Now more than ever, retailers are looking for solutions to create more seamless in-person and digital customer experiences. But while blending of in-store and online provides consumers with significantly more flexible shopping, it also creates operational challenges.
Consumers’ new shopping habits picked up during the pandemic show no sign of waning. Many stores, including retail giants Walmart, Target, Best Buy, DICK’S Sporting Goods and Urban Outfitters, introduced or expanded game-changing buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) capabilities in 2020. Curbside pickup increased by more than 500% from the end of 2019 to August 2020.
Offering omnichannel shopping experiences requires real-time updates and a tech stack that works together in the background to power each leg of the buyer’s journey. Retailers must look for the right technology that will streamline their operations and improve the customer experience, which can ultimately increase brand loyalty and revenue.
Providing Various Payments Technologies
To provide a shopping experience that seamlessly ties channels together, retailers must offer multiple ways for consumers to purchase products. This includes:
- Mobile apps and wallets: Touchless technology such as Google Pay, Samsung Pay, peer-to-peer payments like Venmo and financial institution digital payments like Zelle demonstrate mobile pay’s popularity. These options provide both safety and convenience for shoppers and retailers alike.
- Wearables: Similarly, consumers increasingly use items like their smart watches and even health devices (think Fitbit Pay) to make mobile purchases.
- Online: Consumers also love the convenience online shopping provides. In fact, Digital Commerce 360 reports that ecommerce sales hit $791.70 billion in 2020, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion in the prior year. Since predictions are that online sales will keep growing, retailers should continue improving and enhancing their website experience. In fact, savvy retailers are leveraging their store locations to speed up delivery by using services like Instacart, Shipt, Roadie, DoorDash, Uber Technologies and Freshop.
- In-store: Speaking of brick-and-mortar locations, shoppers can’t wait to be back at it again. While digital shopping has increased, most consumers want the option of shopping in person. They also want different payment options that include cash, traditional credit and debit cards, tap-to-pay credit cards and mobile wallets.
- Voice technology with virtual assistants: Almost half (47%) of online shoppers have used a virtual assistant to purchase an item with voice command, and voice commerce just keeps getting bigger.
In short, digitally savvy retailers that want to meet consumers where they are will provide these payment options and more to allow customers to shop their preferred way.
Tying Channels Together
Creating a combination physical-digital shopping experience requires data. And to have usable data, retailers must capture their customers’ information, including name, contact information, payment details, preferred payment method, items in cart, and so on. This ensures that regardless of the channel used, customer information is readily available when they switch touch points.
Nike, for example, opened its House of Innovation 000 flagship store in New York City in 2018, which enabled it to handle omnichannel payments and experiences. Specifically, customers wielding the Nike app could quickly scan in-store QR codes to find out whether their chosen apparel sizes and colors were available. If so, these items could be sent to a fitting room for them to try on. Online shoppers could reserve different types of shoes ahead of time via Nike’s website, visit a personalized in-store locker to try on their choices and pay using their smartphone.
There are also options that enable grocers to easily connect their POS platforms to online ordering and provide BOPIS capabilities to consumers.
Rather than siloing the technology for each channel, retailers are investing in a platform approach — open and flexible IT architecture — that allows them to:
- Input customer data once (thus reducing friction) and make it available across all channels;
- Accept various ways customers pay for purchases, whether via mobile phone, wearable, cash and more;
- Offer online shoppers real-time store inventory;
- Achieve brand consistency and the same level of service across multiple channels; and
- Go to market much quicker with new technological capabilities and applications.
Meeting Shoppers Where they are Today
The pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of consumers’ shopping behavior. To thrive going forward, retailers must seamlessly tie channels together, whether customers purchase in-store, online, using a wearable device, a traditional credit or debit card, or with cash. Or whether they choose to pick up merchandise from a locker, BOPIS or inside a brick-and-mortar location.
The retail landscape continues to change — but hasn’t that always been the case? Flexibility is key, and the right technology can ensure retailers meet both consumer demand and deliver customer experience.
The solutions that tie shopping channels together are available. And by investing in them, retailers are more likely to keep shoppers coming back for more, whatever their needs or preferred shopping and payment methods.
As President and General Manager for NCR Retail, David Wilkinson is responsible for creating and executing NCR’s overall vision and strategy for the retail industry. He is focused on helping retailers thrive and deliver on their brand promise in a digital first world by leveraging NCR’s unique software, hardware and services capabilities that run the entire operation from back office to front end. NCR’s solutions accelerate the transformation of retailers around the world, helping them to leverage technology to better serve their customers. Paramount in this is evangelizing NCR’s next-generation retail store architecture that NCR is uniquely equipped to offer to the market.