Retailers Have a Plan: Go Seamless

Photo credit: iStockphoto/cybrain

The future of retail is increasingly looking like it will be dominated by seamless experience.

It is one of the conclusions of the 12th Annual APAC Shopper Study, done by Zebra Technologies Corporation.

Results show that retailers are looking to harness technologies like intelligent automation, cloud computing and mobility to drive economic growth. As companies cautiously reopen and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, the resiliency of retailers and supply chains are being tested more now than ever before.

One monumental shift relates to the concept of “Economy at Home.” This addresses the way consumers have completely changed their shopping habits. The frequency and volume of online spending on food has increased across the region, with consumers expressing a preference for self-checkout rather than assistance from cashiers for safe distancing.

To meet rising customer expectations, retailers need to rethink the safety of the customer journey, whether it is in store or via delivery. Click-and-collect, or buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS), are becoming preferred methods of shopping, with 55% of consumers requesting more retailers to offer mobile ordering options.

In turn, this is forcing businesses to rethink their fulfillment strategies given that only 36% of respondents agreed that their stores are equipped to fulfill web orders.  The study expects this trend to continue, while retailers implement additional solutions that minimize in-store contact and improve customer convenience at the same time.

“Retailers are now transforming ‘dark stores’ into temporary distribution facilities inside their establishments. As demands continue to increase, retailers should prioritize the expansion of click-and-collect service offerings and invest in technologies which increases shopping capacity and speed. Not only does this reduce in-store traffic and help with social distancing efforts, this can provide retailers inventory visibility across their retail floor,” said Fang-How Lim, regional director for Southeast Asia at Zebra Technologies. 

Putting a mobile device into the hands of a retail associate simplifies tasks like inventory management, yet an estimated 64% of retail associates are not equipped to maximize the benefits of technology.

In response, retailers are moving away from dated green-screen technology to enterprise-class devices with intuitive, user-friendly interfaces with smartphone-like operating systems.

The pandemic has proven this true as click-and-collect orders have surged, creating the need for store associates to enable contactless transactions via curbside pickup with handheld mobile computers and tablets. Mobile Point-of-Sale (mPOS) solutions are driving contactless fulfilment by alerting associates of new online orders, enabling them to pack merchandise, label products and print receipts prior to the customer’s arrival. 

The adoption of mPOS solutions is expected to hit 98% by 2026, up from 76% today. The same trend is also observed for handheld mobile computers with scanners as retail associate device usage is expected to reach 96% by 2026, up from the current 75%. 

Returns are another pain point for shoppers and poses a significant challenge for retailers. Up to 51% of retail executives report that they have started or are planning to start upgrading their returns management technologies in the next five years.

Meanwhile, 83% of retailers currently have or plan to implement automated inventory verification systems within the year to advance real-time inventory accuracy.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/cybrain