Retail is already a sector in the midst of transformation as shopping habits shift toward online and convenience style shopping. However, with the changes brought about by COVID-19, we have entered uncharted territory. Zebra’s retail practice team leaders around the world have been on the front lines, watching as retailers and grocers who still have their doors open try to evolve their operations at record speeds.
By all accounts, retailers and their supply chain partners are doing an impressive job meeting demand. Yes, consumers are having to be a bit more strategic in their shopping plans or meal prepping and more patient in restocking staples such as eggs, milk and toilet paper. However, the supply chain is still intact, and people are getting what they need. That being said, this situation is fluid and new challenges are emerging every day. There is a lot more still to be learned by retailers and grocers, their suppliers and even delivery partners.
As such, our retail team leaders wanted to share their observations about what’s working well and make a few recommendations about how those offering in-store and curbside shopping services across the globe may be able to better accommodate social distancing orders, support those in quarantine/isolation and demonstrate that the supply chain remains strong to stop the ripple of panic buying.
In this first part of our series, we hear from our retail leads in EMEA and APAC, as well as our global partner sales manager….
Fast and Easy Ways to (Safely) Increase Utilization of Self-Service and Mobile POS Tools to Facilitate Social Distancing ~ Mark Thomson, Zebra’s Director of Retail & Hospitality for EMEA:
“Large retailers like Selfridges closed their stores early on in the crisis and others have now been forced to follow suit all over the world. Whilst this may be temporary, it will have a significant impact on sales even for those fashion retailers like Next, who have a strong online presence.
Of course, grocery and pharmacy retailers are certainly seeing some upsides. Demand for Ocado online grocery currently exceeds the slots available by 1000 percent and the retailer has shut down its app and website in order to redesign processes to create more availability. The other traditional UK players, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have seen such demand for essentials and long-lasting products that they are rationing all items to three per person and two per person for the higher demand items. I am actually hearing that this is happening across Europe, across the pond in the United States and in other regions around the world.
Staff are being re-tasked away from fresh counters to shelf re-stocking as items fly off the shelves faster than staff can replenish them, and customers are queuing outside stores before they open as well as in the store with their trolleys waiting to pay. Overall, it’s a worrying time and not a great customer experience, but shoppers are generally calm and accepting so far.
One thing I have noticed is that more shoppers seem to be using the self-scanning devices as a way to reduce their need to queue. This also reduces the number of people who need to go to the staffed checkouts and so benefits all shoppers. I recommend that retailers should actively promote this self-service model and put staff close to the device racks at the entrance to the store to educate and encourage more shoppers to use this form of scanning as they shop to help balance the impact on the checkouts.
For retailers who do offer self-scanning, I would encourage them to implement a thorough cleaning protocol after each customer has used the device to keep them safe for all customers as well as getting the devices back on charge as quickly as possible to cope with the current demand. A guide to device cleaning can be found here.
This may also be a good time to consider how the checkout could be made more agile with the help of mobile point-of-sale (POS). Retailers are already seeing a large uptick in the use of card and contactless payments reducing physical contact with the payment medium. Mobile POS is ideally suited for this form of payment and that technology exists now.”
Everyone is Learning the New Retail Rules of Engagement as Workforces and Social Distancing Efforts Grow ~ George Pepes, Zebra’s Retail and Hospitality Solutions Marketing Leader in APAC
“Like the rest of the world, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole is taking extreme measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. So extreme, in fact, that many retailers and grocers are refusing to take bank notes as payment from in-store shoppers. And with the World Health Organization (WHO) advocating for contactless payments, many consumers are hesitant to pass off their credit or debit cards to someone else or even use a traditional payment kiosk for fear of passing or receiving contagions while manually entering their PIN or signing with a digital pen.
In other words, in-app or mobile payments aren’t just becoming the preferred payment option – they’re becoming the only payment option in many cases. This has challenged both retailers and consumers to adapt in record time. Many retailers are rushing to deploy handheld barcode scanners or mobile computers that can read QR codes at checkout lanes or mobile point-of-sale (POS) transactions from a fair distance. At the same time, consumers who were previously wary of making payments via apps or mobile sites for security purposes are choosing to only use apps such as WeChat pay to submit tender, especially in China. Mobile technologies are certainly proving their worth right now for both retailers and shoppers.
However, one thing that retailers and grocers must remember is that mobile technologies, regardless of how they are used, must be easy to use by all – not just the digitally savvy.
A senior citizen who barely uses a smartphone to make calls must be able to place grocery orders or complete contactless payments in a few simple clicks. And the hundreds of thousands of people being hired as store associates, warehouse workers and delivery staff – some of whom may have no previous experience in the retail and grocery sectors – must be able to learn all of the technology tools that retailers are currently using in a matter of hours. That means that retailers must ensure the technologies they deploy – the mobile computers, barcode scanners, tablets, mobile printers and wearables – must offer a “familiar” user experience.
