Retail has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Contactless delivery and curbside pickup have become the new standard in fulfillment. It’s clear that consumers are in desperate need of essential items like groceries, hand sanitizer, and masks. This demand is so high that even Amazon.com, an e-commerce giant, was unable to keep up. Demand grew as did shipping and fulfillment delays. While retailers are adapting to this new environment, there is still a need to fill the gaps in the market for consumers who have been used to receiving same-day/next day delivery. These gaps offer brick-and-mortar stores opportunities if they are able to repurpose their workforce.
This may seem counterintuitive at first glance, as so much of the current retail model relies on delivery. But let’s take a look at the order fulfillment chain. E-commerce businesses are more suited to delivery than other types of business. However, they are also tied to third-party shipping companies. This type of fulfillment relay will be subject to delays in high-volume, high demand environments, like the one created by the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to gain competitive advantage in the current fulfillment landscape.
Brick-and-mortar retail has a few key advantages that will allow it to profit from the increased demand for next day delivery. Brick-and-mortar shops have local stock available and have built relationships with local consumers over many years. They have the inventory and are closer to the customer. Most of the inventory isn’t designed for curbside pickup or delivery. There are some changes that they can make in order to adapt quickly to this new normal.
Retailers must first repurpose their workforce. This will not only save jobs but also allow retailers to be more agile. Many employees who stock items or work at the point-of-purchase must be made delivery drivers or placed on curbside pick up detail. To make this work easier, retailers must take control of the delivery and pick-up portions of their business. To make this happen, retailers will need to use a cloud-based delivery platform that allows them to quickly create and maintain a customer-friendly, last mile delivery solution that is easy to implement.
The lesson that this health crisis has taught us as a society is that last-mile delivery is a microcosm: Local matters in times of great need. This lesson was learned as a nation when we were forced to import essential items from other nations, just as we did when N95 surgical masks came from China. The same lesson applies to the local level. Retailers who learn this lesson and make necessary adjustments will not only be able to survive in current realities, but will also have the ability to create a retail environment that is likely to bring about lasting changes.
Best Buy Plans to Reopen Stores By Appointment Only
CNBC reported that Best Buy will gradually open its stores to customers by making appointments starting in May. CNBC reported that shoppers will be able schedule appointments to meet with a sales representative to discuss potential purchases, technology concerns, and other matters. This service will be offered in approximately 200 locations by Best Buy, which already has over 1,000 U.S. shops. Customers will be able make appointments online, by phone, or via Best Buy’s mobile app. Before the appointment, an employee will call to explain the process. A specific employee will visit each customer in-store and shop with them. If the customer asks to test a product, it will then be washed down. CNBC reported that the employee will take the customer to the register and then out of the store.
In-home delivery, installation, and repairs will be resumed by Best Buy in May with new safety precautions. All employees of the retailer will have to wear masks, gloves and undergo a health screening via Best Buy’s app. Best Buy temporarily closed its stores and suspended in-home services during the COIVD-19 pandemic. They shifted to curbside pickup instead. CNBC reported that Best Buy furloughed 51,00 employees in the beginning of this month.
Total Retail’s View:Best Buy was one of the first to announce a reopening strategy since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not many retailers have yet shared the vision for the future shopping experience post-coronavirus. This announcement shows that Best Buy is putting its customers first and bringing back some of its employees. The consultation component of the store reopening could even increase in-store sales. It will be interesting for consumers to respond to Best Buy’s plan to reopen, as well as how other retailers’ plans to reopen are compared once they share them with the public. Other retailers will closely monitor Best Buy’s reopening as they try to bring back their physical stores.
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