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Four innovative services to drive customer traffic post-COVID-19

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A new Cambridge Retail Advisors (CRA) report recommends that brick-and-mortar retailers think beyond BOPIS to gain customer trust.

According to “Flipping the Script,” a white paper from CRA, the physical store will endure the COVID-19 shutdown. However, as retailers reopen brick-and-mortar stores, CRA recommends they ensure customer confidence and loyalty with the following innovative shopping features.

Curbside pickup

Buy online, pickup at curb (BOPAC) is not a new concept, but one that CRA predicts consumers will expect in the future. CRA says brick-and-mortar retailers would be prudent to take note and elevate their existing buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) services a step further to curbside pickup, or BOPAC offerings.

In addition to providing a higher level of convenience to the customer, curbside transactions can remain contactless, which CRA says adds a level of safety many customers will expect or require. With the use of beacons and GPS technology, the customer experience can be streamlined to improve efficiency and eliminate customer wait times for both BOPIS and BOPAC. 

Localized delivery fulfillment

Grocery delivery platforms have seen record-breaking demand since COVID-19 emerged and social distancing orders kept people inside their homes. However, CRA cautions that retailers should be mindful of the limited brand connectedness, associated fees, and markups that can result from using third-party delivery services and applications. 

To meet surging demand, some retailers are converting traditional locations into local fulfillment centers known as “dark stores” and “ghost kitchens.” According to CRA, these micro-fulfillment centers will become a key to enabling faster, more convenient customer service. Shifting to an in-house, proprietary service, with one flat fee could become increasingly important to maintain the brick-and-mortar retailer-customer relationship. 

Digital technology and lockers

CRA advises that the need for contactless transacting goes far beyond a touch-free experience at checkout and also includes the reduction of physical interaction with on-shelf products. Technologies such as QR codes and near-field communication (NFC) can be utilized for product information to minimize physical interactions in the store. 

Self-service lockers have also emerged as a versatile method of product delivery, according to CRA. The lockers are programmed to send an email or SMS to alert customers at various stages of the package delivery process. With the availability of climate-controlled lockers, they offer a convenient and touch-free customer experience for temperature-sensitive products. 

Self-scan and go apps were gaining traction before the pandemic, as CRA says consumers appreciate the convenience of scanning items from the operator’s app on their phone. By self-scanning and paying via credit card on file, the consumer avoids waiting in checkout lines and can ensure all items were recorded at the right price. Most stores that offer this service have an employee at the exit to confirm that the customer paid by having them flash their paid screen as they exit the store. The adoption of self-scan and go may accelerate as it offers consumers the benefit of less contact with store associates. 

Exclusive shopping hours 

By welcoming customers that may need additional assistance or are in a more vulnerable demographic segment, to shop during exclusive hours, CRA advises that retailers demonstrate that they care for all customers across all demographics. 


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