fraction of the time
At Ignition Commerce, Carroll is responsible for corporate strategy, product positioning, marketing, business development, and the management of all strategic relationships including technology providers Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware) and Oracle Commerce (formerly ATG). Prior to the founding of Ignition Commerce in 2007, Carroll served as SVP of Business Development for Accretive Commerce where he determined strategy for general and client specific business acquisitions and managed new client sales cycles. Carroll has spent the entire 30 + years of his professional life working within the retail and apparel industries, and the past 20 focused on providing eCommerce solutions, services, and infrastructure for retailers and branded manufacturers.