Stores are changing. A recent piece of research by analysts McKinsey spells out how changing consumer habits and expectations are pushing retailers to rethink not just how stores are set up and operate, but what their very purpose is.
In particular, it points to a blurring of the lines between online and in-store commerce. This was a trend that had already been set in motion before COVID-19 arrived. But the pandemic has switched the afterburners on.
Referring to the ‘new normal’ in retail as omnichannel or ‘cross-channel’ shopping, McKinsey points to examples like the steep rise in consumers ordering online and then picking up in store. Or, in response to the fact that 30% of consumers now expect same-day delivery on orders, how nimble retailers are repurposing stores to double up as picking centers for rapid local delivery.
Summing up the winds of change blowing through retail, McKinsey argues that store owners are faced with a number of ‘zero’ propositions – consumers demanding zero difference between channels, zero wait time on deliveries, and zero assistance unless they ask for it (a reference to growing popularity of self-checkout).
That sounds like a lot of challenge, a lot of change, a lot of work. What’s the pay off? Well, according to McKinsey, consumers who flexibly switch between online and in store when they shop make 70% more purchases and spend 34% more than customers who stick to the old ways and shop exclusively in store.
By thinking outside the box about what your store can do to better align it with digital operations, you are tapping into a more lucrative market.
But how exactly do you set up your store so it functions just as effectively as a fulfillment hub for your online channels as it does a welcoming, engaging retail environment for the modern consumer? This is where retail technology really is your friend.
Building on your POS
The foundations are already there with contemporary POS systems. The kind of cloud-based POS software that most retail businesses now run is tailor made for flexibility. The chances are your sales system is already directly integrated with your inventory system, so you can always see what you have in stock in real time. You might already have moved over to automated on-demand reordering.
This is perfect for pivoting your store to act as a fulfillment hub, whether for customer collections or delivery. Connecting a cloud-based POS to your ecommerce channels is easy. All you have to do is add in-store collection as an option to your website. You can connect online and in-store sales to the same inventory system, so whether an item is sold directly or picked for delivery, it’s all one and the same.
You also need the right in-store hardware to support your ambitions. At RTG, we specialize in modular POS architecture and custom configurations. The days of POS being fixed, out-the-box deployments are long behind us. If you want to get the best out of your retail technology, you want the freedom and flexibility to shape it to your business needs.
As far as turning stores into omnichannel hubs and blurring the lines between online and off goes, that means thinking beyond traditional POS. Self-checkout kiosks are rapidly becoming a must-have – according to McKinsey, 70% of consumers that have used self-checkout during the course of the pandemic intend to use it more regularly in the future.
As well as empowering your customers, technology can empower your people, too. One of the keys to bringing online and in-store experiences closer together is availability of information. Whether they are serving a customer or picking items for delivery or collection, your staff need access to the right data.
From your CRM, your inventory management system, your POS and ecommerce channels, all the data your people need is there. Rolling out use of tablets in your store gives them a direct connection on the move to access it as and when required.
These are just some examples of how technology can loosen the shackles and let you get creative in reimagining the role of your store, all while empowering your customers, your people and your business.
Get in touch with our team of experts to get a clearer idea of what this might look like for your business.