Right now that we are living in the Covid-19 hit world for around almost 9 months, we are seeing the normalizing of contactless retail more and more every day and one thing for sure is that the physical retail needs to change to better fit the ever growingly digitized world. In this article of Niorise we will share some details of a Q&A session of retail strategist Melissa Gonzalez as she gives answers to some questions regarding the transformation of physical retail.
Melissa Gonzalez is a strategist in retail and a leader in introducing to the mainstream the pop-up retail model. She is the CEO and founder of The Lionesque Group, a company of prize-winning retail strategists, and a major architectural firm, as well as a president and shareholder in MG2. Melissa helps consumers reinvent worlds and in-store experiences, starting with a deep analysis of strategies, to convey engaging stories that inspire experimentation and interaction, draw new customers, improve loyalty to current customers, and create a platform for their potential evolution.
There are several questions regarding the normalization of market acceptance of contactless retails, but one fact we noticed is that physical retail would have to shift in order to adapt further to the modern environment. Environments will have to balance value and ease with experiential nature and the journey through the store will rely both on productivity and on adventure and discovery.
As we learn and adapt to suit shifting behaviors, and represent customers who follow their own new expectations, we know it has to be balanced by cross-channel dynamism. The importance of BOPIS, in-store returns and without touch payments have been illustrated by the fact that pioneers like Walmart , Target, Home Depot, and others benefit from a high growth rate because of their adaptability.
Q: Do you agree the stores will take a smaller footprint because the inventory needs will change?
A: Yeah I do. Obviously, the footprint has to be re-evaluated, but the goal has to be: “What is this place for my clients?” Brands and retailers use both outlets as a holistic strategy, and some stores are better served as tailored experiences in some markets. They will be used to showcase new product releases and to show special partnerships and sets of capsules. They may also act as a conscious point of awareness at times. Customers enjoy interactions with a strong perspective and value their time. Not all retail experience has to be treasure seeking. In order to reach the best footprint, understanding client needs and preferences in each market is important.
Q: What is the role of the pop-up play in this period of transition? As part of fluid experiences online and offline?
A: We need to build resilient environments with some uncertainty about which the preferences of clients are normalized. Pop-ups are a less dangerous method of checking how consumers “turn up” and serve them better at different moments. We know of substantial support for contactless payments after closures, but we don’t yet know if they can normalize when, for instance, the stores are totally open again. Pop-ups act as a live focus group in research and learning, and in a pop-up retail shop there is much stronger customer support for iteration. Moreover, as companies and distributors re-examine markets, they have a physical footprint at crucial times of the year in markets with no justified economic presence of 12 months a year.
Q: Curation is utterly crucial, but any e-commerce destination needs an array strategy for an “infinite aisle.” How do you balance scale with curation?
A: Both channels must have a cohesive strategy and complement one another. In-store solution can be agile and scalable, while web integration enhances an infinite all-round experience, from store to store. The best modular architecture ensures that stores can function all year round. Store partners and consistent signage will enhance the experience for shoppers in the store and preserve it in a clear and concise manner.
Q: Why do customers want a new touch? Is there a reverse impact on these contactless post-pandemic technologies?
A: There are the physical retail tactile components, but it’s not the only feeling we enjoy when we think about the in-store experience interaction in isolation. In the end, we can be customer-centered and meaningful in our choices when agreeing about what technologies should facilitate. If we streamline technologies to make the transactional elements simpler and to contribute to learning, sensorial elements like sound layering, lighting and scent may be applied to this.
Q: It is wonderful that much of the debate is about the retail space being analyzed or facilitating returns in terms of its transactional position. Would the retail role go further than that?
A: The store’s role keeps changing. It must be a place to meet the expectations of a client who is more agnostic and wants fluidity independent of their touchpoint. Even if the store acts as a center of fulfillment and also being a brand moment, even from a service point of view or a point of exploration and sales, we would usually land on a blend. In the end, retailers will continue to move to a more mature technology that can accommodate multiple customer experiences smoothly.
Q: What are the important points and key moments from which versatile, agile retail experiences can be created?
A: Both the package journey and the customer experience are about the study we are conducting, and the scenarios we are planning out. Our study involves the online and offline experience and brings customer behaviors into account as both boundaries begin to blur and overlap. Each of it has to satisfy “quick-serve” measures of order delivery and returns as we think regarding experience per square foot, and an atmosphere that enhances the package from the time it reaches the store to the moment it leaves. Although some of it has to be a location that promotes in-store discovery and full service assistance, like appointment-based shopping, meeting cosmetics experts, stylists or even a tailor, ability to adapt for both situations is the greatest acceleration in 2020.
Q: Can you talk about the employees’ journey a bit more? Many retailers face the need to retrain and recruit new staff to respond to the accelerated shifts, even though they often undergo contraction.
A: Personnel from the cross training store are becoming more essential than ever. At the heart of it, it’s about recognizing the service or product you offer, understanding pressure points and frequently asked questions from consumers, and also being able to first provide a mindset and attitude to service. For the in-store innovations that are being introduced, they will need to be fluent so that the consumer experience could be seamless. Not only do they need to know how the technology operates, but the role it plays, equipping them with a detailed understanding of the importance and how it improves the consumer experience.
A: For now, there are two categories of strength, as work from home remains. From a DIY viewpoint, there is a lot of learning, particularly when it comes to home renovation and contextualized advice when it comes to home design and style, so it is important to have certain things in mind when shifting and adapting. It would be codependent on stepping into certain facets of operation to keep it individual. With interior decoration and furniture, a company will also use their physical store as a main reference backdrop and use live streaming or shopping experience based on appointments to continue to boost customer engagement.
Q: Do you think stores will be able to move in time to deliver on a more agile basis with holidays around the corner?
A: For 2020, the Adaptive Strategy is more than fine. Those that give priority to customer safety, delivery logistics and innovative ways to sprinkle surprises and delight will be successful. There are various low-tech options to promote contactless, and several are now doing so, but in order to satisfy consumer expectations, there would definitely need to a cross-channel solution as well. If it’s not already, this planning needs to commence now.