For many, this meant closing physical stores, maximizing their online presence and increasing their capacity for deliveries. But many brands rely heavily on their brick and mortar stores. Clothing retailer Primark went from making £650m a month in-store to nothing overnight.
However, as lockdown is beginning to ease in a number of locations, retailers are slowly opening up their stores to consumers. But, the world isn’t the same as it was just two months ago. This means two things:
- Brands need to communicate what’s changed about their physical shopping experience
- Brands can provide unique experiences over messaging channels that bring offline and online together
Brick and mortar retailers were already in decline before COVID-19 but the global pandemic has placed brands such as J. Crew under huge financial strain. Those that survive will have to adapt quickly to create unique customer experiences, built on convenience, to maintain loyalty and customer life value. One way to accomplish this is through providing great CX, powered by automation.
With lockdown beginning to ease around the world, here are our 7 ways that retailers can use messaging and automation to prepare for re-opening.
1.Communicating new store hours
It’s unlikely that any retailer is re-opening with the same store hours as before. But if a customer presumes the hours are the same and makes the journey only to find out the store is closed, you risk their loyalty before they have even stepped into the store.
Retailers need to be clear on what the new store hours are. It’s also likely that this is going to be a common query. Contact centers are already stretched, so why not automate this request with a simple chatbot? Customers get their answer quickly without having to wait on hold.
To help customers navigate store closures and limited operating hours in light of social distancing guidelines in many cities around the world, Sephora launched new bot on Messenger to share store information.
2. Scheduling a curbside pick up
Retailers have been pivoting to sell almost exclusively online, but what about the products they have in store? As lockdown continues to ease, curbside pickup (AKA click and collect in the UK) may be a better option than delivery for those who want/need something now.
Customers can make a purchase like normal and then select a time for them to come and pick it up. This works in much the same way as if you were booking an appointment and can be done simply over messaging channels utilizing an automated customer experience.
Demonstration of appointment booking for in-store pickup via Apple Business Chat
3. Stock checker
The days of strolling the aisles at your favorite store are gone. If a consumer is headed to a store, it’s likely they have a list of items they are coming for. Whether it’s pink paper plates, a hammer, or a specific lip gloss, make it easy for them to see if the item they want is available (even better if you know how many) and allow them to pick up in-store. If it’s not, allow them to buy in-channel and save them the trip.
Tesco’s “Little Helper” bot allows customers to check if an item is in stock before heading to the store.
4. Using online to drive offline sales
If you’re reopening stores, use a messaging notification service, such as Notify, to drive your customers there while also providing them with the opportunity to respond and ask any questions they may have.
The first step is to get customers to opt-in to be notified when you’re reopening your store. Then you send them a message a few days before letting them know all the information they need - opening hours, location, health & safety guidance etc.
Macy’s bot on Messenger let’s customers know when their closest store location will reopen
5. Communicating health & safety precautions
Governments are enforcing their own health & safety measures and many retailers are also advising other precautions while in-store.
What safety precautions are you taking? Do customers have to wear masks? Is there a certain way customers should travel through the store? People should know what options they have when they shop and what the experience will look like. For example, Gap will not have dressing rooms open, so if customers want to try something on, they should just order from home instead.
A simple FAQ bot can be built to answer all of these questions without having to connect your customers to a human agent.
Mars Pets has partnered with the Waltham Petcare Science Institute in the UK to help customers find reliable information about pets related to COVID-19
6. Efficient Buy Online Pick-up in Store (BOPIS) process
If your customers purchase something online to pick-up in store, send them a receipt over messaging channels including a QR code to make the process seamless.
When they come to collect their order, simply scan the QR code from a safe distance rather than having the customer hand their smartphone over in order to verify their purchase.
7. Augmented reality show-rooms/try on
We’re not sure when or if shopping experiences will return to “normal”. For retailers that rely on seeing things in person - clothing, beauty, furniture - there is a solution.
Augmented reality (AR) experiences can be delivered over messaging channels and allow customers to get the next best thing to trying something in the flesh.
Whether it’s checking out what makeup suits you best or seeing if a desk fits in your office, AR is a powerful customer experience that’s proven to drive revenue.
Augmented Reality in Apple Business Chat allows customers to visualize products when they can't go into the store or showroom to see it in person.
What is Your Retail CX Challenge?
Each retailer is different with a whole set of unique challenges. The key to re-opening in the current climate is communicating clearly and using the right channels in innovative ways to ensure your customers are informed and engaged.
If you see the value in any of the customer experiences we've outlined in this article and want to know more, get in touch. Let us know your CX challenges and we'll let you know how we can help.