Consumer shopping behavior underwent a seismic shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the home furnishings industry quickly adapted. During shelter in place in the Spring of 2020, online shopping rapidly increased. In fact, over just an 8 week period, global usage of eCommerce surpassed projections that were two to three years out. ( ) As the summer of 2020 kicked off, customers have started to gain comfort with physical shopping experiences. Creating a safe shopping environment by using digital and contactless technologies is vital during the phased openings. This will help your customers trust your brand and your sales associates practice socially distant shopping measures.
The Customer Today
Today, the retail market is seeing two types of customers: willing and non-willing. The willing customer is going to shop with precision, look at a store’s proximity to their home, and review safe shopping. Retailers will find that these customers are prepared with their product research and have a high intent to purchase. Whereas, the non-willing customer feels nervous walking into a store and is continuing to purchase through a retailer’s eCommerce channel or via curb-side options. Communication is key to continually educating your customers on business hours, safety precautions, capacity limitations, and appointment schedules.
Today, customers are seeking:
- Value of Your Products
- Safety Shopping In-store
- Contactless Shopping Experiences
40% of consumers noted the trustworthiness of a brand as the biggest factor when choosing which retail brand to shop.
Behind the Front Lines of Your Retail Business is Technology.
Implementing technology into a retailer’s business strategy is essential in managing the challenges within a fast-changing home furnishings industry. As a retailer, providing exceptional customer experience is always a top priority. Innovative technologies increase efficiencies, expedite customer service, and minimize proximity during the in-store shopping experience. A real-time, integrated software solution is a resourceful tool for your team.
Let’s dive into how software solutions support a safe retail environment.
Opting to control store capacities through specific appointment times or reserving certain store hours strictly for appointment only, has become a productive source of revenue in the home furnishings industry. Appointments present a method of safe retailing to serve your customers that may have hesitations about walking into a crowded store.
As customers set appointments via phone, email, or web, STORIS’ Customer Experience Management (CXM) technology can be used to assign appointments to a specific sales associate. CXM applications enable associates to track key details to help them plan their use of time during the customer’s appointment and make for efficient use of their visit.
Retailers were able to retain or grow last years’ sales numbers during the COVID-19 Pandemic when opening by appointment only. – HFA
Enabling your sales associates to use mobile devices to gather a customer’s information and create a shopping cart as you walk through the showroom leads to an efficient checkout process. For customers that prefer to self-service, QR codes can eliminate physical contact with store associates while providing detailed product knowledge. Through STORIS’ Forms Designer, retailers can easily print QR codes on hang-tags. As a customer scans a product of interest with their mobile device, the code will launch them directly to the product page on a retailer’s website. Here they will be able to add selections to their shopping cart.
Preparing shopping carts, either via the sales associates or customers’ mobile devices, will significantly reduce the time at checkout. To limit waiting on checkout lines and maintain safe selling, retailers are using mobile solutions or multiple physical terminals spaced throughout their showrooms. This empowers retailers to reduce the congestion that can typically form around checkout areas and maintain best practices for social distancing.
The trend towards self-service technology has been on the rise and is accelerating as social distancing requirements have become the new normal. A self-service kiosk provides customers an efficient way to get product information without having to engage with a sales associate if that is their preference. With demonstrable sanitation in between uses, customers can comfortably use a kiosk to independently browse product selections and build their own shopping carts.
75% of consumers that are in favor of self-service technology to improve the retail customer experience.
Customers are expecting efficient and reduced-contact checkout processes as another level of safe retailing when shopping in-store. Simply taking payments on a pre-built shopping cart can cut out many of the steps in the traditional checkout process. Alternatively, conducting furniture sales over the phone enables retailers to seamlessly take credit card payments. Enabling email for receipts and pertinent documentation is an easy way to reduce physical touchpoints at the Point of Sale. Further, utilizing electronic signing for documents will reduce proximity to a sales associate. STORIS’ Document Signature Capture technologies allow retailers to merge an electronically captured signature to a PDF document that can be emailed to the customer.
Self-Service Credit Applications
Retailers are finding financing programs can be a valued way to meet their customers’ financial needs. Without technology, financing is a lengthy process that involves direct time with a sales associate. STORIS’ Customer Facing Application (CFA) provides a socially distant option for customers to complete a Credit Application while using their own devices in-store. CFA technology can ensure safe retailing by minimizing physical time engaging with a retail associate. Allowing customers to apply from their own mobile device, that only they have touched, will improve the comfort level and customer experience when applying for credit in-store. Further, through integration to the Finance Queue, customers can quickly choose to run their application against multiple lenders until they achieve their desired financing.
Acceleration of eCommerce
The importance of eCommerce to the home furnishings industry is here to stay. With the shift in consumer shopping behavior during Spring of 2020, meeting customer demand requires a greater focus on integrating eCommerce into the shopping experience. As supply chains are fluctuating, displaying real-time inventory availability is paramount. Product messaging, such as “in stock”, “on display”, and “available by”, provides customers with the information they need to make buying decisions. Customers may need assistance while online. Providing an online chat feature has become an ideal solution to offer immediate human assistance to customers who may have questions. Finally, your website is the central place to communicate changes such as business openings, store hours, and safety precautions. The eSTORIS eCommerce platform provides a seamless shopping experience between a retailer’s stores and website.
Total online spending in May 2020 was up 77% year-over-year.
To support social distancing measures and safe selling, retailers have turned to curbside pickup and contactless delivery options for both in-store and online orders. Eliminating the requirement of signatures and communicating via text or email alerts will boost customers’ comfort levels in placing orders. STORIS’ logistical scheduling enables retailers to efficiently plan optimized delivery routes and account for both increases in stop times to take proper precautions, or conversely, decreases in stop times for deliveries dropped-off outside.
65% of consumers call reduced-contact delivery the safest current shopping option.
Having access to real-time reporting will help retailers make informed choices that are right for their businesses today. As the retail environment is continually changing, retailers want to ensure they have the right merchandise to meet trends such as home office and schooling, in-home cooking and family meals, and outdoor gathering spaces.
Business Intelligence can provide insights on emerging sales trends to turn more inventory, devise promotional strategies, and grow margin performance. With continued shifts in supply chains and market schedules, reviewing lead times and adjusting buying patterns can help assure retailers’ warehouses are adequately stocked. Alternatively, retailers can use insights to determine As-Is merchandise and markdowns to clear out slow-moving inventory that may be taking up space in the warehouse. STORIS’ real-time reporting capabilities guide strategic decision-making. No matter how you are selling today, whether online or via safe selling practices in-store, it’s critical that your merchandising is strategic to retain profitability and meet customer expectations.
3 fast-growing trends businesses are analyzing, according to the State of BI & Analytics Report 2020:
- How to improve efficiencies
- Best ways to support your customers
- Predicting changes and outcomes arising from COVID-19
Leverage Technology to Safely Conduct Business
As store traffic begins to increase, retailers can use innovative technologies to make customer interactions more efficient while supporting social distancing measures. Retailers are investing in technologies that will prepare them for longer-term shifts in consumer behavior. STORIS’ Unified Commerce Solution is developed to support your technology initiatives and is adaptive to a rapidly changing retail environment. Our software delivers real-time integrated features that enable retailers to provide an exceptional customer experience wherever your customers are comfortable shopping.