2020 has been a test by fire for the retail industry. It was thrown into a storm where there was an equal chance of survival as well as a fatal end. Retailers that made the right decisions, rewired their processes, and created new digital experiences were able to survive it. In fact, they were able to thrive.
The key point worth noting is that while footfalls in physical stores were reduced to a bare minimum, the rush was concentrated on the e-commerce side. Almost every kind of retail store — from mom-and-pop stores to large retail chains — had to switch their modus operandi to the e-commerce model. Along with that came into focus another aspect of modern retail that has been underappreciated so far: digital experiences.
The Pandemic-Induced Plot Twist in Retail
When consumers started spending more time indoors and online shopping, digital experiences became the differentiator in their decisions. Retailers that gave a better digital experience — be it browsing their online store or completing a purchase — were given precedence.
As we step into 2021 with renewed hope and vigor, we can’t help but take a step back and think of the kind of innovations that retailers must adapt to improve their digital experiences.
Some of them are described below:
1. Augmented Reality for Immersive Experiences
Augmented reality (AR) is a mixed reality technology that blurs the differences between the physical world and the real world. It allows users to access information on any screen without having to enact physical contact. For example, you can point your screen at a landmark and get all information about it in digital snippets.
Similarly, in a restaurant, you can point your smartphone at a QR code, a logo, or a symbol and get access to the restaurant’s menu. The need for a physical menu and its physical handling is avoided.
In fact, Ikea, the world’s favorite furniture shop, already has an AR app. From the perspective of retail technology, AR has great potential to turn around digital experiences. It allows users to project 3D images of furniture in their home spaces and check if the measurement fits their space. The AR app helps customers buy the right product and avoid unnecessary returns.
A prime example of that is smart glasses, which provide a visual spectacle to an individual that’s completely at a different level. It does this by combining the physical visual perception of the digital information pertaining to the outer world, which is being perceived.
You can even augment the visual reality of a person by simulating holograms and 3D objects in the field of vision. The amazing part is all of this enables a person to see with superhuman potency
Needless to say, it’s one of the key retail trends that’s going to change how customers consume product information before making a purchase decision.
2. Collaborating Browsing so as to Augment Customer Service
During the pandemic, customer support was perhaps the only function that was overworking. Frustrated, impatient and nervous customers started texting, calling and emailing businesses whose physical offices were inaccessible. This not only put excess pressure on the customer support division, but also slowed down issue resolution.
However, digital experiences like collaborating browsing can put an end to it. It allows the service agent and the customer to share a common screen and solve the issue through mutual discussion. Acquire’s co-browsing offering is one such digital experience available for retailers.
3. Autonomous Delivery for Fast and Safe Last-Mile Deliveries
The pandemic didn’t spare the last-mile delivery function as well. In fact, it’s considered to be the most severely hit function as lockdown and travel restrictions made movement difficult. Furthermore, delivery agents were also prone to catching the infection if they moved about to random customer locations for deliveries.
Autonomous delivery is one such innovation in retail that can address this challenge. It uses robots on wheels, and drones offer a helping hand here as well. Although they’ve yet to become mainstream, the pandemic has accelerated their adoption. Also, retailers now have the confidence to invest in autonomous delivery systems that spare them from the need to send delivery personnel on the road.
For example, companies like Starship Technologies have already delivered a fleet of delivery robots to Sodexo for delivering snacks at George Mason University. Other players like Savioke, Nuro, and Eliport are also making giant strides in the autonomous delivery space.
Nobody could predict what happened in 2020. Whatever predictions were made, they were tossed to the wind. The same applies to 2021. We don’t know what’s in store for the future of retail. However, we can hope for some innovations and new breakthroughs that will help the retail industry get back on its feet and start running forward.
