Bricks and mortar retailers, direct-to-consumer challengers and eCommerce brands are relearning who their customers are in the slipstream of the Coronavirus pandemic. The crisis accelerated the digital transformation of consumer behaviour and habits resulting in a rapid shift from bricks to clicks, to contactless shopping and payments. And there’s no going back to the old normal. This much we know. But, what does this new cohort of natives and converts now want from their digital retail experience?

What are their preferences and what is shaping their shopping behaviour? All retailers will need the answers to these questions. Because there isn’t a retailer out there that doesn’t know that the on-going crisis will significantly impact their most important quarter – the looming holiday season.

Online will dominate, but retailers still need to be digitally prepared in store

Consumers are wary about visiting physical stores and online will prevail in the run-up to the holidays. Consumers around the globe are planning to shop online more frequently.

  • 43% of shoppers in Ireland say they will shop online more often. The figure stands at 38% in the UK and 36% in the US. (Amárach Research)
  • Almost three-quarters of UK consumers (71%) say that they will be put off from doing their Christmas shopping in store this year (Klarna and Retail Economics).

Even so, retailers will need to be digitally ready for those customers that still want to visit the high street. Some simply prefer the human interaction and convenience of shopping in stores. Some people prefer to support local shops.

In these difficult times, the pressure is on for retailers to be there for their customers at every touchpoint and understand and leverage insight on online and in-store digital behaviour, needs and wants. Omni-channel strategies have never been more important.

Understanding key digital journeys to enhance the retail experience

Brands that take the time to understand their customers’ end-to-end digital journey, and it’s impact on footfall in stores, will be better positioned for the peak period, and life beyond the pandemic. Customers will demand more from their favourite brands and the never-ending battle to sustain share of the digital wallet will be hard-fought.

Brands that adapt and evolve the digital retail experience will be able to shape new shopping behaviours that became entrenched out of necessity in the early months of the pandemic. Get it right and the reward could be an increased share of spend and a lifetime of renewed and new customer loyalty and advocacy. Get it wrong and your competitors are a click away.

Understanding what matters most to your customers will give your business the edge it needs to set your brand apart as they carve out some semblance of normality.

Consumers want a digital journey that is integrated, seamless and intuitive as part of an omni-channel experience. These are anxious, testing times. Add in a longer online shopping period in the run up to the holidays as people look to get their shopping done early and an imperfect CX storm could be brewing. If there are gaps in their experience, trust and loyalty will be quickly lost. They won’t want to come back.

So, what do consumers want in the new normal?

1. Convenient cashless payments at every point of transaction

Since the Covd-19 outbreak, legions of consumers have become cashless shoppers. At the point-of-transaction, customers will want to be able to use the most convenient cashless payment: a digital wallet, a card-not-present payment or a contactless card, for example.

And in a contactless world, brands like Amazon are building the technology for retailers to offer customers a safe, effortless, queue-busting payment option too. The online giant’s Just Walk Out payment technology means that customers can shop and then just leave the store without having to endure a socially-distanced queue. Shoppers fill a ‘virtual basket’ when they take a product from a shelf and their credit card is then charged after leaving the store.

2. Personalised retail experiences

Digital try before you buy options

Safety is a critical part of the retail experience. Shoppers that do venture onto the high street will be looking for digital tools that are safe, convenient and useful. They will want to try products without touching them. Brands that invest in virtual reality and augmented reality apps that enable customers to try products before they buy in shops, or from the comfort of their armchair, like IKEA, will win out.

Clearly, though, some retailers are still behind the digital curve in their stores. Periscope by McKinsey found that in-store technology features such as digital-screen browsing, mobile payments or effortless pick up are limited. There is still a disconnect between what consumers want and what they experience. The research discovered that 35% of consumers had not yet experienced the most-talked about or even basic technologies. There’s more work to do on the high street.

Shopping by appointment

UK shoppers who download the By Appointment app are able to book, cancel and reschedule store appointments, search for stores by category, plan their route, monitor store capacity and join virtual queues to avoid socially-distanced lines. Shoppers are also able to make use of store check in and check out via QR codes or door hosts and participate in any Covid screening checks. To make for a safer experience, retailers can identify and communicate with shoppers and monitor in-store numbers.

Customised products

Some retailers are taking personalisation to the next level by offering online customers the opportunity to customise products. For example, consumers looking for a clean, effective, cruelty-free personal product are able to take the Native interactive quiz to create a custom scent that they can buy as a deodorant or body wash.

Know your customer

Customers know that retailers collect masses data on them. In return they want their favourite brands to do something with it that makes for a more relevant retail experience. For years, consumers have been used to personalised retail experiences from Amazon, eBay, Nike and others. Showing consumers individualised offers, product recommendations and relevant content based on their personal data, previous actions, behaviour and purchases is not new. Retailers without a big data strategy will be losing ground to those that do.

3. A flawless delivery experience

Retail brands were quick to expand online delivery capacity to meet soaring demand. Social distancing rules have made contactless delivery an essential service. With no end in sight to the relaxation of distancing measures, customers will expect your business to continue signature-less deliveries. Shoppers still prefer deliveries to their door over kerbside and other contactless options. In the US, 77% of consumers still want purcha