As COVID-19 redefines the concept of normal in Europe and the second wave of lockdowns force retailers to adjust their plans, access to data on everything happening in the store will be critical to Peak success. Europeans may have restrictions on their movements again, but are nevertheless making plans for Peak shopping and appear determined to make the very best of the festive season.
Overall, shoppers have become more and more unpredictable since the pandemic began. Since March 2020, our research has shown seven main ways customer behaviour has changed:
- They need and ask for more help in store
- They follow guidelines that are clearly stated in signage
- They protect themselves by having orders placed directly into their cars
- They are trying more new products than ever before
- They are shopping across channels more than ever before
- They are accelerating their adoption of contactless payments and self-service
- They will still come into stores for special reasons such as personalised experiences and unique products
Peak season is seeing customer behaviour changing so dramatically that stores are starting to plan harder with more agility around things like staff scheduling, safeguarding, customer support, traffic and queue management, and order fulfilment. And this trend does not seem to be ending any time soon. Research from O2 in partnership with Retail Economics found that 44% of shoppers believe COVID-19 is likely to lead to long-term changes in their shopping habits.
Retailers depend on the festive seasons for as much as 75% of their annual profits. To succeed during Peak and in the ‘new normal’, they need monitor what is happening in their stores, consolidate the data and analyse it to support new strategies for design, merchandising and customer engagement. But what’s most critical during this critical trading period is for retailers to prioritise in-store customer engagement as an effective way to drive sales, customer retention and brand sentiment.
We are bound to see shopping plans shift even more with the most recent restrictions in place. After surveying over 1,000 consumers in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, we found that shoppers plan to wait until nearer the time to decide how to shop. The rise in working from home has also given consumers more freedom to set their own timetables, which is having an impact on previously more predictable movements during Peak.
Despite these restrictions, retailers can still make the atmosphere and layouts of their stores as festive, clean and safe as possible. Retailers should try to give customers as much flexibility as possible around fulfilment, be it curb side delivery, click & collect, ship-from-store or pick-up from third party collection point. Staff should also be trained to manage vulnerable customers. And they should have full visibility into their inventory to help keep shelves stocked so they can meet customer expectations, however they choose to shop.