The days of poorly lit dispensaries with dusty shelves stocked with rolling papers, tie-dyed T-shirts and patchouli incense are over. The new 21st-century cannabis boutiques are taking a page from lifestyle aspirational brands, such as RH and Tiffany & Co., with Instagram-worthy interiors that are driving up neighborhood property values and attracting luxury consumers. Many top-tier cannabis brands are changing the face and culture of their cannabis brick-and-mortar experience through the use of the following design elements typically implemented by high-end retailers:
Fixtures, furnishings and equipment (FFE) are setting a new tone in the cannabis retail space. Centrally positioned display cases and warm specialty lighting have reimagined the traditional “head shop” floorplan. Product is displayed front and center, rather than positioned along the perimeter of the store, and lighting has shifted from harsh ceiling floodlights to eye-level fixtures. The check-in and security vestibule experience has also evolved from pawn shop glass security doors to welcoming lounges with restaurant-inspired concepts. Private consultation rooms provide opportunities for unique and functional FFE, some of which may even incorporate ATM machines (a necessity as most dispensaries trade in cash) built into the design.
Branding is a critical boutique design element and one of the best ways to reinforce and evolve a memorable in-store experience. To stand out in a cannabis retail environment, design and product often work hand in hand to tell the brand story and connect with consumers looking for a lifestyle brand to complement their personal style. Exterior branding placement visible from several angles and distances, along with interior elements such as signage, murals and feature walls, reinforce the brand culture, promote customer engagement, build brand loyalty and inspire repeat visits.
Timely buildouts in the cannabis retail space are essential. As more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, brands and retailers are racing to be the first to market. Retailers with expedited build schedules and opening timelines will reap the rewards of location-based customer loyalty. Building products and materials must be readily available, locally sourced, and immediately accessible to ensure a swift and perfect completion.
Savvy cannabis retailers have taken cues from the luxury sector utilizing the same vendors, architectural features and materials to elevate the in-store customer experience at every touch point. What sets cannabis retailers apart from the luxury pack is their unique ability to incorporate interactive displays, allowing customers to pick up items and engage their senses while still integrating the necessary security and compliance requirements that are unique to cannabis. Displays such as sampling tables, flower bars, interactive ordering and product knowledge touch points delivered by budtenders create spaces where customers can immerse themselves in a sensory experience incorporating all five senses.
No detail is too small when it comes to high-end custom millwork for cannabis boutiques. This suite of offerings can be mixed and matched with traditional FFE and vintage and found pieces to provide an aesthetic wow factor. As the name implies, custom millwork is just that, and the overall cost and timelines vary considerably. Custom millwork materials trending today are sustainable, durable and allow for flexibility in their amenities, including facilitating multipurpose omnichannel points of sale. James Andrus from The Andrus Group articulates the synergy between design and experience perfectly: “We see the cannabis retail experience as just another way to sell a pair of shoes or a piece of jewelry, sometimes a very nice pair or sometimes just the right fit. But regardless, the customer experience should be elevated the same, and the millwork and finishes should honor this.”
The new cannabis boutique is following in the footsteps of luxury and lifestyle retail incorporating and reimagining elements that contribute to a successful brand. By placing an emphasis on branding, customer experience, and locally sourced and custom materials, this new retail segment is quickly becoming competitive in the booming luxury and lifestyle brick-and-mortar space. High-quality design and readily-available building materials will take your luxury cannabis brand to new heights.
PALM BEACH, Fla., May 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Retail cannabis sales in North America soared in 2020. The pandemic has virtually destroyed many businesses, big and small, over the last year, but there is a retail business that has flourished IN and BECAUSE of the healthcare crisis… Cannabis Dispensaries. In fact sales increased over 67% in 2020, so says an article in FlowHub. They said that analysts attribute this massive increase both to changing public perception, but also to the pandemic itself. More home-bound than ever, and with ongoing fear of shutdowns, people stocked up on cannabis to the tune of nearly $18 billion, said Leafly. Delivery and online ordering reigned supreme. Online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery were big trends in 2020 that helped consumers get their products quickly and safely… in the 30 days following the March 13 declaration of a national emergency, new delivery customer sign-ups jumped by nearly 60%. Similarly, the State of the Cannabis Industry found that stores with order ahead enabled sold 22% more on average compared to stores without order ahead. Not surprisingly, tech companies in cannabis ecommerce increased their market share in 2020 also. Sales in North America grew at an exponential rate. A report from BDSA said that Global cannabis sales reached nearly $21.3 billion in 2020, an increase of 48% over 2019 sales of $14.4 billion. BDSA forecasts global cannabis sales will grow from $21.3 billion in 2020 to $55.9 billion in 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 17%. Active Cannabis companies in the markets this week include Quizam Media Corporation (OTCQB: QQQFF) (CSE: QQ), Cresco Labs (OTCQX:CRLBF) (CSE:CL), Curaleaf Holdings, Inc. (OTCQX: CURLF) (CSE: CURA), GrowGeneration Corp. (NASDAQ: GRWG), Inner Spirit Holdings Ltd. (OTCQB: INSHF) (CSE: ISH).
