By Andreas Knürr, TIMIFY co-founder and CEO,
Retail was one of the worst industries hit by the pandemic and small businesses, in particular, are feeling the financial pressure after being forced to close the shutters back in March. Though it’s true shops are back in demand – in July sales climbed back to pre-pandemic levels – uncertainty remains, and threats of a second wave and local lockdowns mean no one can be fully confident.
In order to give businesses the best chance of survival through the difficult times that lie ahead, a customer-first culture must be established and ingrained throughout the company to keep shoppers coming back.
But the world we live in is not what it used to be and “the customer is always right” simply mantra won’t cut it anymore. A customer-first culture in today’s new normal means providing a safe and attentive end-to-end experience.
Navigating social distancing, restrictions on capacity, one-way systems, contactless payments, and the requirement for face coverings all need to be taken into consideration. Digital tools can help ease the organizational burden of these new processes and restrictions while creating an effortless and enjoyable customer experience.
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Let’s get digital
Deciding which digital tools to invest in can seem daunting, especially for independent operators and SMEs, who are the backbone of the UK economy but may not have the funds or confidence to make tech purchasing decisions. However, these investments quickly pay for themselves in admin time saved and getting customers to return.
Digital tools enhance both the customer and employee experience and ensure businesses stay ahead of their competitors. Advanced bookings, queue management, online payments, and staff rotas are proving more important than ever. Put simply, its technology that is ensuring smooth operation, no overcrowding and contactless services.
The pandemic has been a catalyst for digital transformation in the retail sector and it’s allowing businesses to create a more tailored customer experience. For example, having online bookings where shoppers chose a time to enter the store means employees can be ready to greet them, offer advice and, ultimately, make a sale.
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From the customer point of view, an effortless and enjoyable experience where they have scheduled on their terms, in real-time, and in a matter of clicks has been created, making them feel special. An exciting hybrid approach to customer service is emerging, where digital tools can be blended with the physical to enhance the overall experience.
The end-to-end experience
Organizations need to think about the customers’ entire journey, from initial browsing to queuing, collection and payment. This sounds complicated but digital tools can do all the work for you. This is what an end-to-end experience in today’s digital world might look like.
A retail shop enables customers to reserve time slots online to attend and browse; this reduces the number of people in the store at one point so social distancing is fully respected. The booking system can also be used to provide the latest information on measures being taken, such as if there is a track and trace at the store.
Internally, the company uses digital staff rotas to ensure there’s the perfect number of employees on-hand. Finally, contactless payment is taken to limit interaction and prevent the spread of the virus.
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Embracing the new normal
Retail stores that adopt digital tools are better positioned to provide quality customer service as we ride out the rest of the pandemic. Indeed, Christmas will soon creep upon us and, as 70% of UK Christmas shoppers do not plan to decrease spending in 2020, managing an influx of customers alongside the restrictions will continue to be vital.
What’s more, technology is more than just a short-term solution. Some digital tools can collect customer data; meaning organizations can build an even more tailored customer experience and create engaging and targeted marketing content.
Satisfying customers is what retail is all about, and that fact remains. But now in 2020, digital tools are what enhance the modern customer’s experience. Ultimately, businesses need to get ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, ensuring that they can boost customer experience and loyalty at a time when it is most imperative.