Even as stores re-open across the country, multiple experts and surveys are forecasting a permanent shift towards buying online for many consumers. But that doesn’t mean companies should neglect the store experience. Instead, omnichannel is as important as ever.
Technology platform Volumental, most known for its foot scanner solutions, believes that investing in the store experience now can help strengthen a company’s e-commerce performance. With many customers looking for an authentic connection to the businesses they shop at, brick-and-mortar can provide a valuable opportunity for brand engagement.
“Anybody who has this interaction with a consumer in the physical world of retail actually has a massive head start, in terms of building relationships and also collecting data on customers, which can then be used to drive engagement across channels,” said Moritz Schiebold, CEO at Volumental.
Collecting data online has become a critical way retailers can personalize and target their communications. But foot scans taken in-store can provide a wealth of additional information about a customer’s fit, which can inform product recommendations and reduce the likelihood of returns. Scan data only needs to be taken once but can then be used for every future e-commerce interaction.
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The technology solution also provides a safe way to assess fit while observing pandemic precautions. Traditional fit services require hands-on assistance, which is prohibited under social distancing guidelines. With a foot scanner, customers can receive accurate measurements and product suggestions while an associate keeps an appropriate distance.
“What we are seeing is that there’s a big appreciation for the fact that we can implement technology if somebody’s in the store, while keeping your social distance,” said Schiebold. “That provides a feeling of safety for the consumer as they’re coming back to the store and everybody is grappling with what is acceptable.”
This is reflected in scan data collected from Volumental’s U.S. retail partners. During the week of June 1 to 7, Volumental reported that scanning levels across North America were at 59.6% in comparison to the last week before the lock down (March 2 to 8). For states further along in the re-opening process, such as Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Rhode Island, the numbers have returned to previous levels.
Acknowledging that the industry has traditionally been slow to adapt, Schiebold believes that there is an opportunity – and a necessity – for retailers to incorporate new methods like curbside pickup and video calling to bridge the gap between on- and offline. Schiebold sees the adoption of scanning technology as part of a broader embrace of digital solutions by the industry.
“What we have been spending a lot of our time on is how do you translate these fantastic experiences from a pure offline environment into something that it’s omnichannel and, further down the road, pure e-commerce,” said Schiebold. “It has been fantastic to see how entrepreneurial the industry is throughout this crisis.”
Retailers who have not implemented new services might find themselves falling behind as expectations change. Schiebold recommends a thorough assessment of a company’s digital roadmap, one that takes into account an emphasis on value as customers begin to spend on nonessentials again – for younger consumers in particular.
“If you can provide your consumer with an experience that explains to them that the value of the products that they want to purchase, that is going to be something that differentiates you and resonates with modern consumers,” said Schiebold.