What can physical retail stores offer, that the online disruptors can’t?

In a pre-COVID-19 world, we saw two sides of the coin, one with retail stores closing, and the other, with new stores opening.

Before COVID-19, we saw big opportunities to support retail stores with an array of IT technology services, ranging from EPOS installation, wireless, and helpdesk support services. This meant that more retail stores were in need of our vital services to serve their growing customer demands.

Although we saw growth in eCommerce sales, in which they increased exponentially during the 1st lockdown back in March, it was a different story, once everything opened up again, especially with the encouragement of the “eat out to help out” scheme. In July, we saw a surge of activity back to the high street, including customers going back to bars, restaurants, and pubs, in their thousands.

UK retail footfall continued to improve in July as shoppers tentatively returned to the high street following the coronavirus lockdown. (Clark, 2020)

Now that we have officially entered into the 2nd lockdown (In England, from the 5th November), we expect that once we are out of this and it is safe to do so, a surge of activity will be placed back onto the high street including, those customers going back to bars, restaurants, pubs, and retail stores et al.

With all the challenges that retail and hospitality businesses face, what can physical stores do that other online retailers' can’t?

First of all, no one can take away the convenience that online shopping brings to all of our lives, however with customers still making up over 70% of all in-store retail sales, retail and hospitality brands still need to cater for those customers who prefer shopping via the traditional means.

We know that personalisation is a very important part of offering a truly unique service to customers in-store. When we talk of personalisation, we mean personalised offerings based on their previous purchasing, value-added personalisation, instant communication, and rapid response service to a customer query through all the IoT devices.

Technology is responsible for improving our overall convenience, and with eight out of 10 shoppers in-store having access to their smartphone, you will want to ensure you can offer a fully responsive, personalised, and integrated offering, based on each of your customer's needs. This offering can be achieved through a range of beacon technology, which forms part of KFP’s wireless solution stack.

Technology such as the Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi solution will be the answer to supporting both retail and hospitality brands with the advanced smart technology needed to provide their customers with a truly personalised guest Wi-Fi experience.

This technology will be essential to providing personalised and engaging retail communication, from a marketing content perspective. Brands will be able to promote value-added offerings directly to their customers, with voucher and discount codes, that will support their customers, once they return to the high street, when the COVID-19 restrictions subdue.

With technology as the driver, customer experience is the all-important passenger. It wouldn't make sense to have installed the latest Wi-Fi technology if your customer experience does not make your customers want to come back for more.

It's safe to say that brick-and-mortar stores have had it rough over the last few years, which have not been helped by the effects of COVID-19 and governmental restrictions on movement.

It's often been stated that brick-and-mortar retailers have been in a losing battle with some of the biggest online disrupters, such as Amazon, ASOS, and eBay.

We all witnessed the fall of Toys "R" Us who largely sold its products through the Amazon and eBay platforms and lost loyalty to those platforms when price and quality became the common denominator. 

One of the most important factors for retail and hospitality brands going forward is, 'experience'. We’ve seen both retail and hospitality brands invest heavily in their customer experience offerings, as they know that face-to-face, in-store purchasing still accounts for the majority of their retail sales.  

We expect that because of COVID-19, retail is likely to change for the long-term, but with stores likely to be opening their doors in early December, and with customers likely to be queuing around the corner, as both Nike and Primark retail both experienced a few weeks back, there is still a future for traditional retail.  

Tough economic conditions due to COVID-19, make the likes of the online giants, with their convenient next day deliveries, the leveraged competitive advantage of price and speed of delivery, an even tougher sell for physical retail stores. There is, however, something for all retail brands to focus on in aid of fighting back when everything is open again, and restrictions are eased.

What can retailers do to fight back?  

We know that the restrictions of COVID-19 have placed an immense strain on physical retail and hospitality businesses, but once the world gets hold of the COVID-19 situation, there's much to be excited about, especially retail technological innovation.

We believe that the model introduced by Pets at Home can help other retailers leverage the market place, alongside a service lead value proposition and strategy. 

This means providing your customers with a service that is focused on education, self-help, guidance and direct interaction with your brand. Pets at home being a great example of this. 

Pets at Home use their Stockport store which features a ‘groom room’ where customers can wash their own pets, a ‘selfie spot’ kiosk, a dog food deli, ‘Vets 4 Pets’ and an RSPCA ‘Cat Adoption Lounge’. This experience is exceptional and truly unique.

This type of service offering is exactly what sets Pets at Home apart from other brick-and-mortar retailers or an online platform. 

‘Store of the Future’ - Pets at Home store in Stockport 

There is no doubt about it that consumers in the United Kingdom (UK) are spending money on experiences rather than material goods. This fact further highlights the importance of delivering an exceptional in-store experience and utilising the technology to enable you to do this.

With more customers' expecting ‘service excellence’ as part of their overall retail experience, what can you do as a retailer to harness customer service and increase customer loyalty long-term? 

At KFP, we focus on giving our viewers, partners, and customers, a truly valuable service.

With Lockdown (in England), the UK, Ireland, and parts of Europe, we’re seeing customers use this time (whilst their stores are shut) to upgrade their technology, in preparation for December and the new year.

If you are a retailer and want to speak with one of the team about your options for technology upgrades, or simply wish to talk about your plans for 2021, then why not speak with one of our team today, who (even though working remotely), can provide all levels of support and guidance on your retail estate.

Contact us today:

sales@kfpit.com | +44 (0) 1235 539101 | www.kfpit.com