3 Ways To Improve Your Retail Shopping Experience In 2022

The holiday shopping season is over, it looks like the pandemic will never end, and customers around the world are officially ready for things to get back to what feels like normal as the new year begins.

After all the turmoil of the past two trips around the sun, we all simultaneously find ourselves longing for how things used to be and vowing never to go back. Attending live sporting events and other entertainment venues? Yes please. without a mask? Uh no thanks. Do you shop in person just for fun? Check. But without a distance of six feet between you and the person behind you? Tough pass.

Retailers are in a difficult position as a result. They have gone backwards to comply with various regulations and completely tweaked their business models to stay afloat throughout the coronavirus crisis, only expected to continue to innovate and adjust to appeal to a customer base whose preferences are rapidly changing. Today, retail businesses need personalized messaging on endless marketing channels, contactless payment options, curbside pickup capabilities, and superior customer experiences — all during a global supply chain crisis and staff shortages caused by a major resignation.

There is a lot of processing. But it’s also a huge opportunity for companies that can implement it safely.

The rise of online purchase and in-store pickup

There are some proven ways for retailers to effectively improve their retail strategies in 2022 to meet rising customer expectations. In short, it’s all about flexibility – bringing it into the company’s offerings and giving shoppers as much of it as possible. Brick and mortar stores must now know that customers want as many ways to buy and hold their purchases as possible, from one-day shipping to self-service kiosks.

They want the goods, sure, but what they really want is to help them help themselves.

Take the massive increase in so-called BOPIS – or buy online, or pick up at the store – shopping. In the past year, people have not hesitated to spend hours in a shopping center or department store, wandering up and down each aisle and carefully considering purchases. Not these days. Today, people shop in the comfort of their beds, browse smartphones and tablets and fill digital carts with a few simple clicks. Instead of waiting a day or two for these items to be delivered, people want the ability to make online purchases and drive to the store an hour or two later to pick up what they want.

Welcome to the next iteration of the instant gratification association. We want everything. And we want it now.

How retailers can make your shopping experience easier

There isn’t much that retailers can do about supply chain hiccups or the lack of qualified workers applying for jobs. These are market fluctuations that occur and will correct themselves in time. But for retailers who want to improve the customer experience as those tectonic plates continue to shift, there are three great places to start:

1. Increase the available capture options. If you think that every customer wants to drive to your physical location, park their cars, walk inside, push their cart, and wait in line to complete their purchases, you may find yourself increasingly wrong. Today’s shopper wants options—from the aforementioned BOPIS experience to self-checkout lanes, curbside pickup, free and fast shipping, convenient delivery, and more. The most innovative and most thoughtful companies offer all of the above.

“Some retailers are quick to see the success of innovations like self-checkout and responsiveness by doing it all. Of course, even customers who prefer self-checkout know that a shopping cart full or mostly containing products and bulk merchandise deserves the speed and skill of a human cashier,” as says Sam Gobrail, Principal Solution Architect and Customer Experience Strategist at Pariveda. By the same token, online ordering and contactless delivery do not necessarily replace curbside delivery, which could be a more convenient option for a shopper who will already be running errands in the area where the store is located.

He added that in order to continually improve the customer experience for shoppers, “retailers should constantly strive to increase choices rather than adopting one promising solution.”

2. Simplify the returns process. Customers want their purchases quickly, and they expect to be able to return them just as quickly. Dated and cumbersome returns policies and procedures are key turning points in 2022. To win loyalty and inspire brand advocacy, returns should be as simple as possible.

Instead of making buyers jump through endless hoops to get credit for an unwanted item, consider some promotions for the return process. Instead of making people wait in long lines, why not install self-service return kiosks at a convenient location inside the store? Instead of asking people to call a number to get a unique return code or have the product shipped to a PO box in another state, why not encourage them to return things to their local store?

Try putting the wrong size shoe on your foot and see the return process through their eyes, then adjust accordingly.

3. Accept as many payment methods as you can. Customers want goods or services now, but they don’t necessarily like the idea of ​​paying for it right away. The rise of buy now and pay later options — through services like Affirm, Klarna and PayPal, to name a few — are helping customers buy what they want now without the stress of having money. Store credit lines are another avenue you can try.

Chalk it up to the convenience factor. People want the flexibility to split their payments into four or six installments, especially when interest doesn’t accrue. It helps shoppers manage their budgets while still buying the things they want and need. Now that retailers like Walmart and Target offer BNPL at checkout, you can expect the trend to continue to increase in popularity.

These are just a few of the ways retail stores can adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing consumer shopping habits. Companies that follow suit will position themselves to prosper in 2022. Companies that don’t follow through with this sale may lose out.

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