Building on the video, Team ITG’s Natalie Somerville says in-store CX has never been as important as it is today

The reopening of non-essential retail in England has underlined the importance of safety as a top priority for shoppers. Covid-19 has affected our behaviour and attitudes towards shopping – it is constantly shifting and impossible to predict – but the fundamentals of what consumers expect to see, hear and feel in-store remain the same.

There is a huge opportunity for retailers to reimagine ‘shopping’ and double down on customer experience (CX) to maximise their share of wallet in a post-pandemic world. 

Customer sentiment is one of the biggest issues retailers are grappling with, so it is crucial, in these challenging times, for brands to stay closer than ever to consumers. We set up a consumer focus group called the Focus 500 to help our clients keep their fingers on the nation’s pulse as well as gauge how people feel about returning to the shops. 

Our findings threw up some interesting results: 

  • Three in five consumers said they felt retail parks would offer the safest environment, followed by high streets (25%) and shopping centres (15%)
  • Sixty-six per cent said they feared the coming recession and they would need to tighten their purse strings
  • Over the next six months, four out of five respondents felt spending on clothes, homeware and health and beauty would remain consistent with levels during lockdown despite shops being open, while spending on eating out and leisure would significantly increase

Alongside these responses, we learned how consumers are now expecting a seamless omnichannel experience, so retailers need to dial up the relationship between in-store, click and collect and online ordering services. Currys PC World’s ShopLive is a perfect example of a service that blends people and technology to bridge the gap between shopping online and offline in a meaningful way – adding value to the buying decision process. 

Retailers will also have to be loud and proud about their sustainability and purpose-driven goals. However, this is no longer a job for ecommerce as the in-store environment offers such premium visibility for brands to tell a meaningful story – provided customers feel safe to be in-store. 

It is still too early to predict the long-term effects that Covid-19 will have but to help retailers deliver exceptional in-store CX in 2021, here are four key principles to consider:

1. Brand agility 

We are in a state of flux, and it has never been more important to keep up with cultural sentiment (context, trends, consumers) and responding with relevant creative approaches. Through our highly automated and intelligent modular multichannel system CanopyCloud, we help get your message out there, in the right place, at the right time.

2. Amplify in-store

Shoppers are willing to visit retail parks and high streets if they feel safe. We have got used to online shopping for food and essentials, so a return to in-store shopping for ‘fun stuff’ should be a breath of fresh air for shoppers. Make their experience entertaining.

3. Reframe your thinking

Create Instagrammable moments that drive conversation and use a blend of at-home and in-store technology to make the experience safer and seamless. Changing the layout of stores so they have fewer cluttered points of sale can add to sensory experiences – less is more.

4. Put value into added value

Offer more than just price, think about customer care and loyalty. Customers can access basic information online so it is crucial for in-store colleagues to bring their expertise and product knowledge to the fore, to create added value. For example, we have seen a shift towards value messaging in-store with brands sharing stories of acts of kindness to stand out.

Natalie Somerville

Natalie Somerville is Managing Director of Strategy and Creative at Team ITG

A true strategist, brand builder and customer champion, Natalie has over 20 years of experience working with global retailers. Previous roles include prominent positions at Tesco and Camelot and consulting for Asda, Sainsbury’s, B&Q, Halfords and Wilko.