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Reimagining Brick-and-Mortar:How the Pandemic Will Forever Change Consumer Retail Experiences

1/21/21 - 

No one could have predicted what the beginning of a new decade would bring. The pandemic has caused sickness, deaths, shutdowns, and the disappearance of the way of life we knew and loved, and quite honestly took for granted.

Brick-and-mortar retailers from restaurants to grocery stores, salons, and more have been forced to adjust to ever-changing rules and norms. A rollercoaster ride that has nearly crippled the industry.

While 2021 will bring vaccinations and eventually reduced COVID restrictions, the latest research from McKinsey & Company reveals that consumers are likely to stick with the routines they’ve adopted during the pandemic. In fact, three out of four people have tried a new shopping behavior and intend to continue this new behavior even after the pandemic.

In what has been called a “homebody economy,” it is important for retailers to reimagine what the in-person consumer experience will look like in 2021 and prepare for a new normal of operation to stay afloat. Let’s review what the future holds for the retail business.


Occuspace monitors the real-time busyness of spaces so businesses can stay open safely


A Digitized Shopping Experience

The pandemic forced an even faster shift to online retail - something most businesses were already addressing, but not at this scale. In order to abide by COVID guidelines, most brick-and-mortar stores had to expand their consumer shopping options to keep their businesses running, an expense many hadn’t planned for. Touch-free shopping became the norm, including delivery, curbside pickup, and buy online/pick-up in-store, and was implemented by many retailers in order to keep both employees and customers safe.

Despite the shift, a recent report by Shopify that polled merchants worldwide revealed that although online retail options have significantly increased during the pandemic, traditional brick-and-mortar retail is not going anywhere. Prior to COVID, brick-and-mortar still accounted for 85% of retail sales, and while it may look different than before, the report supports that physical shopping will rebound as the end of COVID will bring a deceleration of digital retail.

However, consumer habits have been forever changed. So expecting everything to go back to the “old normal” is not enough. The retailers who will thrive when this is all over will be those who put the customer first and offer experiences that mimic those we’ve become accustomed to online. Consumers expect now more than ever consistent, frictionless experiences, such as no crowds, no waits, and instant gratification.


Creating a Seamless In-person Experience

As more people will undoubtedly go back to in-person shopping as the pandemic fades away, retailers face an uphill battle to create safe, convenient, and seamless in-store customer experiences. Prior to the pandemic, on average, retailers lost $38B in potential revenue due to long lines and wait times. 86% of people avoided stores that were too busy and 73% abandoned their purchase if they waited more than five minutes. Expect when the pandemic is over, these numbers will remain or even increase.

When retailers can fully open their doors again, there are safeguards and conveniences they should consider in order to help get customers comfortable with venturing out again. New technologies, like in-store occupancy monitoring, are helping businesses comply with COVID requirements, increase operational efficiencies, and improve the overall customer experience.

Occupancy monitoring allows retailers to be more transparent with customers and gain their trust that they are visiting a place that is safe and convenient for them. Smart capacity management systems that track real-time foot traffic can help retailers ease customer anxiety about crowds by offering them the ability to see how busy a store is before they enter, putting the decision-making power in their hands. Occupancy data also allows businesses to create socially-distanced in-store experiences by alerting the retailer when a space is reaching its capacity limit. Both customers and employees can feel more comfortable knowing that a business values their safety, while allowing management to better optimize their space utilization.

Retailers can leverage occupancy monitoring to offer an improved customer experience by creating a new level of convenience for visitors with reduced wait times and crowd prevention.

Businesses can manage how their physical spaces are being used with real-time visitor density monitoring so that they can get accurate insights into spaces that are nearing capacity for crowd prevention and social distancing. Occupancy data can give consumers “know before you go” access to live views of the real-time busyness of their favorite places before they go. This new level of convenience and security to visitors lets them know they aren’t heading into a potentially crowded area, allowing businesses to establish trust through transparency.

Besides the avoidance of crowds and wait times, occupancy data can transform how businesses design their physical spaces in order to optimize the customer experience. For example, changing how areas prone to crowding are designed to optimize traffic flow. Similar to how website analytics give businesses critical information into web traffic and trends to drive business decisions, occupancy data can provide retailers with insights into how their spaces are being used to make space planning more efficient.

Occupancy monitoring opens worlds of opportunities for businesses to not just operate in a pandemic safely and efficiently, but improve the customer’s in-store experience so retailers can thrive in the future. Learn more today.



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