by Kushagra Shrivastava
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the shopping experience had remained largely unchanged for years. In-store shopping and ecommerce served as the main purchasing platforms. A robust social media presence and various pickup and delivery options were helpful, but not critical to business survival. In 2020, that changed overnight.
The Rise of Ecommerce
National stay-at-home orders and state-mandated quarantines made in-store shopping impossible as businesses were forced to close their doors. Reaching customers where they were — at home and on their mobile devices — became crucial. Without brick-and-mortar shopping, ecommerce sales soared, and more small businesses developed an online presence in order to survive and thrive. Social platforms became crucial tools, used for both facilitating customer engagement and driving sales.
Taking it a Step Further in 2021
As stores have begun to re-open, consumers now expect a safe shopping experience and adherence to state-mandated health protocols. In the new year, small businesses must go a step further, creating a more trusted, safe and inclusive experience to effectively serve customers. Shopper preferences for options like self-checkout and scan-and-go options must be considered and implemented if businesses hope to meet customer needs in 2021. With this new preference, small businesses should consider introducing interfaces that do not rely on physical contact, but are powered by voice, gesture, and proximity.
Transforming Business Operations
As retailers consider new touchless experiences to accommodate customers’ health and safety in 2021, it will require them to consider new perspectives and work with trusted advisors to arrive at the optimal approach. That could involve engaging the store operations teams or external retail consultants to rethink store layouts, hiring new merchandisers to reimagine displays that minimize handling, or bringing on technical partners to revisit existing tech solutions to optimize ecommerce and online customer service needs. This will be an important way to drive customers to a retail business as we move through the new year.
Preparing for Customer Engagement in the New Year
The pandemic has changed the way we work and communicate, the way we buy, receive and deliver goods, and more. With consumer behavior shifts, retailers must align their shopping experiences to meet these new needs and customer habits. In 2021, businesses must go a step further to reach customers, understanding what has become important to consumers during the pandemic and adjusting their business models and selling tactics accordingly.Kushagra Shrivastava is the Managing Director of Yahoo Small Business at Verizon. He is responsible for Yahoo Small Business product and business functions and above-the-network applications at Verizon.