Shoppers are always looking for the most convenient shopping experience, whether it be an online experience or physical store experience. A quick, efficient seamless process from the start to the end of the shopper’s experience. This is achieved through innovative retailers making effective use of technological innovations such as mobile technology and automation.
The current pandemic has led to rapid investment and implementation of mobile technology and m-commerce which were already becoming popular before the pandemic. Examples of this would be the use of tap and go payment channels, mobile apps and other smart retail technology. The new way of living and being more hygiene conscious, washing and sanitizing our hands often, the tap and go payment channel is a perfect fit for the current retail environment which is now a friction-free consumer experience.The impact of innovation has taken off in regions such as the US, Canada and the UK with South Africa representing for the emerging markets adopting a similar technology trajectory.
Here we will briefly discuss some of the mobile technologies assisting physical retail stores during this time.
Scan and go gaining traction
Retailers have also been moving towards self-service checkout processes which have already been implemented and proved successful in the western world where it removes the reliance on checkout staff and physical interactions. Amazon Go store model has been a great influencer and great supply of successes and key learnings in the early stages.
“For example, Walmart’s (Canada) fast lane allows customers to scan their items individually with an app as they shop, before they proceed to a specific cashier-less checkout lane. Then there is Sam’s Club in the US, revealed a new cashier-less store that has a similar checkout process that sees customers using a mobile app in the store”
Virtual queue management
What this is, is the ability for retailers to allow customers to book a slot online to visit a specific store. This is a helpful initiative because now retailers have to adhere to social distancing and limited numbers of people inside a store and this method will help with monitoring numbers. This feature of being able to book a slot in a queue is easily integrated into a retailer’s mobile application. Also mobile apps in general will slowly remove the need for personnel in the process
“as customers approach the retail outlet, they can call a specific number – and the retailer can use their geo-location to generate a ‘ticket’ (similar to the process in a Home Affairs office, for example), and be called in when it’s their ‘turn’ to enter and shop”
Benefits of such tech can allow customers to be updated on their queue position in real time via message updates and estimate times. Though this technology is still in its early stages the possibilities are endless.
Social distancing is a new normal and new methods need to be introduced to adhere to this. Retailers have introduced click-and-collect services if they had not already implemented them along with kerbside pick-up through mobile applications.
“According to the Financial Times US click-and-collect sales are expected to top $58bn in 2020 (a 60% increase from 2019), thereby giving physical stores renewed utility as lockdowns ease but social distancing restrictions persist”
In South Africa, popular restaurant chains such as KFC and Nando’s have introduced kerbside collections as of Level 3 going forward. Parcel delivery service “Pargo” also launched a click and collect drive through service that allows customers to place online orders with multiple stores, and then to collect their parcels themselves at a centralised point.