“The cannabis industry faced numerous challenges in the past few years, none so potentially disruptive as the coronavirus pandemic in 2020,” said Micah Tapman, Chief Executive Officer, BDSA. “Our previous forecast was conservative based on the expected economic fallout from the pandemic, but the industry not only survived, it thrived and legal cannabis gained considerable ground, exceeding our expectations in several markets.”
Quizam Media Corporation (OTCQB: QQQFF) (CSE: QQ) BREAKING NEWS: Quantum 1 Cannabis Signs Purchase Agreement to Open Flagship Location Near Oakridge Centre, Vancouver’s Largest Retail and Residential Development – Quizam Media Corporation (“the Company”) is pleased to announce that its subsidiary, Quantum 1 Cannabis (“Quantum”), one of Canada’s fastest growing and leading recreational cannabis retailers, has signed a revised Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Canna-Place to acquire an approved, municipal cannabis retail location in one of Vancouver’s most diverse neighborhoods at 41st and Cambie Street in Vancouver, BC. The purchase includes a retail cannabis development permit and other rights for the purpose of Quantum to operate a legal cannabis retail store.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Quantum 1 has secured and finalized a prime location to move its development permit from a basement location to a higher traffic ground floor space. Quantum 1 is awaiting approval from the city for said move.
The new location will feature a full service, recreational cannabis retail experience featuring an upscale, contemporary design and a staff of highly trained cannabis consultants.
“With the recent financial announcement of record sales growth across our chain of unique cannabis stores, this flagship location expands our footprint in the Lower Mainland and has exceptional potential for growth. With over a billion dollars of development being spent at Oakridge Centre, density will significantly increase in what is already a high traffic area,” stated CEO Russ Rossi. “Our dedicated team of experts is excited to serve our growing base of customers with a service and retail experience unlike anything seen in BC before.”
In the past fourteen months, Quantum 1 has opened stores in North Vancouver, Vernon, Grand Forks, Keremeos and Creston. CONTINUED… Read this and more news for Quizam Media Corporation by visiting: https://www.quizammedia.com/news-archive/
Other recent developments in the markets include:
Curaleaf Holdings, Inc. (OTCQX: CURLF) (CSE: CURA) a leading international provider of consumer products in cannabis, recently announced the completion of the previously announced reorganization of its Maryland business. The reorganization optimizes Curaleaf’s cultivation, processing and dispensary footprint in Maryland, further strengthening the Company’s position as a leading cannabis operator in the state.
In connection with the reorganization, Curaleaf has completed the acquisition of Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness, LLC (“MCCW”), which operates a 55,000 square foot co-located cultivation and processing facility in Taneytown, MD and a dispensary in Gaithersburg, MD under the Herbology brand. Curaleaf has also completed the sale to TerrAscend Corp. (“TerrAscend”) of its interest in the HMS cultivation and processing facility in Frederick, MD for a total consideration of $27.5 million, comprised of $25.0 million in cash prior to net adjustments and a $2.5 million note. Additionally, Curaleaf sold to PharmaCann its 100% interest in the Elevate Takoma dispensary located in Takoma Park, MD and Grassroots’ principals’ 51% interest in a dispensary in Westminster, MD, for total proceeds to the Company of $3.9 million.
GrowGeneration Corp. (NASDAQ: GRWG), the nation’s largest chain of specialty hydroponic and organic garden centers, recently announced a new partnership with Belushi’s Farm to outfit its newest greenhouse. Based in Oregon, Belushi’s Farm was founded in 2015 by performer Jim Belushi to cultivate premium medical and recreational cannabis, producing signature brands such as Belushi’s Secret Stash, The Blues Brothers, and Captain Jack’s (also known as “The Smell of SNL”).
