While many retailers have benefited from the massive explosion in e-commerce, soaring shipping rates have been accompanied by extraordinary growth. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores face ongoing staffing shortages. Many hourly workers laid off during the shutdown reassessed their options, and stores struggled to find and retain replacements.
Rapidly evolving consumer preferences and behaviors present another challenge. Fast, free shipping and easy returns are a "must-have" in today's competitive retail environment. What's more, consumer expectations continue to rise: Nearly half of the online buyers now expect delivery within two days, and 82% are unwilling to pay extra for expedited shipping or returns.
Change and disruption have also created opportunities to reimagine retail in a cost-effective and customer-satisfying way. Innovative retailers are investing in technology to improve the customer experience and reduce costs. Despite a challenging retail environment, brick-and-mortar store openings to closing ratios will be two to one in 2021. Many find that smart locker technology can provide the flexibility they need to overcome multiple challenges while meeting customer expectations.
Blend online and offline shopping experiences to create the best of both worlds for shoppers and retailers. Expanding customer choice by empowering customers to choose when and where to shop, choose their preferred delivery model, and decide how to handle returns helps ensure satisfaction and build loyalty. Retailers that offer BOPIL (buy online, pick up in lockers) and same-day delivery options also have the added benefit of reducing shipping costs.
With smart locker technology, retailers can provide the service and convenience customers demand without increasing staffing. Because smart lockers enable unattended self-collection, retailers can use them to extend service hours without hiring additional staff or extending store hours.
To make the most of employee time and avoid burnout, it makes sense to simplify the workflow as much as possible. A customer service desk is a good place to start, as fulfillment of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) orders can be a labor-intensive process. The clerk must verify the customer's identity, obtain the order number, locate the item, bring the item back to the counter and print a receipt.
Smart lockers make it easier to organize and track online orders. The clerk simply puts the order into the smart locker and closes the door. The locker automatically informs customers that the order is ready for pickup. Purchasing details can be automatically routed to the appropriate supply chain, inventory or financial workflow, so employees are free to serve more customers.
Consumers are encouraged to return items to smart lockers, enabling retailers to quickly restock and resell at full price, and eliminate the high cost of return shipping. And since consumers can also get their refunds faster, it's a win for everyone.
For more ideas on how smart locker technology can support an effective omnichannel strategy, please contact SNBC.