In the new era of global uncertainty one thing is clear in a post-pandemic world – physical retailers will need to adopt a laser-like focus on what customers really want if their store is to remain relevant.
Recent research undertaken by Manhattan Associates found that for 50% of Australian consumers, their primary requirement was that store associates should be able to have an extensive knowledge of product information. Additionally, 27% of consumers communicated that an awareness and willingness to check for stock availability was one of the most important expectations they had for store associates.
These trends in consumer expectations are largely due to the fact that more customers now expect store associates to locate out-of-stock products, suggest complimentary items, and share their personal experiences of products as part of their shopping experience. This highlights the increasingly omnichannel expectations of the customer. They now expect the associate to access a real-time, single view of stock across the retailer’s estate and be able to speedily access cross-selling opportunities in-store.
Out of necessity, consumers from all demographics will have had greater exposure to ecommerce due to the global lockdown. Post-pandemic, they will have less patience with physical retailers who lack that all-important real-time single view.
If retailers want to be truly customer-focused, they are well advised to double down on the kinds of store associate interactions their customers want and expect. In practice, this means giving frontline staff access to a cloud-based, real-time view of stock across their estate and the ability to execute omnichannel transactions on their customer’s behalf – such as locating a product and ordering online before making a range of fulfilment options available. Suggesting complimentary products may be a greater priority for retailers than consumers, but retailers can still sensitively cross-sell if associates are armed with the right technology and the right insight at key moments along the path to purchase.
Our research has shown that 42% of consumers want store associates to have access to IT systems that can locate and deliver products no matter where they are within the retailer’s stock supply chain. This is so that in-store associates can help consumers locate products so they can be purchased immediately.
While the majority of Australian retailers (69%) have a consolidated view of inventory across all networks (stores, DC, and in transit), only 6% of them said that their inventory overview was accurate 100% of the time. Additionally, 66% of retailers said that the handheld devices available to store associates in-store allow them to access a consolidated view of customer transactions in-store and online, with a further 51% stating that these devices help to give store associates the option to check out on the shop floor.
Retailers will also need to look beyond cross-selling opportunities to meet shopper needs in the future. Research has shown that Australians desire contactless shopping, delivery and collection options following COVID-19. Compared with consumer buying patterns before the pandemic, nearly 60% of Australian shoppers are now more likely to purchase and collect retail goods without human interaction, such as online ordering for contactless click and collect. Our research also revealed that only 28% of shoppers desired the same level of direct human interaction when shopping as they did prior to COVID-19.
Of those respondents who desired contactless shopping, 57% of them were more likely to buy online for home delivery, or online for a click and collect service from a contactless parcel collection point (18%), while only 7% said they would buy online for contactless curb-side pick-up. These insights highlight how Australian consumers’ shopping habits have fundamentally changed following the arrival of COVID-19. They want less-direct human interaction and more flexibility in the way that they shop, collect, or receive their goods; something that is much more varied than the traditional models of in-store purchasing.
Moreover, in a post-pandemic world, when consumer spend and retailer revenue are most likely constricted, there is a clear need for retailers to further develop systems and processes designed to meet the changing shopping habits of their customers. Those retailers who adapt to and meet customer desires will find that they will not only survive, but thrive in today’s disrupted market.
For more information, please visit Manhattan Associates by clicking on this link.