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New Research: What Contactless Shopping Means For The Store

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As we promised a couple of weeks ago, RSR has just published its latest benchmark report, What Contactless Shopping Means For The Store. Our aim for the research project was simple: to acknowledge that the retail world has irrevocably changed (and will continue to) and understand the implications of those changes. We wanted to identify those areas in the shopping experience and fulfillment processes which stand to be altered the most and query retailers about their attitudes and plans to solve for those changes, for both the short and mid-term.

As the world is caught in the space between recovering from the last pandemic lockdown and preparing for the possibility that another one is inevitable, retailers have a lot of imponderables to deal with.  The first one is the most fundamental: are new customer shopping behaviors related to how their shopping journeys are initiated and how their orders are fulfilled here to stay? What does that mean to operational processes, the type of labor needed to do the work, the best design for the store in the future, and (of course) what technologies will best support the new processes?

The problem of course is that no one knows if pandemic-era consumer shopping behaviors and the resulting operational changes that retailers made to accommodate them are just the tip of the “change” iceberg. We think that retailers will experience continuous change for some time to come. Flexibility and agility are key success drivers of retailers from now on. The report makes several recommendations for moving forward based on what we’ve been able to observe from over-performers (called “Retail Winners” in RSR benchmark reports). Here’s a summary of what we offered up as recommendations in the new report:

Get the Best Of Both Worlds: Winners understand that giving shoppers the ability to shop online and pickup their purchases at or near the store provides the best of both the digital and physical shopping experience. This fundamentally means those two selling environments must be integrated. For example, the customer order management system must be integrated with in-store Point-of-Sale systems.

Be Sensitive To Changing Consumer Needs: when retailers think about new fulfillment options, they think of Buy Online/Pickup Instore (BOPIS), Buy Online/Pickup Curbside (BOPAC), or direct delivery.  But Retail Winners understand that they need to provide ways for customers to independently pick up their own orders in a safe and secure way.

No Sacred Cows: Winners are willing to challenge old assumptions built into their operating models, including those that relate to store design, labor requirements, process designs, and technologies.

You Can’t Do Everything, So Do The Important Things: retailers must recognize that shoppers will continue to alter their shopping behaviors for quite some time to come. This is unprecedented, and it means retailers are going to have to make hard decisions on which of these behaviors to prioritize going forward. Winners expect that consumer needs will continue to change, and that they need to implement processes and supporting technologies that make it relatively easy to change with the consumer.

Plan To Address New Costs: new processes require new people and skills as well as new technologies. Winners are aware of this and are working to optimize the new processes they implemented in 2020, and that includes automating wherever possible.

You Can’t Do It Without Technology: retailers must implement Omnichannel order management and order fulfillment capabilities to compete in the world as it exists after the pandemic. Top-valued capabilities include mobile status updates, reserved curbside order pickup times, customer service desks and order pickup kiosks. Retailers are also thinking about the employees who fulfill online orders in the store and interact with customers: mobile devices to alert employees of BOPIS/BOPAC related tasks, store-level pickup confirmations, the ability for employees to view order status information, and order picking and staging capabilities.

Meanwhile, Back At The Neighborhood Store

The new report comes at the right moment, because the challenges and opportunities that we discuss are happening right now in neighborhood stores across the land. I see it every time I go to the local supermarket; “contactless” is being encouraged by poor execution in the store, whether retailers know it or not. A simple example is the “self-checkout” system that many retailers use. Some (for example: Home Depot’s) are quite good and programmed with mere mortals in mind. Others, like my to-be-unnamed local grocer’s, are simply abysmal, so much so that customers actually prefer to stand in a checkout line rather than have to deal with its idio-stinkeries.

But there’s a rub: out of the 8 lanes that could be open, only three typically are, and none of them usually have baggers on duty. I spotted the checkstand manager and asked, “what the heck is going on?” He replied that in the current labor climate, the store can’t find anyone willing to sign on as a checkout clerk.

This is a store that is “accidentally”encouraging consumers to use the BOPAC (Buy-online-pickup-curbside) option or perhaps take advantage of the store’s arrangement with Instacart for direct delivery. It is training customers to shop “contactless” rather than have to deal with the store experience. What a shame! A better way would be to have a plan – and that’s exactly what the new report suggests.

Read The Report

RSR’s brand new research report,  What Contactless Shopping Means For The Store, is sponsored by Package Concierge, and features 18 charts across 24 pages of in-depth analysis. It also features recommendations for all retailers to consider based on our findings.

All RSR’s benchmarks are free to everyone, and online registration takes only a moment. If you haven’t already done so, we invite you to bookmark RSR’s website for the latest in our research and commentary!

Newsletter Articles August 24, 2021
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