“We’ve spent several weeks on the ground in Oregon working with Jim and his exceptional team at Belushi’s Farm working on plans and visiting our retail locations for top-grade supplies,” said Jeremy Corrao, Vice President of Commercial Operations at GrowGeneration. “Our team of grow professionals are experts in cannabis-growing techniques, and we’re excited to support Jim’s vision with GrowGeneration’s unparalleled supplies and services.”
Inner Spirit Holdings Ltd. (OTCQB: INSHF) (CSE: ISH), a Canadian company that has established a national network of Spiritleaf retail cannabis stores, recently announced its 83rd, 84th and 85thSpiritleaf stores are set to open in Toronto and Kemptville, Ontario and in Calgary, Alberta this weekend. Spiritleaf operates the most cannabis stores under one single brand in Canada and will be the first retailer to achieve the 85-store milestone.
The franchised Spiritleaf stores in Toronto’s Riverside neighborhood on Queen Street East and in the Kemptville community south of Ottawa will bring the number of Spiritleaf locations in Canada’s largest province to 27. The franchised store in Calgary, in the northwest community of Evanston, will add to the growing footprint for Spiritleaf in Alberta where the Company will have 46 stores. Additional Spiritleaf stores are projected to open in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador this year.
Cresco Labs Inc. (CSE:CL) (OTCQX:CRLBF), a vertically integrated multistate operator and the number one wholesaler of branded cannabis products in the U.S., recently announced that it will report financial results for the first quarter ended March 31st, 2021 on Thursday May 27th, 2021 before the market opens.
The Company also announced that it will, for the first time, report its financial results under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“U.S. GAAP”), resulting in a later reporting date than typical. This conversion from IFRS to U.S. GAAP is being made to further prepare Cresco Labs for future capital markets opportunities in the U.S. and to more closely align with reporting standards familiar to U.S. investors and stakeholders. The Company also plans to provide prior financial information recast under U.S. GAAP for the previous four quarters along with the release of its first quarter 2021 earnings. The Company will host a conference call and webcast to discuss its financial results and provide investors with key business highlights on Thursday May 27th, 2021 at 8:30 am Eastern Time (7:30am Central Time).
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In order to minimize change orders, increase efficiency, improve their return on investment and enhance the quality of their projects, infrastructure engineers and designers have turned to several new trends and technologies.
Digital twins, for example, are creating a buzz in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, as are artificial intelligence, sustainability, resilient systems and big data. In this article, I’ll look at six trends driving the AEC industry.
1. Digital Twins
A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process or system, as well as the engineering information that allows us to understand and model its performance. Digital twins can include 3D models, digital rendering and even animation or simulation of road traffic, pedestrian patterns and water flow.
Digital twins help stakeholders to visualize what a project will look like before it is built. When a project has begun construction, the use of reality capture through drones can help project teams monitor progress and safety, such as how much dirt per day was moved, without having to personally inspect everything.
When working with digital twins, it makes sense to start your implementation on something relatively simple and then scale up the complexity ladder so your design teams can adjust to working with this technology and are not overwhelmed.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used in engineering software for generative design, material selection and robotic process automation (RPA). Generative design is an iterative design process in which an engineer or designer enters certain constraints, such as size, wind resistance or strength, and asks the computer to create some options. AI is also being applied to materials selection and code compliance, even traffic and pedestrian flows. Additionally, RPA software enables bots to automate administrative tasks, such as verifying change orders or managing bills of materials.
For most applications, AI is already being built into the software, but AEC leaders will need to be sure they have people who can train and maintain the underlying models, so it is important to understand how specifically AI is being applied.
Most people are worried about climate change and are actively trying to manage our carbon footprint. Many of us are also turning to alternative fuels, such as solar and wind energy.
