Social Distancing Could Open Up New Ways To Sell
With a need for social distancing in the coronavirus era, businesses are seeking ways to restrict traffic through appointment-based systems for physical retail. GlobalData Managing Director and Retail Analyst Neil Saunders said in an NRF blog post that the situation provides an opportunity to experiment with new ways of selling.
Saunders cited the example of the popular Chinese retailer Suning, which opened a retail location in April where a “virtual shelf” displays products that shoppers can purchase via a smart screen. He also said that Sainsbury’s, a British supermarket company, rolled out its SmartShop concept that lets shoppers scan items and pay through dedicated checkouts, which removes the requirement to interact with workers at cash registers.
Saunders said, “Not only do these processes help maintain distance, they also increase efficiency and speed within stores, which helps improve productivity — something that is vital when the bottom line is under so much pressure. Most retailers will be reviewing what space they need going forward.”
In addition, Saunders pointed out that a number of retailers have been “nimble” in tapping into social media to work with customers. Lin Qingxuan, a Chinese cosmetics merchant, has had its beauty advisors from shuttered retail locations fulfill the role of online influencers, harnessing social media platforms like WeChat to work with shoppers. And JD.com and Meituan Dianping are using self-driving vehicles for deliveries.
In March, news surfaced that a feature on Open Table, the restaurant reservation platform, will let individuals reserve grocery shopping times in the same manner that they reserve times at an eatery. The new feature will let users select from different time slots or become part of a waiting list at a company that is working with OpenTable. As of a March report, seven companies were using the feature.