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Report: Retailers need to rethink the model post Covid

Connectivity the key to e-commerce updates for shoppers

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped people from shopping, just how they prefer to shop, according to a new report from Periscope by McKinsey, a management consultant firm. Retail reimagined: The new era for customer experience, based on a survey of 2,500 consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany, examined the changes in their shopping behaviors before and during COVID-19.

The consensus from McKinsey’s report is that retailers need to rethink how they handle both their in-store and digital sales. Right now, consumers have developed a strong preference for digital and contactless ways of shopping since the shutdown, forcing retailers to shift their priorities and operations.

New expectations for e-commerce

Not surprisingly, e-commerce has seen a surge during the COVID-19 shutdowns. It increased by 30% from the beginning of March through mid-April, according to report. While online shopping has become somewhat of a necessity, it doesn’t mean consumers are 100% satisfied with the option. Free delivery and returns remain a high priority for shoppers in terms of features, while fast websites and clear product descriptions and pictures became more important. These features’ importance increased between 10 and 23 percentage points across four countries since the shutdown started.

In-store safety has never been more critical

Consumers willing to shop in-store won’t do so without safety measures in place. According to the report, more than 50% of consumers require stores follow health and safety guidelines to keep shoppers and employees safe. Meanwhile, 59% of respondents said preventing overcrowding was important to them, too.

A convenient shopping experience has quickly become a high priority for consumers, too. The ability to quickly and easily find desired items in store jumped 14 percentage points from March to June in terms of importance.

Connectivity remains key in getting shoppers to return

McKinsey’s report also revealed that there’s a disconnect between what consumers want when it comes to a tech-enabled shopping experience and what retailers have delivered. Consumers want things like digital screen browsing, easy mobile payments and to be able to order online with seamless curbside or in-store pickup. Unfortunately, more than 35% of shoppers said they have yet to experience these in-store technologies, which were deemed commonplace.

When retailers do make these technologies more readily available, it will be up to retailers and real estate owners to provide reliable connectivity so they work. Most of these in-store experiences that require a mobile device will only be as a good as the in-building network. If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for on their phone or the store’s digital screens because of a poor connection, they’ll complain to the store. If the faulty wireless network leads to too many customer complaints, chances are the customer will shop in locations that can meet shoppers’ connectivity demands. There must be a handshake between store owners and building owners to make sure customers can communicate and use all of the new features that retailer of the future must have to compete.

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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