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Five Post-Pandemic Investments For Retailers

As the number of vaccinated people increases, states are lifting pandemic restrictions to restore some sense of normalcy. Even the most stringent cities and states are in the process of returning stores and restaurants to full capacity — a welcome move for business owners.

Some of the pandemic’s effects on retail could be permanent. Many businesses may continue the safety and cleanliness efforts they have put in place. And trends such as curbside pickup and BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) are likely to remain.

But as a post-pandemic era begins, owners of shops and restaurants must make strategic investments to not only thrive in the new normal but also become more resistant to similar future crises. In a report for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), consulting firm McKinsey outlines a list of imperatives for retailers in 2021 and beyond.

Among other things, McKinsey recommends investing in delivery, omnichannel strategies, automation, and analytics. Those recommendations are in line with what APG believes are five strategic investments retailers should consider:

1. Automation

As unemployment numbers return to pre-pandemic levels, retailers are facing labor shortages. Retailers should automate as much as possible, and include deploying smart inventory and order management systems, leveraging analytics for personalization to gain insights on buying trends, and using website chatbots to help customers with questions.

2. Omnichannel

Two-thirds of respondents in the McKinsey study cited omnichannel and digital shopping as the industry’s most important trend. Now more than ever, retailers must focus on delivering a smooth end-to-end customer experience that allows shoppers to seamlessly switch between online, mobile, and physical channels with their smartphones and laptops. Considering the popularity of BOPIS and curbside pickup, omnichannel initiatives will give retailers a competitive edge.

3. Digital Shopping

Digital shopping is an essential omnichannel component. But even if a retailer isn’t ready for omnichannel, they will need to offer customers the option to make purchases from smartphones and computers. A digital presence allows a retailer to continue operating even if it means turning stores into mini-warehouses.

4. In-store Technology

When upgrading in-store technology, retailers should consider the environment in which hardware is being deployed. It’s tempting to buy consumer-grade or lower-priced equipment, but it’s better to invest in purpose-build, commercial-grade hardware. That applies to anything from handhelds used by associates for stocking shelves and tracking inventory to POS equipment such as tablets, printers, and cash drawers. Equipment that costs more upfront often delivers a better total cost of ownership (TCO) because it lasts longer.

5. Delivery

Retailers need to “turbocharge delivery,” as McKinsey puts it. “The speed of order fulfillment has become more critical than ever: the vast majority of consumers—over 90 percent—see two to three days as table stakes, and 30 percent expect same-day delivery.” Groceries fall within the latter category. For prepared foods, of course, the expectation is delivery within the hour.  

To attract new customers and retain existing clientele, progressive retailers and restaurateurs will be making aggressive investments as they come out of the pandemic. Adopting technologies that accommodate new shopping trends and preferences, and giving customers more options for transactions and delivery, give you a competitive advantage. If you need help deciding what investments to make, contact your POS solution provider or a specialist at APG.