OUR BLOG

25 Apr 2020

Appointment-only stores, hand sanitizing stations, and robots stocking shelves

Excerpt via Business Insider

How our shopping experience could change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

Retailers across the US are feeling the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, which is creating a surge in demand at some stores that remain open but has wholly dried up business for those that haven’t.

Experts, landlords, and retailers are now turning their thoughts to life after lockdown and how different the retail landscape could look in the future.  Here’s how our shopping experience could change, according to retail experts:

1. Permanent social distancing measures

Stores that are deemed essential and can stay open during the lockdown have already enforced new measures to make shoppers and employees feel safer. These include anything from social distancing markers and limits on the number of customers in-store at any one time to sneeze guards at the cash registers. And experts say that some of these measures will become a permanent fixture.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

2. Hand sanitizing stations and free masks
While some retailers have started to supply workers with masks, Maloney said JLL is looking at how to take this a step further. It is considering whether malls and stores might also begin to provide free masks for customers and install hand sanitizing stations in public areas to prevent the spread of infection.

3. Stores move to an appointment-only model

Appointment-only shopping services typify expensive boutiques or wedding dress stores but Kelly Stickel – founder and CEO of consultancy firm Remodista – said in the future we could see more stores adopting this model to limit the number of people in a store.

A less drastic measure would be to open the store every other day to make time for a deep clean, she said.

4. More contactless payments
Retailers are already advising customers to avoid germ-ridden cash and pay by card. Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, thinks we are only going to see more contactless payment options in stores along with “scan and shop” services to help customers avoid the registers altogether, he said.

5. Pick-up becomes the norm
Before the pandemic, some of the country’s biggest retailers were building out their buy online pick-up in-store services to make shopping more convenient. But in the past few weeks, grocery and big-box chains have been ramping up these services as customers avoid shopping in-store.

6. Leaning more on ecommerce
Social distancing is already encouraging consumers to shop online more, and experts say this will only continue.

7. Robots replace humans in stores

COVID-19 has become a testing ground for several new technologies such as delivery robots and drones in China.  Robots could also become more critical in stores and used for tasks such as cleaning and stock checking. The benefits of this are twofold, Saunders said: It “both minimizes staff exposure and also helps reduce costs – which retailers will be desperate to do after this crisis.”

 

Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

8. More stores will close
As more consumers switch to ecommerce shopping, we are likely to see a contraction in the number of stores in the US.  This trend was already well underway before the pandemic started but is likely to accelerate over the next few years, experts say.

9. Virtual reality brings the store to our home

If store visits do drop, longterm retailers are going to have to come up with more creative ways to recreate the experience of shopping in-store online.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) could play an important role here by offering services such as personalized recommendation, image-based search, and virtual personal stylists, Lin said.

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