So, if you’re a retailer, grocer, delivery company or warehouse operator planning to buy additional mobile devices for new hires, it might be best to opt for Android™ devices since they may have used the operating system on their personal devices. You may also want to consider adding learning services on the devices to expedite on-boarding.”
Paradigm Shifts or Winning Retail at a Horrible Time? How to Thrive in the Thrust toward Cashless Payments and Contactless Collections ~ Rowan Fuller, Zebra’s Global Partner Sales Manager
“There's something reassuring about watching elegant clientele glide through a smart store in Paris. Or at least there was in the last year of the previous millennium when I wandered around Printemps, looking to pick up a couple of small pieces for my newly rented apartment (a massive 40 sqm of space). That in itself wasn't so much of a paradigm shift for me. After all, I had shopped in both Newcastle's Eldon Square AND the Bull Ring. But as I wrestled with the unfamiliar notes in my wallet, I noticed that the elegance didn't end at the couture and haircuts. These embodiments of chic sophistication didn't seem to be worried by such old-fashioned notions as cash. They simply popped a bank card into a machine, tapped a button or two and were gone with their beautifully packaged goods.
This shifted the paradigm of what payment could be: a cash-free transaction was taking the friction out of shopping and gradually smoothing off the pain points in the process. Why wasn't everyone doing that?
Fast forward 21 years and we're in a world of contactless, near-field communications (NFC) enabled payments and online shopping. These standards have driven any number of innovative processes in retail, including queue busting, lockers, click-and-collect (or BOPIS for our American friends), self-scan, smartphone dynamic coupons, self-checkout and endless aisle inventory. All of these are impressive and can deliver a material benefit to a retailer. That said, only one has arguably delivered a paradigm shift in the retail experience for the shoppers that drive the process.
Across the globe, we are suddenly living in unparalleled times. Whilst there are numerous steps being taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 and minimise the impact on health services, we cannot forget that everyone has a part to play. Limit interpersonal contact, wash hands regularly, clean multi-touch surfaces regularly.
At the same time, the world needs to turn. People need to work, to talk, to exercise, to eat. To live. A key part of this is the pleasure of preparing food, and to do so we all need to shop for groceries. As the sector has grown in the technology age, a significant minority of shoppers now use home delivery services. Whilst these are slick and efficient services for the minority, they are not designed to scale rapidly at a time when going to a store may seem sub-optimal.
So, despite Ocado closing its books for a week, Waitrose and Sainsbury's not having any available delivery slots for between 3 and 4 weeks, and every European country experiencing the same sort of pressures, retail is not doomed. We know that every grocer in Europe has a robust supply chain – fresh goods will continue to appear on the shelves. The bottleneck is delivery from store to consumer, not producer to store. Cloud providers can turn every dial up to 11 to cope with network traffic, but the number of drivers, vans and hours in the day is finite. We know that retailers have invested heavily in real-time inventory and ordering systems, and some of them even have a mobile user experience (UX).. Now, retail urgently needs to find the next paradigm shift in grocery shopping that addresses our new reality and changes consumer behaviour for good. The grocer that can deliver “contactless collection” first, best and at scale will “win at retail.”
Why contactless collection? Because we are all hyper-aware of interpersonal contact. Of surface contact. Of accidental contact on goods handover.
“So, how can I make it work?” I’m asked by retailers and grocers.
The answer is already there in front of us in the supermarket car park – space. No, not a note to the editor to insert a space, but, y'know, space. Lots of it. So, let's use it:
· Put up a storage unit and covered loading area.
· Take online orders and prioritise those selecting car park (or drive-up) collection.
· Link the store, network and perhaps supplier inventory files to the mobile ordering application and pick in almost real-time.
· Let a customer approve their substitutions *before* collection – and take payment prior to collection.
· Direct the customer to a far corner of the car park where their picked goods are held in a temperature-controlled locker. Either send them a code to open a locker or better still, have a store colleague load the shopping bags directly into the boot of the car and close out the transaction on a mobile device. Why not associate the customer with the vehicle registration to validate collection?
All of the technology to deliver this exists already and the lion's share of it is already in the retailer’s operating environment. A good integration partner can have the technology to deliver this up and running in weeks. Link the inventory and order engines, add car park collection and vehicle license plate fields, a few additional wireless devices (use data sims, no need to expand Wi-Fi coverage that far) and some storage lockers. Hire additional store colleagues to pick, pack and dispatch, and support the local area as the economic impact of an issue hits. Build a compelling marketing message and communicate with your base that they can get their groceries with less risk of virus transfer by contactless collection. When we get through this challenging situation, you'll retain the customer goodwill and consumer behaviour will have changed long-term (for the better) as a result.”