Retailers have faced unprecedented challenges throughout 2020 and 2021, with measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19 resulting in heavy restrictions on store openings.
Many businesses have not only had to close their doors for more than half a year, but when open there have been limitations on the type of in-store experience they have been able to provide their customers.
On the other hand, eCommerce has been flourishing, with UK consumers choosing to spend more online even when restrictions have been lifted.
According to data shared by IMRG, total online sales in the UK grew by 36% in 2020. Features such as local delivery and click and collect saw similar boosts as businesses and consumers sought out the safest ways to shop.
Offer local delivery
One way many businesses have adapted is by offering local delivery services following COVID-safe procedures such as doorstep drop-off. Estimates suggest that as many as 75% of potential online sales are lost due to potential customers abandoning their online shopping cart. Studies have shown that the number one reason cited by consumers for abandoning a digital shopping cart is unexpected or unfairly high shipping costs added to the bill at checkout.
Companies that can offer free local delivery or that add minimum shipping costs have a better chance of turning leads into sales and beating the shopping cart abandonment problem.
Shopping local is also a sustainable choice that more consumers are making. The pandemic has made people recognise the importance of supporting local businesses, and many consumers want to make choices that will reduce their carbon footprint too. This has resulted in consumers choosing to shop at stores in the local area rather than travelling or having goods delivered from a distance.
One study from October 2020 discovered that as many as two-thirds of UK consumers were more likely to shop in their local community than they were a year previously. Being forced to stay close to home for more than a year has generated a new-found respect for local communities in many people and this translates to shopping habits.
Offer local pickup
Allowing customers to browse stock, place their orders and pay online, while offering a local pick up service, minimises the risk of infection when shopping in person and can expand your customer base.
Where customers can pay over the telephone or online using their credit or debit card and then collect their goods at a selected time and place, social distancing is easier to adhere to. The customer experience can be further improved by allowing each customer to choose a collection slot that works for them.
Stores can designate a specific register or corner of the store for collections or offer to bring goods out to customers in the car park or another nearby outdoor location. Staff can even place goods directly into the boot of a customer’s car without any direct contact. If an ID is required for collection, the customer could show this through the car window or over the counter in store.
Make the most of customer touchpoints
For your brand, making the most of each customer touchpoint is essential. To connect to your customers, you can add personalised thank you notes to goods being sent out for delivery or offer loyalty bonuses and discounts for purchases or referrals as part of the package.
eGift cards provide unique opportunities to expand an audience base by letting loyal customers treat their loved ones from afar.
Restaurants have also had to rethink the traditional dining experience and implement new ways of working to follow COVID-safe restrictions.
One of the key add-ons many restaurants have introduced is the self-order, pay-at-table experience, where customers scan a QR code to access the menu and order from their own device. The advantages of this to the customer in the moment are speed of service and minimised contact. For restaurants, the benefits are multiple.
While customer interactions are restricted, pay-at-table systems automatically collect each customer’s name and email address, creating new opportunities to reach out with special offers, discounts or even just a simple thank you.
Deliver a seamless digital experience
Businesses that did not sell online prior to the pandemic, have begun to shift their focus towards a broader digital offering – especially as eCommerce figures continue to soar and physical retail sales remain low. It’s the companies that deliver a seamless digital experience to their customers in 2021 that have the best chance of success.
Brand values can easily be translated into digital offerings. Businesses with a strong emphasis on communication can use their website and social media channels to make it easy for people to get in touch.
Companies that pride themselves on fast service and answering customer queries efficiently can implement chatbots to deal with some of the most frequently asked questions 24/7. Clear and transparent pricing can help customers recognise the value of the products they are purchasing.
Setting up an online store
is simple. And rather than taking away from the experience of shopping in person, offering a digital alternative can widen your customer base and create new opportunities for interactions.
Building an integrated payment system into a user-friendly website that showcases the products effectively can increase sales in a way that can continue working for your business, even with your doors back open to walk-in customers.
Customer communications matters more than ever
Digitising commerce creates new ways of connecting with your customers, providing improved customer service through multiple platforms.
One retail report found that 23% of all UK consumers use social media to discover new products.
Among the younger generations, this figure is far higher, with 47% of people aged 25-34 and 43% of people aged 18-24 seeking out new products, services and brands through social media channels. Embrace multiple channels to reach different customers.
Email communications form part of an effective digital CRM strategy, allowing companies to enhance relationships with customers through email, as well as capturing useful data that can be used to analyse business metrics and deliver the experience customers want.
Social media provides a platform where consumers are looking for advice and inspiration. Businesses can also use social media to promote contactless services such as local pickup and delivery options and broaden their customer base through competitions.
Chatbots allow businesses to offer customer service 24/7, even outside of regular operating hours. Chatbots can be implemented on a website to provide answers to common questions.
Over the phone
Keep your customers in the loop with text updates on delivery schedules. This attention to detail can improve the customer experience and increase the likelihood of repeat business.
Adding a digital element to almost any business is essential in the current climate, and it can help your business to thrive with a multi-channel approach, even when your brick-and-mortar store is open to customers once more.
Businesses can use Square Online to embrace eCommerce, reach out to a loyal customer base and discover new leads across multiple channels.
Adding services such as local delivery and pick up is simple with Square software so you can adapt your business to what suits both new and existing customers.