For an industry already exhausted by years of unprecedented change and unrest, some might assume that the coronavirus outbreak will be the final blow to brick-and-mortar retail.
And for some, it might be – earlier this week, Neiman Marcus reportedly considered filing for bankruptcy – but for others, it’s the perfect time to invest in omnichannel innovation.
A new poll by RIS News found that while 30% of retail executives said Covid-19 had negatively impacted sales, a further 42% reported an increase in sales (8% of which said it was a “goldmine”) – the remaining said sales were unchanged or they were unsure of the impact.
But sales aside, many retail executives have a lengthy list of complex operational issues on their agendas right now, from ensuring the health and safety of their employees, to managing stock, to offering in-store pick-up or curbside collections that enables social distancing and protects store associates.
Retailers can’t keep up with the surge in online orders
With consumers being ordered to self-isolate in their homes the world over, many have opted to take advantage of online delivery services (the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, actively encouraged it) which has placed a huge strain on delivery drivers.
Notorious for its next day delivery policy, Amazon Prime can no longer provide its members with timely delivery options, and Amazon is not alone. Supermarkets are struggling to keep pace with the demand for online deliveries as customers are faced with hours-long wait times before being able to place an online order, and next available delivery dates are weeks away instead of days.
To cater to this excess in demand, retailers are making drastic changes to their home delivery models. For instance, Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, announced the hiring of thousands of contractors for its online grocery service, Shipt, which it acquired in 2017.
And British supermarket chain, Waitrose, has temporarily moved many of the delivery drivers at department store partner, John Lewis, to its food retail operation.
According to the RIS News poll, retailers that are able to deliver orders are up against a number of challenges: 9% said they can’t keep up with the surge in online orders, and 17% said supporting an increased demand for store-level delivery has been a challenge in dealing with closings/limiting operations.
Retailers turn to in-store pick-up to reduce customer wait times
With many stores closing, operating on reduced hours or only allowing a small number of customers inside at one time, many retailers are trying to reduce the time customers spend in-store through their online pick-up or click and collect options.
Many retailers are still offering curbside pick-up (where goods are brought to your car), such as Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and Dick’s Sporting Goods, while Target had to push its plans to offer curbside pick-up for fresh foods and beverages back into next year. In the UK, where curbside pick-up is less common, popular restaurant chain Leon has taken an innovative step to continue serving customers by offering a click and collect service at its stores.
The issue for many retailers, however, is that in-store pick-up lines can be just as lengthy as cashier lines, as consumers have to let store associates know they have arrived and wait for their orders to be located – and the Coronavirus outbreak will only escalate this pre-existing problem.
Other prominent challenges that retail leaders in the RIS News poll identified were the ability to create in-store or curbside pick-up zones that meet CDC guidelines (13%), maintain personalized customer relationships (17%), and the ability to maintain corporate branding (7%).
Streamline your pick-up process to stop Covid-19 from spreading
During the Covid-19 outbreak, where people are being advised to stay in their homes, asking consumers to wait in lines to collect their online-purchased items is an unreasonable and unnecessary demand.
To enable social distancing and minimize the amount of time customers spend in-store, retailers need to optimize their in-store and curbside pick-up processes – and to achieve this, they need real-time communication.
For instance, customers need to be able to let retailers know when they’ve arrived in-store without waiting in a line, or better yet, schedule their pick-up times in advance so that store associates have time to prepare orders. Head office teams need to be able to communicate new health procedures and processes with stores in order to stop the virus from spreading in stores. Store managers need to be able to manage rapidly changing shift schedules and sign off on important tasks such as the deep cleaning of equipment.
Qudini’s Wait-line/Queue Management software allows in-store or curbside pick-up customers to notify retailers by SMS, weblink, QR code, virtual kiosk or host as soon as they’ve arrived, and customers are notified with status updates via the same channels as soon as their order is ready to collect. And Qudini’s Appointment Scheduling software allows customers to select a convenient time to collect online orders, significantly reducing their risk of exposure in-store.
Not only do our solutions help limit the risk of contracting the Coronavirus for customers and store associates, it also creates a better customer experience and builds stronger customer relationships, which will be increasingly important as things eventually return to normal.
Find out how Qudini’s Retail Choreography software can help create a streamlined service offering, reduce the risk of exposure to customers and store associates, better manage store footfall and communicate clear messages with customers and staff.