How COVID-19 is shaping the way we shop
How predictable life used to be. You’d get up and head to the office, grabbing a coffee en route. You’d browse the shops on your lunch hour and pop into a grocery store on your way home. You’d make plans to meet friends in the pub, arrange holidays months in advance, and talk confidently about what you’re doing for Christmas.
Now, plans, habits, and routines are scattered to the winds. We snatch moments while we can. We book last minute holidays based on ever-changing government advice. We arrange social gatherings around the whims of the weather. And that coffee will have to find its way to your home somehow.
For brands, this means a total upheaval of your operations. At the front end, you have to be where your customers are. They might not need a coffee en route to work, but they’d love a lunchtime sandwich delivered to their home. They can’t visit your store, but they still need some personal advice. And they want to be able to return online orders easily. At the backend, your warehouses are undergoing a total overhaul so they can ship straight to consumers. Your stores are becoming distribution centers. And any plans for digital transformation that you were calmly rolling out over years are being sped through in months.
And, although no one would have wished the current situation upon anyone, it’s had a positive side-effect: Brands are embracing unified commerce much faster and customers are enjoying the increased flexibility.
To dive deeper into the benefits of unified commerce, we created the Adyen Retail Report: New beginnings. It combines economic analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), insights from our own platform data, and findings from a survey of over 25,000 consumers around the world. We also spoke to leading brands including Aesop, Domino's Pizza and Joe & The Juice.
Here’s what we’ve learned.
To quote Warren Buffet: “When the tide goes out, you can see who’s been swimming naked.” And that was certainly true when stores and restaurants were suddenly faced with a choice of closing down or migrating online, ready or not. CEBR used the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Index to measure the online-readiness across Europe. And it found a direct correlation between the online readiness of a market and the impact the pandemic had on its retail sales.
And while online-readiness is critical to your survival, it can also give your physical experiences an edge on the competition. Thomas Evald, VP - Strategy & Business Development at Joe & The Juice explained:
“Digital has enabled us to connect the best of both worlds to create an even better product.”
“We’ve taken a very brick and mortar company and transformed it into a digital business. Everything’s made to order, which inevitably made us slower than other brands. But using technology such as our pre-order app removes the waiting time. You can customize the order, you can get it warm and fresh, and you don’t have to wait. Digital has enabled us to connect the best of both worlds to create an even better product.”
It’s more critical than ever that your brand experiences can be translated into a digital setting. We spoke to Jon Weg, previous VP of Global Retail IT at Burberry and CIO of the Body Shop. He’s spent most of his career helping iconic brands modernize behind the scenes to ensure they can deliver premium, omnichannel customer experiences in a digital world. He explained:
“Customers demand a unified experience with digital playing at least one part in every purchase journey.”
“Before the pandemic, there was still a tendency for retailers to manage their customers by channel. That’s changed forever. Customers demand a unified experience with digital playing at least one part in every purchase journey. Brands have to be able to recognise shoppers, provide the same high service levels, and apply appropriate pricing or discounts regardless of channel. Otherwise the ever-more savvy customer will get frustrated and go elsewhere.”
Thomas from Joe & The Juice underlined the importance of a channel agnostic approach: “It’s important to give customers total flexibility,” he said. “They can pre-order in-app, they can order in store, they can pay via the terminal or in app. It's really their choice."
Our research confirms that this is what customers now expect. 73% feel that brands should continue to sell across several channels (now you’ve shown you can do it). They also have high expectations of both online and in-store retail experiences. 72% said that an easy online experience is just as important as the quality of the product.
Instead of pushing the sales associate to one side, this fusing of digital and physical worlds puts them front and center of the customer experience. They can connect with customers anywhere, from email, to telephone, web chat, or video conferencing as Jon explained:
“The good sales associates have always had the best knowledge of their customers. That’s been highlighted during the pandemic. Consequently brands that have managed to enable their sales associates to continue to engage with their customers even when this could only be done digitally through messaging or video chat have had a clear advantage over those that lost this critical human connection.”
“We’re working towards a post-pandemic world where we can continue to deliver the service and experience that’s unique to Aesop from anywhere.”
Aesop has certainly found this to be true. Robbie Tutt, GM of Digital and Technology explained how the team responded as the pandemic unfolded: “No one stuck to the pigeon holes they were recruited into. They just rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. We had in-store consultants serving customers via live chat and video consultations learning new skills and new technologies on the fly. Now, we’re working towards a post-pandemic world where we can continue to deliver the service and experience that’s unique to Aesop from anywhere.”
Any period of upheaval comes the opportunity for reinvention. It’s a chance to tear up outdated playbooks and seek out new retail business opportunities. Critical to this is a unified payments set-up that lets you connect sales from all channels into one system.
Connected payments lets you build a complete picture of your customers and create cross-channel loyalty programs, as Thomas from Joe & The Juice explained:
"By linking our app to the credit card terminal, customers get greater transparency of their purchases, messages, and rewards in the app. On the other hand, we gain a clearer understanding of who our customers are and how we can provide them with better service and products. That’s amazing for us.”
Centralizing your payments also makes operations more straightforward, especially if you operate in several markets or have multiple franchisees, as Casper Mooyman, Head of Marketing at Domino’s Pizza said:
“We want to offer our franchisees the best tools, reports, and insights into running their business. If you split out your online and in store payments you have all these different systems and tools and reports from which the franchisee must collect the revenue per day all by themselves. Unified commerce means we have a one-stop environment for them to better understand what money they’ve made and which payments were done online vs in store.”
“Customers won’t buy Domino’s because we have digital platforms. But they will buy from Domino’s if it is seamless, secure, and hygienic.”
It’s technology like this behind the scenes that help you create the magic that keeps your customers coming back. Casper continued: “Customers won’t buy Domino’s because we have digital platforms. But they will buy from Domino’s if it is seamless, secure, and hygienic. We’re constantly rolling out new innovations so it’s clear to our customers that we’re on top of things. This is really important to our brand.”
Robbie from Aesop concluded: “Payments are critical from a customer experience perspective. It’s often simple things that make the experience more elegant. They've been crucial during the pandemic and will continue to be so."
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