The coronavirus pandemic has shed new light on the importance of omnichannel services and how customers will turn more towards Click & Collect, Pick up in Store and Ship to Home etc. as a means of maintaining social distancing requirements.
In May, many shops reopened across Europe, including in France, Spain and Italy. Every retailer followed the recommended government guidelines also putting into practice their own very strict protocols to ensure the safety of customers and staff alike. These are largely based on the need for social distancing and protecting both staff and customers by regularly disinfecting contact areas like tills, fitting rooms and products on display. There are also imposed limits on the number of people allowed in a store at any one time. For example, the French children’s apparel brand Petit Bateau allows no more than 6 customers and employees at one time. The French cosmetics & beauty retailer L’Occitane marks the distances to be respected when queuing at the till. And teenage fashion retailer Jennyfer is doing away with printed receipts at the till. As fashion and specialty retailers have received the greenlight to reopen their stores on the 15th of June in the UK, they are getting prepared to welcome the customers back into the stores whilst respecting social distancing as well.
It’ll come as no surprise that such measures will deter some customers from shopping in stores, so alternative services like Click & Collect that limit contact will prove popular. We’re even seeing increased demand for drive-in services like those you’ll find at fast-food takeaways finding their way into other parts of retail. This will force retailers to look at new ways of doing business, such as handing over parcels in parking lots or in front of stores, as well as alerts to notify staff of a customer’s arrival and the delivery of a package.
Contactless retail is certainly a trend that’s here to stay. As is its cousin, ship-from-store: this allows retailers to capitalise on their store network by getting merchandise out to customers often more quickly – and with a lower carbon footprint – than relying solely on deliveries from distant warehouses. It might even prove a turning point for retailers who are becoming more sensitive to environmental aspects after studies have shown that consumers are increasingly concerned about rising levels of CO2.
That’s not to say that indispensable services like click-and-collect and ship-from-store should come at the expense of profitability. Far from it, as order management tools can be used to determine the best places to ship from, how to minimise costs and maintain deliveries, or favour one location over another based on careful analysis of stock levels. Intelligent inventory management helps avoid overstocks in one outlet, while another might be out-of-stock – something that finance directors will greatly appreciate!
Efficiently putting into place both these vital services requires single real-time visibility of stock – in the warehouse, and in every store. Forward-looking retailers are already thinking about a single source of stock, rather than the fragmented and separate structures of years gone by. This means that store staff need to be trained in order-preparation with tools typically seen in the warehouse, rather than the point-of-sale.
It’s important that shop-floor employees don’t have to spend 10 minutes looking for a package in the back-office, or in the reserve. And bear in mind that if you get a surge in orders via Click & Collect, you’re going to have to set aside the required amount of space in line with these volumes.