As anyone attempting to buy toilet paper in March discovered, the outbreak of Covid-19 entirely transformed the retail experience almost overnight.
Now, as governments globally veer between imposing and relaxing lockdown measures in response to fluctuating infection rates, it’s become clear that retailers will need to adopt a smart, responsive approach to properly meet shifting shopper requirements and retain customer loyalty over the years ahead.
To some extent, Covid-19 has merely accelerated existing trends. Online retail was already growing rapidly, the number of potential consumer touchpoints had already exploded and shoppers already expected retailers to understand their preferences and engage them with targeted messaging and offers.
The pandemic has turned some of these growing trends – such as online grocery shopping – into, in some instances, the only viable option.
A transformed environment requires retailers to consider every aspect of their omnichannel experience, including how to make the physical store safer, more personalized, and more convenient, as well as how to meet the needs of consumers shopping online.
Extenda Retail and Stefanini: A partnership for speed and agility
“It all starts with what the customer wants,” explains Bogdan Galusca, Business Development Director at Stefanini. “We started the collaboration with Extenda Retail more than six years ago to provide both online and offline offerings. Combining innovation, creativity and data, we offer fluidity and scalability with our solutions, which provide a more personalized retail experience that can better meet the needs of an unpredictable world,” adds Bogdan.
Technology turning retail personal: Where science meets innovation
“Each retailer should build its own analytical engine,” explains Alexandru Cernatescu, CEO Stefanini Infinit. “In our experience, only a cross-functional team can ensure the integrity of the data and the correct interpretation of its output,” adds Alexandru.
In an omnichannel retail environment, this broad technology knowledge is crucial when it comes to building relationships and customer loyalty through personalized experiences that offer greater convenience.
This includes solutions that span both physical and digital retail to create more engaging journeys that better meet changing consumer requirements.
For instance, digital shelf technology inside the physical store can be used to advertise products no longer in stock, enabling shoppers to scan a barcode at the empty shelf to order these to arrive when they get home.
Likewise, Extenda Retail has devised a Shopping List app that enables retailers to engage shoppers on their phones before they enter the store, providing intelligent shopping suggestions based on purchase history and dietary preferences, describing where items are located in store, making recipe suggestions and even offering advice to help customers with personal goals, such as sticking to a monthly budget or reducing their carbon footprint.
This ‘bricks and clicks’ approach is crucial at a time when stock levels have been disrupted and shopper numbers are fluctuating. It’s also key to protecting profits, with Extenda Retail research finding that online sales are 150% higher inside the catchment of a physical store, while closing physical stores can lead to a 50% drop in online sales.
A safer store experience
A more convenient in-store experience is crucial to customer loyalty in normal times – let alone during a pandemic.
When shoppers can find exactly what they need and leave the store without waiting in long lines, they are happier and safer.
Extenda Retail’s Scan & Go solution can play a valuable role here, enabling shoppers to turn their own personal mobile phones into self-scanning devices in store and to pay via the app.
Equally, Just Walk Out shopping combines machine learning, RFID sensors and AI to allow shoppers to pick items off the shelves and leave without any scanning or waiting for a cashier, automatically charging them the correct amount.
At Stefanini, we’re developing a solution that will allow consumers to use self-checkout machines and kiosks using only gesture, rather than physical touch, creating a more pandemic-friendly self-service experience. Additionally, this technology improves the customer experience while reducing costs and enabling store staff to focus on work that adds greater value, such as offering advice and product demonstrations.
Offering online reassurance
As self-isolating shoppers add to the already growing numbers of consumers buying online, retailers need to turn to technology to reassure shoppers and offer the level of convenience and service they are used to.
This includes AI technology, such as our Sophie chatbot solution, which offers human-like interaction to help retailers deal with increased customer queries in a way that is entirelyentire customizable to their business requirements. Put simply, when shoppers are seeking reassurance and the quality of the shopping experience is a matter of public health, investing in the latest technological solutions is vital.