The engineering industry is mirroring the concern by creating new materials and finding environmentally friendly ways to do things. There are, for instance, green rooftops and green alleys, which are paved with permeable concrete made from recycled materials that allow stormwater to soak into the ground. Other new materials are also of interest for sustainability, such as biometric concrete, or bioconcrete — concrete with bacteria mixed into it. The bacteria is activated by water and produces calcite, a component of limestone, that completely fills the crack and acts as a self-healing concrete. Imagine: no more potholes and sidewalk maintenance and bridges that last a lot longer. Engineers are also experimenting with sidewalks that generate power based on the pressure of foot traffic and much more.
AEC leaders would be wise to keep track of these emerging technologies and their development, perhaps assigning your CTO or head of design to follow “emerging technologies and materials.”
4. Resilient Systems
Along with a focus on sustainability, climate change has also driven a requirement for resilient or redundant systems. Climate change makes severe weather events much more likely, which increases the risk of flooding and wind damage. We have — particularly during the past year — seen breakdowns in supply chains. People now understand that they need a backup plan: systems that can fail over to alternate power and systems that will still work in the event of a major weather event.
Going forward, AEC firms should design for resilience and then highlight its importance when talking with their clients. Everyone appreciates a backup plan.
5. Big Data
Most applications use very little information to run a plant, a building or any sort of operation. However, the use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors is producing massive amounts of data. Coupled with the growth of 5G networks, collecting data from the sensors has become much easier. Owners of infrastructure and government municipalities will soon be able collect information from assets in near-real time, compare them with digital twins and flag when things are off. For instance, sensors can let a wastewater treatment plant operator know when flow is suboptimal or let a municipality know when a bridge is nearing or at capacity or when the concrete is failing.
With this in mind, it behooves all AEC firms to build or expand data offices and bring those data offices closer to the designers and clients so all that data is used effectively.
6. The Changing Nature Of Engineering
Not all that long ago, engineers had full responsibility for the projects on which they worked. However, as projects and systems become more complicated, engineers have had to work on multidisciplinary teams where members are geographically dispersed and in different time zones. Therefore, they have to be familiar with collaboration tools, working in a virtual environment, and reviewing design and construction remotely. Most engineers have adapted by necessity to this new way of working, but offering remote working tips and tricks regularly — as well as scheduling more frequent design reviews — can help your team adapt to the changing landscape.
Engineering organizations and owner-operators who have been at the forefront in adopting these technologies are seeing improved results while lowering costs, increasing safety and increasing their return on investment.
For the first time in a while, Detroit is seeing a lot of new construction instead of rehabs or demolition. But in many cases, these buildings tend to look fairly similar.
Whether among Corktown’s turn-of-the-century Victorian homes, nestled between the stately Whitney and Kales buildings downtown or down the street from the Art Deco Fisher Building in New Center, these apartment buildings share many features: boxy, occupying most of a city block, glass commercial bays and small balconies outside most units.
Though they don’t have an official name, architects often refer to them as the “five-over-one” (or one-plus-five) building type, referring to five stories of residential built above the ground floor, often reserved for retail (though the number of residential stories can vary). The materials are also consistent: a concrete or steel first floor with wood frame above.
And they’re proliferating everywhere. “We’re seeing them all over the country,” said Todd Sachse, founder of Sachse Construction and vice president and partner at sister company Broder & Sachse Real Estate in Detroit. “They’re the dominant construction method for mid-rise residential, from Atlanta to Minneapolis to Columbus to Indianapolis. Go to those cities and you’ll see 10 times more than there are here.”
They’re popular with developers for a very good reason: cost. “It’s the most cost-effective construction system in order to get as much height as possible,” Sachse said. Broder & Sachse partnered in the development of The Scott in Brush Park, which was technically a four-over-two with one level of parking.
A 2019 Bloomberg article traces the rise of this building type to a 1996 project in Los Angeles, which wouldn’t work financially as a steel high-rise, but did as a longer building made mostly of wood. That’s because wood is cheaper than steel, both in the cost of materials and labor, since steel construction requires skilled tradespeople.
But wood is much more flammable. So to conform to building codes, these “stick frame” buildings had to have a height limit of roughly five stories above the more secure ground floor.
