Reimagining The Brick & Mortar Customer Experience In A Digital World

The retail landscape is always evolving, and eCommerce has fueled sales and revolutionized how we shop. However, many consumers still love the experience of shopping in store.

Brands were always striving to make that experience one to remember, leaning heavily on strategic facility management and merchandising. Then the pandemic hit and caused a shift to digital greater than any before.

In-store shopping was already reinventing itself to remain relevant in a world where you can click and order anything from the convenience of your mobile device. Yet even with safety mandates governing in-store access, brick and mortar shopping is still a necessity.

Retailers are balancing the brick and mortar customer experience in the digital era with a completely new rulebook. The effect of the pandemic on in-store shopping is an entirely new reality. The bottom line is that retailers have to be nimble with their space and deliberate in their efforts to provide exceptional in-store experiences – and a partner like Vixxo can help.

Balancing Brick and Mortar with a Digital Presence: The BOPIS Model

While eCommerce has become a convenient channel for shoppers, consumers still have to wait for delivery. The desire for instant gratification began driving the BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) model. This model hits that customer desire for immediacy and marries the ease of shopping online with the ability to pick up orders the same day.

While the BOPIS model was in play before COVID, many retailers used it to drive shoppers to brick and mortar locations. To maximize the potential for additional in-store purchases, some even placed the pickup counter at the back of the store so that customers would find a few more things they need along the way.

The BOPIS model changed after the pandemic, and it has dramatically surged. eCommerce platform KIBO reported their users had a 554% year over year increase of BOPIS orders in May 2020 and a slightly lower, but still incredible, 374% growth in June.

BOPIS is bridging the gap between brick and mortar and online shopping. Stores have implemented facility changes to cater to BOPIS. For one, they’re moving pickup to the front of the store to ensure safety and reduce shopper anxiety. This change is likely impacting impulse buying behaviors, but it’s improving customer perception that the store prioritizes safety.

Grocery stores have probably experienced the greatest rise in BOPIS, and their models look somewhat different. In most cases, they’ll bring your order directly to your car, which reiterates the retailer’s commitment to shopper safety.

With the rise in BOPIS for grocery, facility managers have had to consider storage for more orders, many of which require temperature control, and retailers can explore similar strategies. Large retailers who also have a core grocery offering, like Amazon (through Whole Foods), Target and Walmart have already reaped the benefits of this transition. Walmart has also leveraged their curbside pick-up to improve their margins on online sales of groceries.

There are many moving parts facility managers need to navigate to ensure that they can streamline and deliver on the BOPIS model.

Merchandising Changes: Get Customers In and Out without Diluting the Experience

Traditionally, stores strategically developed merchandising strategies in store to keep shoppers in stores longer. There’s a proven correlation between time in store and increase in sales. Now, retailers must adapt and be extremely agile in reconfiguring stores to enable quicker shopping. The entire rhythm is different, but brands still want to provide the best experience possible. That experience, however, has different priorities.

Cleanliness and safety are now paramount to customer perception. Stores are doing several things to build and maintain credibility with customers:

  • Sanitation stations at entrance
  • Scheduled (and visible) cleanings of high-touch areas during operating hours
  • Safety “ambassadors” charged with ensuring compliance with guidelines like mask-wearing, with some stores providing disposable masks to shoppers
  • Rearrangement of merchandise to better meet customer demands

Additionally, facility managers are dealing with inventory shortages – and empty shelves create emotional responses of fear, anger and frustration. No retailer wants customers to have these negative feelings, so adjustments are made daily to deliver a more positive perception.

Closing Process Gaps in Digital and Ensuring Facilities Support the Channel

Online experiences for shoppers matter just as much as in-store ones. Retailers that haven’t improved their mobile apps and websites are missing huge opportunities to delight customers.

The pandemic has also converted shoppers to mobile commerce. Since the pandemic took root, a consumer study found that 63% of U.S. shoppers made an online purchase for an item or category they never considered ordering online before.

By redistributing funding from paused CAPEX projects, organizations would be smart to invest in their technology footprint. High quality product images, multiple shipping or pickup options, and streamlining the user flow to the online checkout are all areas to concentrate on for a top-notch mobile shopping experience.

You also need to consider demand surges and make sure your mobile app and/or website can handle the increased traffic without crashing or otherwise impacting the virtual shopping session. The online shopping experience should be seamless through checkout. If it’s not, customers won’t return.

This shift correlates with in-store experience in the BOPIS model, as described above, and in providing delivery options and drive-thru options.

Placing more emphasis on these delivery channels also has consequences for facility managers. They need to improve the flow for drive-thru and create space for completed orders that delivery drivers retrieve.

It’s a tall order, but, with help from a partner like Vixxo that can help balance in-store experiences with changing expectations and future-proof solutions, it’s more than possible.

How Vixxo Supports Retailers During the Pandemic

Like every industry, retail is now faced with navigating new regulations and customer expectations, including a growing reliance on eCommerce.

Vixxo helps retailers craft a memorable in-store experience that keeps customers coming back for more and balances that process with the tools and resources retailers need to create exceptionally maintained facilities and a truly enjoyable atmosphere.

Beyond our expertise in equipment, and more recently since the pandemic began, we’ve supported our customers’ COVID-19 remediation needs.

You can learn more about Vixxo’s solutions for retail here.

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