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Michael Bosshammer

Head of Retail, Elavon Europe

The concept of ‘retail’ is ready for a refresh. Of all the facets of life recovering from the pandemic, in-person retail is an area where change may be most obvious.

Restrictions and the need for social distancing innovated new approaches and drove many retailers online, but in store they also brought existing, emerging processes and technologies into the mainstream. Not least, the QR code, scanning your own shopping at a self-checkout, or buying online through your phone and collecting items in store.

This blurring of the line between the ‘bricks and clicks’ experience, also known as ‘omnicommerce’, is the seamless combination of physical and online operations into a single retail experience.

Experiential shopping

Research commissioned by Elavon showed more than half (52%) of adults in Ireland said the ease of making choices when they were able to see items in person was their biggest reason to shop in store. Almost half (47%) said their main driver for in-store shopping was supporting the local economy, with 45% citing the ability to better assess product quality.

“Consumers are definitely still interested in physical retail, but increasingly expect digital touchpoints that enrich the shopping experience,” says Michael Bosshammer, Head of Retail at Elavon Europe. “Retailers need to embrace the lifestyle of their customers and offer the convenience and fulfilment they demand.”

Retailers need to embrace the lifestyle of their customers and offer the convenience and fulfilment they demand.

Although shifts in retail are rightly consumer driven, there are key benefits to businesses who adapt. “In some cases, businesses could reduce their retail footprint,” says Bosshammer. “Some bricks and mortar will keep the brand visible but with smaller premises comes lower rents, and a chance to shake-up the shopping experience by creating concept stores promoting interactive, immersive or experiential shopping.

“A furniture retailer, for instance, could display stock for shoppers to try out, with a QR code they can scan on their phone to choose alternative colours or sizes. The purchase and delivery request could then be completed at a till or through the customer’s phone, even while they’re sat on the very sofa they’re buying.”

Elevating customer service

Retail space, along with rents, could also be shared with other retailers as concessions or ‘shops within shops’ re-emerge as a concept. Stock and distribution could relocate to cheaper, out-of-town real estate.

“Shoppers can assess quality in person and still interact with a member of staff to ask more questions or arrange a delivery,” says Bosshammer. “While the shopper gets more control in the process, staff focus can shift to providing exceptional customer service.”

Stay-ahead retailers are innovating to offer extra services that put the customer first, from video chats with in-store sales staff to assist when purchasing from home, to the use of clever camera technology to augment reality so customers can see how an item of furniture would look in their own home.

Improving checkout experience

Key to all successful retail is the removal of friction. Anything that makes the process inconvenient for your customer is going to impact sales.

New payment technologies are removing friction from the checkout experience. In-store shoppers no longer need to contend with old-fashioned registers and queues. They can pay by phone, link a loyalty card to a payment method and pay in the currency of their choice.

“No-one is ever keen to shop with a brand that confuses them. So, you need to let your customers know how they can pay. Be clear with signage about which cards, digital wallets or payment methods you accept,” says Bosshammer. “And not just at the checkout – if they know how they can pay, as they use your shop, they can make more informed decisions without feeling pressure at the final point of payment.”

Read the Future of Retail whitepaper

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