COVID-19 is shaking up the retail industry. Retailers who want to survive need to be increasingly digital and connected in order to create the contactless experiences customers are looking for.
Customers are more than ready for contactless shopping—and not just because of the pandemic. GetApp surveyed 968 U.S. consumers in September 2020 to learn about their preferences when it comes to contactless experiences (read our methodology at the bottom of this page).
Overall, customers are ready for contactless retail; 82% of customers said it’s important to them in 2021 and beyond. However, it’s not just for health reasons. Fifty percent of customers said ease of use was the most important thing they look for in a contactless retail experience. And while you may have heard a lot of buzz about contactless payment lately, they are only one aspect of a truly exceptional contactless customer experience that will bring people back again and again.
Let's take a look at some essential software for growing your retail business in the next five to 10 years, paired with examples of how retailers are using this software right now.
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A unified commerce ecosystem supports the full retail commerce experience, including a customer’s ability to browse, consume, and purchase across all touchpoints. A point of sale system is usually the anchor, but a unified ecosystem also integrates social media, a website, offline interactions, and the internet of things (IoT).
Connecting these touchpoints is incredibly important when it comes to creating a cohesive, contactless customer experience for both offline and online purchasers—all the way from initial browsing to contactless payment.
In our survey, 90% of Gen Z respondents were willing to switch brands for a retailer that could provide a better contactless experience. That makes a unified ecosystem not just nice to have but a must-have.
Unified commerce tools mean you can more easily implement "buy online, pick up in store" (BOPIS), where customers can browse your entire inventory online and then pick up in store to avoid shipping costs. This can also help minimize COVID-19 exposure risk for your customers and employees. If your customers have a poorly managed or subpar BOPIS experience, however, they may shop elsewhere for future purchases.
While COVID has increased demand, brands such as Under Armour have used unified commerce tools even prior to the pandemic. The company used one such tool to help get a large sample sale event off the ground quickly. The unified commerce tool helped Under Armour keep lines short by expediting transactions. If lines get long, unified commerce systems can be deployed faster than a POS so associates can open up new lines to process sales.
These days, as customers seek to limit their time spent in stores or interacting with employees, any way you can expedite their transactions makes their overall experience more positive, and increases the likelihood they return to your store rather than your competitor’s.
Sixty five percent of the consumers we surveyed said they are very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with virtual styling or fitting rooms. One way to implement virtual fitting rooms is through 3D scanning technology, where a customer uses a scanner to create an avatar of themselves. The avatar can then be used to find the right clothing size, or clothing that flatters a person’s body type.
With this type of software, you can help minimize the chance that customers will buy multiple sizes and plan to return ones that don’t fit, which allows you to have a better snapshot of your overall inventory at any given moment.
3D body scanning may seem futuristic, but Fleet Feet, a running shoe company with stores around the country, already uses this technology in many of their stores. The foot scanner helps measure customers for running shoes.
Other retailers like Amazon, Alibaba, and M&S in the UK are also experimenting with 3D body scanning technology.
3D body scanning is technically not completely contactless right now, since a customer typically has to physically go to a location and interact with a scanner. However, once a customer is measured, they can save their avatar on file and use it to make future online contactless purchases. This means customers can be more confident that a product purchased online will fit.
There are some software vendors using other methods to determine sizing that don’t require customers to go in-store. Some of these software vendors are experimenting with creating smartphone functionality so customers can use their own phones to scan.
Check out our eCommerce Category Leaders page, where you can browse top-rated software to help improve your online shopping experience for retail customers.
Smart checkout uses technology to recognize products, tally basket totals, add loyalty rewards or promotional discounts, identify the customer, and receive payment, eliminating the need to go through a physical checkout line. “Go style” smart checkout—where a customer can simply walk out the door to complete a purchase—is enabled by computer vision, which uses multiple types of technology to take in images, interpret them, and use that data to complete an activity, such as facial recognition.
Despite potential security or privacy concerns, a full 61% of GetApp’s survey respondents are somewhat or very comfortable using facial recognition, and we expect this number to only increase in the future. According to Gartner, computer vision will also begin to pick up over the next five years; the technology will likely improve and use cases will increase, so retailers who are able to invest in this technology now could be giving themselves a leg up over competitors (full content available to clients).
“Go-style” smart checkout is currently only being used in a very limited capacity in the United States, specifically in the grocery, fresh food, and convenience segments. Amazon has 27 stores using such smart checkouts in four cities: Seattle, New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Right now, retailer concerns around security and fraud remain warranted, so any decision on whether or not to implement smart checkout should be carefully analyzed. However, smart checkout could be expedited by COVID-19, as many customers seek to limit in-person interactions as much as possible.
COVID-19 has shown that digitally-connected companies are better able to persevere and thrive during unexpected situations (like a pandemic). All of these technologies take significant money and time to integrate with your business, but as such tools become the new normal, your business could get left behind if customers switch to retailers who provide contactless experiences.
To learn more about how to integrate contactless commerce into your customer experience planning, check out our article: "Customer Experience Strategy Is About Making Customers Feel Good"
GetApp’s Contactless Customer Experience Survey was conducted in September 2020 among 968 adult consumers in the U.S. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.
Note: The applications referenced in this article are examples in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.