Walmart will remodel 200 Supercenters by 2020 to promote a “digitally enabled shopping experience.” This will include bolder signage, contactless checkout and airport-inspired crowd management techniques. The remodeling project by the retail giant will see it expand to 1,000 stores by 2021. These redesigns are meant to complement the company’s mobile app. Walmart’s new stores will offer self-checkout kiosks as well as stations where WalmartPay can be used. This is in response to the increasing demand for contactless shopping. Scan & Go technology will be available at several locations.
Total Retail’s View: It has been a long-standing trend for big-box retailers to blur the lines between online and offline shopping experiences by using in-store mobile apps and various technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing preference of contactless shopping have made it more pressing to implement such technologies, as well as redesigning store spaces. Consumers want their in-store shopping experience to be as seamless and quick as possible. Technology is helping them achieve that goal. Walmart saw this and integrated it into its store design plans.
Alvis Washington, vice-president, marketing – store design innovation and experience, Walmart said in an emailed statement to Total Retail that “Today is pivotal for us as we rollout our new store look & feel” and embrace a truly digitally enabled Omni Shopping Experience. We set out to create an engaging shopping experience that would enable both customers and associates to shop in a highly personalized and efficient manner. The team is incredibly proud of their dedication to serving customers and their passion.
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How retailers can reopen while reimagining their brick-and-mortar experience
Omnichannel strategies have been a major driver of brick-and-mortar retail growth in recent years. 2020 will be the year of growth. The pandemic decimated thousands of brick-and-mortar stores in a matter of months, and there was no warning. Brands were suddenly left with no e-commerce capabilities, and only their imaginations. They had to adapt quickly.
Retail brands have seen mixed results from the abrupt shift to online retail during COVID-19. Some, such as the modernized Neighborhood Goods department store, prompted digital innovation while others, such as J.C. Penney’s transition, accelerated their decline. Retailers are now in transition as most stores reopen across the United States. Retailers face many new challenges, including customers who are wary and safety concerns in the store.
The convenience of ecommerce is a big draw for shoppers. Brands must ensure that their online experience does not lose customers or damage their stores. This era demands that brands carefully coordinate online and brick-and-mortar efforts, while focusing on experiential shopping.
These challenges will present new opportunities for your brand to win customers. This will require greater differentiation and innovation. These are the steps to ensure your store is successful and safe as we move into the next chapter in an unpredictable year.
Do not forget the in-store experience
A strong digital experience was essential for brands pre-pandemic. It’s now a necessity. Retail 101 is a seamless, integrated experience in 2020. This will allow you to keep your customers engaged, whether they shop on your mobile app, visit your website or go into stores.
Online shopping has not completely replaced the experience of shopping in stores, despite the cultural shift towards e-commerce in the last few months. Brands should make sure that their online experience is safe and secure, as customers tend to spend more when they shop in-store. This could include integrating physical retail with online experiences in a way that is more seamless. Implementing curbside pickup or return drop-offs for online orders is one way to create a new physical retail experience. Neighborhood Goods made these changes by expanding its online store and turning its stores into pick-up centers.
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Customers should have a positive experience in store. However, it is important to think outside of the box. Sephora, a cosmetics giant, has found a way for its Beauty Insider loyalty program to be combined with in-person benefits. After social distancing restrictions have been lifted, members can exchange points for special experiences like one-on-one meetings with brand founders and appointments with skin experts. Connecting online shopping with brick-and-mortar benefits, whether it be future consultations or discounts on item pickups ensures that customers continue to shop.
Thoroughly Educate and Train Your Staff
Incredible customer service is an important part of making sure that online sales don’t overtake in-store sales. Many traditional retailers need to help staff adapt to the omnichannel process in order to provide better customer service. Staff must be trained in digital processes to ensure customers have a seamless experience. With stores opening, training is essential to ensure customers and employees are safe. It’s crucial that brands continue to communicate with their employees to understand their perspectives and determine what is working and what can be improved. Listening to employees and adapting quickly to it will build loyalty and create a positive environment that allows them to provide exceptional customer service.
At a minimum, staff should be able check inventory at all locations and process returns quickly. They also need to have access to account information across touchpoints. Customers won’t be frustrated by inconsistent interactions if there is no friction between online and instore shopping. Stores should enforce strict hygiene protocols, mask-wearing, and social distancing to ease customers’ return to in-person shopping. These extra measures can protect your customers‘ health and peace of mind.
Sephora’s investments in staff talent and expertise can be a great resource for stores. Brands can differentiate in-store and online offerings by relying on their employees. This gives customers something they don’t get through the mail, and eventually, makes them return to brick-and mortar stores. Offering customers unique and valuable experiences in stores, such as Lush’s demonstrations in-store or Apple’s Genius Bar, makes them more inclined to go offline.
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Listen to the Voice of Customer
Every major transformation, be it a rebranding, a new website, or store reopening has the potential to either delight or upset existing customers. How can you avoid this? Listen to your customer and let them “co-create these experiences with me.”
Understanding customer expectations is the first step. Ask yourself these questions: What is the brand promise? What makes customers choose our brand over other brands? While discount prices and a broad product range may be the best answer for department stores and other retailers, it is important to understand how web and brick-and mortar offerings can work together.
Asking the right questions and asking for feedback can help you gain an ongoing understanding of your customers’ preferences, frustrations, and satisfaction. You can gain a complete picture of your customer by combining this feedback with inferred and indirect customer data. This is an important aspect of customer data, but it is especially pertinent when customers are hesitant to shop in-store.
A more resilient future
In-store innovation is more important than ever because of the convergence of digital transformation with a global pandemic. Your brand’s approach can either delight current customers or attract new ones. Or it could alienate loyal customers. Understanding your core strengths, listening to customers and educating employees will help you make the most of current opportunities and navigate through challenges. This will allow you to build lasting resilience.