The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the retail industry as retailers around the world have adapted and adopted new ways to deal with the changing behaviours of consumers.
In its most recent Retail Playbook, Salesforce, a global leader in Customer Relationship Management, gained insights from leading industry experts, shoppers, retailers, and retail employees to develop four pillars for the retail sector moving forward — store safety, contactless experiences, empowered associates, and relationships with shoppers in a digital-first world.
“We’re all living through our first pandemic, which we’re seeing rapidly advance the pace of change,” said Margaret Stuart, Country Manager for Salesforce Canada. “In fact, McKinsey reported that in the first 90 days of COVID-19, we saw 10 years of acceleration in ecommerce. As that continues, it’s imperative for retailers to adapt, innovate and disrupt.”
“Today a consumer can buy whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. A key part to meeting customers where they want to be met in that type of environment is to prioritize digital.”
Stuart said retailers need to be prepared to invest in the technology side of their business.
“We see that it is imperative for retailers to blend the digital and the physical world. Roots is one of my favourite iconic Canadian examples. Even though their stores have reopened, their focus on online engagement has increased. In the last few months, Roots has added digital advisors for those shopping online and invested in their search engine optimization, and they now have sales associates located in their stores advising online customers over chat and provide voice recognition technology to accelerate the response time and give people more choice in how they want to engage.”
Ensuring safety in retail stores has become a key and critical initiative for retailers.
“Safety is the first pillar. One of the research studies Salesforce did in June of this year showed that 62 percent of folks are much more willing to go back to shopping in a store when they know that where they’re going to shop has safety precautions in place. This includes safety, not only for the shoppers, but also for employees,” said Stuart.
“One of the solutions that we launched was Work.com, which provides businesses with access to global health information, provincial health information, and national health information. Through this, you have contact tracing in place so you’re able to optimize the safety of everybody that interacts with you as a business including your employees.”
Contactless engagement through delivery and curbside pickup is also a growing trend in the retail industry.
“This will continue to evolve. Our research indicated that 82 percent of Canadians said they’ve done self-checkout. We’re seeing contactless engagement increasingly become the norm,” explained Stuart.
She said a recent global survey found a 71 percent increase in digital shopping in the second quarter of this year. In Canada, there was a 111 percent increase in digital spend. And the companies that do buy online pick up in store have seen a 127 percent increase compared to the 54 percent increase for the stores that do not buy online pick up in store.
“The move toward buy online, pick up in store, is increasingly prevalent. We all want to feel safe and combine it with the convenience of online or in-store.”
As the retail sector transitions amid this COVID environment, Stuart said it has never been a better time to be a store associate.
“The job is getting so much more diverse. Today, store associates have tablets so that they have customer information at their fingertips. That’s the real digital engagement,” she said, adding that many are also re-skilling to meet growing demands and needs.
Stuart said there is huge potential for retailers in having a single source of truth about customers so they truly can give them that personalized experience.
“From how you market to them, how you sell either online or in store, how you service, to how you analyze data across all of your customer base,” she said. “I think truly having that single source of truth across your customers is one we’re moving toward and many of our customers are very close to being there.”
“Best Buy is one of my favourite examples with their Geek Squad. When they show up at your house, they have your information at their fingertips so they can spend so much more time resolving your technical issues and not asking for information that you’ve given five times in other environments.”
Stuart said she is constantly impressed by the resilience and innovation she’s seen across Canada in retailers during this pandemic.
“I’m very optimistic for where we’re going with all of this.”
Download the Salesforce Retail Playbook here.
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