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Three Solutions to Gain Customers’ Love — on Valentine’s Day and Beyond

As Valentine’s Day approaches, here are a few suggestions for winning the hearts of your shoppers – through technology.

A lot has changed in retail and in the world since my last Valentine’s Day column. COVID-19 continues to permeate every aspect of consumers’ lives, and retailers must adapt to the resulting changes in customer needs.

Here are three technology solutions that can help retailers create feelings of intimacy, safety and closeness with shoppers who are just looking for a little certainty in their pandemic-altered lives.

❤ Automated sanitizers
In the age of COVID-19, store hygiene has literally been elevated to a matter of life and death. Routine sanitization operations are no longer enough to ensure the health and safety of store shoppers and associates.

To gain the love of your customers, show your love and concern for them by deploying technologies that streamline and automate the type of intensive sanitization that is required to eliminate the COVID-19 virus from the store environment.

Retailers currently obtaining shopper admiration for these efforts include Hudson’s Bay, which has installed touch-free CleanSlate UV Sanitizers that use medical-grade UV rays to sanitize objects such as cell phones, wallets, keys and bank cards, at key store entry and exit points. And home goods retailer Boll & Branch is using sanitizing UV lighting technology from Healthe Inc. to fight COVID-19 at select stores.

❤ Streamlined fulfillment
It’s no secret that consumers have been significantly increasing their digital commerce activity since the arrival of the pandemic. The most attractive retailers provide fulfillment options for online orders that are as or more fast and convenient as a traditional shopping trip.

Numerous retailers have partnered with on-demand delivery platforms, or started offering standard BOPIS and curbside pickup options. These are all good strategies, but don’t be afraid to think a little deeper in coming up with ways to streamline fulfillment of online orders.

Two recent examples are specialty apparel retailers Gap Inc. and American Eagle scaling picking and packing for online orders with the Kindred Sort smart robotic solution; and Stop & Shop offering a walk-up grocery locker pickup option at its store in Boston.

❤ Virtual groups
Retail is an inherently social activity, and customers often like to shop in the company of family and friends. Obviously, COVID-19 has put a damper on group shopping as much as any other event that brings people together.

However, retailers can use video communications and augmented reality technologies to provide real-time group shopping experiences to customers who would love to experience social interaction without leaving their home. Shop Party,” a brick-and-mortar-style group shopping experience to users of its iOS app. The feature enables up to six app users to hang out over video chat, explore products and shoppable content, see what others are browsing to shop together, and check out directly in the app.

Global beauty retailer Charlotte Tilbury is leveraging the Obsess experiential e-commerce platform to launch a virtual Beauty Secrets store exclusively on its e-commerce site. Within the store, customers can join live events and invite a friend to join them on a video call so they can shop together.

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