Guest Column | February 22, 2021

Master The Basics Before Investing In Disruptive Tech

By Martyn Jones, VoCoVo

Meeting Laptop

There have been countless articles championing experiential retail as the future of in-store shopping. Experiential retail, also known as ‘retail theatre’, leans on disruptive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to add that ‘wow’ factor to the customer experience, entice consumers back into stores and improve declining footfall.

Many retailers have flirted with experiential technologies through short-term projects, such as skate wear retailer Tillys’ use of an AR-driven smartphone app that transforms the traditional shopping trip into an in-store scavenger hunt. But we’re yet to see most retailers implementing these technologies and experiences permanently. What’s more, the impact of COVID-19 on the sector will force retailers to look harder at where true long-term value lays when it comes to investing in new technologies.

VoCoVo’s recent survey of 2,000 U.S. and 2,000 U.K. shoppers found over two in five (43%) have lost confidence in physical retail since the pandemic began and the majority (82%) will change the way they shop because of the crisis. Almost half (49%) say their loyalty has changed in some form or another during the crisis and over a third (34%) will do more shopping online.

Many retailers digesting these findings will surely agree it feels wiser to overlook disruptive experiential technologies and instead focus on getting the basics right to restore consumer faith and loyalty in in-store shopping. This means implementing more critical technologies that provide real measurable value such as improving efficiency and enhancing operations. Ultimately this will go much further in improving the customer experience than AR or VR experiences.

Making Improvements Where They Really Matter

To provide the best possible customer experience, every retail store should become an ecosystem that seamlessly connects store workers and shoppers with the relevant systems. Using voice communication technology, store employees can be connected with systems that alert them when products need to be restocked and when CCTV detects a sudden influx of footfall. This empowers them to respond promptly, restocking shelves before customers notice products are missing, or manning checkouts and customer service desks to reduce customer waiting times as the store becomes busier. Providing co-workers with headsets will enable them to communicate with each other quickly and easily, whether they’re getting accurate information to answer a customer query or a faster price check for a customer at checkout.

Buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS)is an accessible way for retailers to bridge the gap between online and offline channels. Many stores have BOPIS counters but customers using these can be subjected to long waits and queues for their orders to arrive at the counter. This can be alleviated using call points and keypads placed on standard and self-service checkouts and BOPIS counters, allowing customers to collect their items without delay or irritation.

Connecting headsets with popular workforce planning apps can help to ensure all in-store services such as checkouts and collection counters are appropriately manned to accommodate fluctuating customer demand at any given time. Software that connects the employees to the planning apps can convert tasks into voice notifications delivered to workers in real-time. This will alert the stock replenishment team that the checkouts are about to receive an influx of customers, or that a BOPIS customer is approaching the collection desk and will need serving.

Put The Fundamentals First

While you can’t deny the appeal of injecting excitement through elements of entertainment and gamification into the traditional in-store experience, retailers should be wary when it comes to getting true value from their investment from these immersive technologies. Retailers need to get the basics right first to ensure customers have the best possible experience before the ‘wow’ factor can be considered. Implementing technologies that boost employee and operational efficiency will help them achieve this.

About The Author

Martyn Jones is Director at VoCoVo.