“The smaller the building, the more you can build it out of combustible materials,” said Betsy Williams, director of design for Hamilton Anderson Associates, a Detroit architecture firm. “If you want to make the whole thing out of concrete or steel, you can build it as tall as you want.”
They’re popular with developers for another reason: demand. Though the coronavirus pandemic has reduced demand for downtown apartments for the time being, a 2019 market study by Broder & Sachse found that occupancy rates for apartment buildings in the urban core ranged between 92% to 98%. These new buildings often have many on-site amenities, like a gym, swimming pool, individual and shared deck space and bike storage. The ground-floor programming adds even more incentives, providing easy access to businesses like fitness studios, salons and specialty grocery stores.
Five-over-ones are not a new phenomenon even in Detroit — Studio One Apartments next to the Whitney Mansion, for example, was built in the 2000s. But they’re being built with greater frequency now.
James Fidler, founding principal at City Form Detroit, said they represent the next logical stage real estate development in Detroit. “We’re finally at a point where rents for both residential and commercial buildings make new construction possible,” he said. “And stick frame gives developers the means to build a lot of units pretty inexpensively.”
(However, Sachse noted that without “significant additional incentives,” developers can still struggle to make five-over-ones work financially in Detroit’s market.)
The same elements that make the buildings more affordable, and provide a modicum of cost savings that can be passed on to renters, can also draw criticism or raise questions about how they fit into existing neighborhoods. The Corktown development, for example, is currently facing strong objections from residents who worry about increased traffic, the demolition of a historic structure and the building’s high rental prices, all of which could alter the neighborhood’s character.
“The most vibrant neighborhoods have an incredible diversity of age and income, but the way [five-over-ones] are marketed tends to be towards a very specific renter,” Fidler said. “I sort of think of them as urban dorms for young professionals because the unit size tends to be smaller and the price point tends to be higher.”
Brush Park might provide a blueprint for mid-rise construction done with more care. As part of the massive City Modern development, Bedrock Detroit constructed six multi-family buildings — all five-over-ones.
Hamilton Anderson Associates (HAA) worked on two, 440 Alfred and 124 Alfred, the latter reserved for senior citizens making between 30% to 60% of the area median income. HAA sought to make the buildings more visually appealing by varying the buildings shape through recessed balconies, an internal courtyard with street access, colorful or textured paneling and alternating floor height.
“Aesthetically, it gives the buildings more of a rhythm,” Williams said.
At 124 Alfred there are ground-floor walk-up units, creating a more natural connection to the adjacent historic Victorian.
Ultimately, said Fidler, the five-over-one is “merely a building type” and that “there’s a place for them in the urban fabric.” But at the same time, architects and developers clearly have to think consciously about how to utilize them, as one type among many, to add density while achieving neighborhood goals.
Retailers are well placed to adapt to post-pandemic, due to the accelerated period of digital transformation we’ve witnessed in the past 12 months.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused significant disruption for the retail industry. Remote working drove commuters out of city centers, anxious older demographics stayed at home and embraced digital channels for the first time, and items traditionally purchased solely in-store were delivered contactless to doorsteps worldwide. Retailers were forced to adapt at pace to changing buying behaviors and trading restrictions in order to survive and thrive.
Now, in the UK at least, the high street is slowly starting to re-open. On April 12, retailers eagerly welcomed shoppers back in store. And, as we emerge from the crisis, optimism is high. In fact, UK consumer confidence index has bounced to its highest level since before the start of the pandemic.
Despite the optimism, it’s likely that the retail sector will never be the same again. Buying habits have changed, as have customer expectations. But retailers could be well placed to adapt to these evolving demands, due to the accelerated period of digital transformation we’ve witnessed in the past 12 months. The post-pandemic era may yet see a ‘better normal’ for retail.
As the end of the tunnel is firmly set in our sights, here are five trends that will represent the long-term shifts in the retail industry.
1. The era of online is here to stay
The most significant retail trend during the Covid crisis was the enormous shift towards online shopping. In fact, according to Accenture, not only are people buying differently, but they are also living differently, and in many ways, thinking differently.
Retailers responded to this surge in demand and the closure of brick-and-mortar stores by looking towards initiatives such as BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup in Store), ROPIS (Reserve Online Pickup in Store), curbside pickup and ship-from-store home delivery models.
