Significant changes by retailers need not end in 2021

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It would be an understatement to say that COVID-19 launched the retail industry into challenging times. What began as additional safety and cleaning procedures including social distancing measures in-store quickly spiraled into large-scale changes that required retailers to add an online presence, if they didn’t have one already, and cater to consumers in new (often contactless) ways.

Lindsey Allen

Although we’re only a few months into the new year, it’s evident that the pandemic will likely endure for a while and continue to impact how shopping is done. As stores of all sizes look for new ways to improve their operational execution, they should consider the feedback that both associates and consumers provided in Zebra Technologies’ 13th annual Global Shopper Study. Findings highlighted what’s working well within the current omnichannel model and what needs further refinement. These are valuable insights that, if properly leveraged, will help retailers prosper in the coming months and strengthen customer loyalty.

Lead with shopper and associate safety

Given the increasing number of consumers returning to shop in store, safety must remain the top priority. Even though 90% of retail decision makers think shoppers and associates trust them to make health and safety a priority, only 65% of shoppers and 77% of associates actually feel that way. Moreover, nearly two-thirds (67%) of shoppers are concerned with surface sanitation or social exposure in stores. That means that cleaning procedures that would have seemed excessive prior to COVID-19, such as wiping down registers and dressing rooms, should remain part of retailers’ daily routines to help show they are listening to customers and close that trust gap.

Retailers should also continue to invest in new technologies that address safety in their brick-and-mortar locations. Fifty-nine percent of shoppers prefer stores with contactless payment options, making self-checkout and personal shopping solutions popular choices for near-term investments that will improve operations long term. They empower consumers to check themselves out and look up product inventory without having to consult an associate. This simultaneously supports social distancing and frees up staff to focus on other high-value tasks such as restocking shelves and fulfilling online orders. Both of these can help increase curbside, home delivery and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) service capacity to reduce in-store foot traffic and further support social distancing.

Reassure customers that mobile ordering is here to stay

Eighty-two percent of shoppers who have reported using mobile ordering are highly likely to continue using it. In addition, 64% of surveyed shoppers reported they believe retailers need to offer mobile ordering as an option in their stores as it provides both the alternative shopping options and the convenience they want. Retailers looking to improve the customer experience and meet shoppers’ needs should incorporate mobile ordering into their e-commerce offerings. If mobile ordering is already available, now would be a good time to solicit more specific feedback from users about their experiences and refine the app as needed.

Multichannel experiences are key to building brand loyalty

One of the biggest takeaways coming out of last year is that, in order to build loyalty and wallet share, retailers must be able to provide memorable multichannel experiences to their shoppers. In order to do so, though, retailers must turn to solutions like intelligent automation, cloud computing and mobile devices that can help tackle some of their biggest lingering challenges, such as inventory visibility and returns management. They must also equip store associates with the real-time data they need to deliver highly personalized and efficient customer experiences. According to Zebra’s Global Shopper Study, 85% of retail executives agreed shoppers have a better experience in stores where associates use the latest technology to assist them.

Consumers have come to expect a certain speed and quality of service in-store, whether making a purchase, returning an item or just browsing. They also expect the products they need or want to be in stock when they arrive, particularly with the retailers that publish their current inventory levels online. Retailers who continue to experience out-of-stocks will lose customers to competitors. In fact, Zebra’s study found that 41% of surveyed shoppers state out-of-stocks as the top reason for leaving a store without a purchase. With any luck, and the right workflow tools, the days of empty retail shelves will be a thing of the past and consumers can leave a store having purchased everything on their lists.

In other words, there are still many changes that retailers can make to impress their shoppers and secure their loyalty in 2021. Some are big. Some are small. But they can all be quite easily achieved if you employ the right technology solutions.

To learn more about the types of retail solutions growing in popularity this year and how they’re helping retailers keep up with shifting consumer behaviors, go to

Lindsey Allen is senior manager of retail and hospitality vertical marketing at Zebra Technologies.



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