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The challenges of implementing a new post-COVID-19 customer experience

May 11, 2020

The health crisis linked to COVID-19 has forced the retail world to take a break. The closure of non-essential businesses quickly created uncertainty about the future of the in-store customer experience. After adapting points of sale to maintain their activity during the confinement period, the time has now come for customers to take back physical stores. It is therefore necessary for retailers to reinvent the customer experience, in order to retain their customers by providing an improved customer experience, based on security.

Working in an omnichannel model

The containment and closure of non-essential physical stores has forced outlets to adapt and innovate in order to offer new sales channels to their customers. The transition was easier for brands offering a 100% digital model, as well as for brands with an omnichannel model. The presence of a completely dematerialized distribution channel has enabled these companies to continue their sales activities throughout the period of the health crisis, offering security to their customers. For brands with only a 100% physical sales model, the transition to an omnichannel model has been more complicated.

The implementation of online shopping and in-store pick-up (click & collect) models increased during containment. Offering an omnichannel sales model, these brands have attracted customers by providing them with an offer almost similar to that known before the crisis, while ensuring their safety by limiting contacts.

With containment complete, the challenge now lies in the return-to-store customer experience. Adopting an omnichannel strategy then turns out to be the best asset for points of sale, in order to continue to satisfy customers, who intend to consume in a manner similar to that observed during the lockdown.

5 avenues of work to improve your customer experience

Focus on digital

The health crisis has changed the consumption patterns of customers, suddenly pushing them to favor mainly digital channels for their food purchases, instead of going directly to the store.

Digital is the priority point in the reinvention of the post-containment customer experience. Investing in digital will allow you to retain your customers while ensuring their security. You will be able to compensate for the drop in physical traffic in stores by focusing on digital. To strengthen your presence on the digital channel, you can invest part of the budget usually reserved for print advertising in digital marketing campaigns. In particular, you will need to ensure your SEO (free or paid) in order to increase your visibility with your customers, in the midst of all your competitors who will also favor the digital channel.

You will also have to rethink your website, your brand showcase. It will become a must for your customers looking for speed and stability. You will therefore have to design web pages that will be optimized for online purchases and more particularly for smartphones, the main tool for digital consumption.

You can also choose to transform the in-store customer experience by bringing digital to your point of sale. The lockdown has caused the downloading of applications of all kinds to skyrocket. You will therefore have to bet on the engagement of your customers through their smartphones to create a community around your brand and thus create a new customer experience in complete safety at your point of sale.

Innovate in the omnichannel model

Normally, consumption habits change continuously, but these changes are accelerated by the health crisis and your customers' increased need for security. You will therefore have to constantly be on the lookout for your omnichannel offers in order to evaluate them and thus be able to innovate quickly to adapt to the new expectations and preferences of your consumers.

New technologies will allow you in particular to create a digital customer experience based on the “in store” model. You will be able to organize videoconferences to advise your customers, but also set up digital platforms allowing them to digitally try on the items you usually offer to try on in store. This will allow you to continue to provide a personalized customer experience as if your customers were physically going to the store, while responding to security issues related to the virus.

If you do not offer it yet, making a delivery service available to your customers will allow you to extend the customer experience to their homes. The health crisis has indeed increased the use of delivery methods, which allow the delivery of ordered products while reducing risks thanks to the development of contactless deliveries.

Preserve the existing customer experience while improving customer safety

The in-store customer experience is turned upside down by all the processes related to health safety in your point of sale. The new priority for your customers is to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, while being safe. You will therefore have to optimize your in-store processes in order to reassure your customers to help them find their way back to the point of sale. You will have to meet the various security criteria by setting up contactless payment, disinfecting surfaces, and other employee hygiene processes and thus placing the safety of your customers at the heart of your concerns.

To do this, you will need to start by identifying what are the points of interaction - and therefore of risk - within your point of sale. You will then need to diagnose these risk points in order to prioritize the changes to be made, with the aim of securing both your customers and your employees in the store. Once the solutions are in place, you will then have to constantly analyze the various points of vigilance that you have established in order to be able to adapt quickly and effectively if one of your processes does not prove to be optimal.

Reinventing points of sale

The growth of e-commerce in recent years has forced physical sales networks to reinvent themselves in order to offer an ever more differentiating customer experience in order to continue to attract customers. As this progress is increasing sharply following the health crisis, it is all the more essential to carry out this project at physical points of sale. To increase in-store traffic, it has become necessary to create experiences that are immersive for your customers.

These immersive experiences can be created within your phygital point of sale (mixing physical store and digital tools). You will need to create unique, immersive and memorable shopping journeys for your customers. Use of virtual reality to try on clothes and accessories instead of traditional booths, scenography of exhibition spaces and showcases, use of RFID during check-out, set up of autonomous check-out points, etc. So many changes to be made in your sales area in order to make your store even more attractive to your customers and thus offset the increase in e-commerce.

Knowing how to adapt your model in real time

As the pandemic continues, and even after it is over, you will need to be able to constantly adapt the customer experience in real time. Digital is the ideal tool to carry out these analyzes and changes. In fact, you have more and more data at your disposal on the consumption habits of your customers, allowing you to observe their behavior and thus adapt to the slightest changes that may occur in your customers.

Knowing how to analyze and use your data to guide you in setting up your new customer experience is essential. In fact, the pandemic has generated many new customers for some brands while it has strengthened the customer base already in place for other brands. It is therefore imperative to set up a customer experience that suits them as much as possible in order to retain new customers and strengthen the sympathy of your current customers towards your brand, in a consumer context where customers are quite versatile.

In addition to data, you can benefit from reliable sources on the consumption habits of your customers by consulting them directly. They will appreciate being included in the process of redesigning the customer experience of the store they frequent and will provide you with valuable information about their desires and needs in the store.

You can also monitor social networks to find out about changes in customer behavior in real time. This will give you a quick overview of the different consumer trends.

You will have to learn to imagine and make changes more quickly than before the pandemic, by adapting both to the desires of your customers but also to the health instructions for the safety of all. For example, you will need to be able to offer a new delivery service to your customers in just 3 weeks in order to adapt to a possible new crisis.

In order to meet new customer expectations, retailers have been working for several years to mix physical stores and digital channels in order to offer a wide range of possibilities to their customers. This transformation is even more necessary today, to adapt to the consumption habits of customers who have been disrupted in the long term by the health crisis and confinement. There is therefore a huge project to be carried out in order to rethink all the processes in the store, in order to create a new sustainable customer experience, a project that will have to be carried out quickly with each change in order to be able to consolidate the loyalty of its customers and win new ones. again.

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