A huge challenge for retailers was scaling up order fulfillment capabilities and inventory management quickly, cost-effectively and smoothly. This is because many retailers repurposed physical stores as fulfillment centers to add greater efficiency to the supply chain and get orders to customers more quickly.
However, new in-store picking processes come at a cost, putting pressure on margins. To capitalize on growth in these new channels without disruption, existing technology can be utilized, like smartphone scanning, to simplify and streamline routing and processes, maximizing cost efficiencies.
2. Single device strategies become the norm
The changes in customer buying behaviors throughout the pandemic led to shifting roles for retail employees, as store associates became pickers and warehouse operatives to support new sales channels. Greater flexibility and the agility to shift employees’ focus with changing situations has become critical.
As part of this new workforce model, staff needs seamless access to different store workflows through a single device, so they can search and find products, retrieve real-time inventory information or identify and sort orders in seconds. After all, being able to use one device for all tasks will be essential in a fast-paced retail environment.
A large European grocer reported pre-pandemic how a change in strategy from shared hardware scanners to COPE (company-owned, personally enabled) smart devices for everyone halved employee step counts by delivering the right tools and information instantly. No need to traipse to the backroom, no need to switch devices or carry multiple ones.
Switching between shared devices is slow, inefficient and costly. Not only this, but hygiene is also a major factor for employees and customers alike and, as long as Covid remains with us, sharing devices is a no-go. Providing staff with all the tools they need to complete any task boosts efficiency, staff satisfaction and empowers them to add value across the entire retail operation – whether selling, clienteling or assisting with fulfillment.
3. Clean and contactless is the focus
The Covid-19 pandemic changed traditional retail overnight, with social distancing and hygiene as a key priority. A new preference for technology and self-service was key to keeping customers coming back.
The high street remains hopeful that shoppers will return once restrictions begin to lift after a challenging year. However, to restore consumer confidence, retailers must have a focus on making a clean, safe and contactless environment for the foreseeable future, our research suggests. As restrictions in the UK lift, consumers will be returning to activities outside the home, leaving retailers with the opportunity to entice them back to bricks-and-mortar stores.
To help convince them it’s safe to visit, shoppers’ concerns must be addressed, including the fear of touching Covid-contaminated surfaces, and a desire to minimize the amount of time spent in-store.
Contactless commerce and cashless transactions via self-service checkouts, web apps, QR codes and pay-and-go technology increased in popularity during the crisis to protect both staff and customers, and this trend is likely to continue.
4. Peaks in demand are likely
The unprecedented surge in demand for online shopping was a huge challenge for retailers.
Businesses needed to retool and restaff quickly, and many found that utilizing BYOD or COPE smartphones gave them the speed and flexibility they needed to scale operations to fulfill their increased online orders. Deploying scanning-enabled smartphones is an accessible, rapid solution for equipping staff with the tools they need to pick and ship orders.
The pandemic has taught retailers to plan for the unexpected. The crisis is not yet over, and further peaks in demand are likely. By utilizing tools and technology, retailers can keep agile so they are able to adapt quickly to future changes.
5. Bringing the digital experience in-store
To provide a truly omnichannel experience moving forward, retailers can bring the online experience to the high street by providing this same information for in-store visitors. More than half of retailers believe that more customers prefer app-based smartphone solutions for self-scanning shopping, rather than legacy dedicated handheld scanners. A similar proportion (59.5%) cite increased demand from customers wanting to use the technology to access more product information to help them make more conscious purchase choices.
Bringing the digital experience in-store helps improve customer engagement and increases upsell opportunities – all without requiring any staff interaction. Self-scanning mobile apps allow customers to scan as they shop and pay without queuing or interacting with staff. Their in-store experience is quick, smooth and minimizes touch points, boosting consumer confidence.
Bringing the digital experience in-store helps improve customer engagement and increases upsell opportunities – all without requiring any staff interaction. Self-scanning mobile apps allow customers to scan as they shop and pay without queuing or interacting with staff. Their in-store experience is quick, smooth and minimizes touch points, boosting consumer confidence.