Aisle of products in a Batteries Plus store

Why The In-Store Experience Is More Relevant Than Ever Post-COVID

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly influenced consumer behavior, but it’s not as clear cut as you might think.

On one hand, as people have adjusted to social distancing, they’ve increasingly relied on e-commerce to order everything from toilet paper to groceries to clothing. On the other, they’re still relying on local retailers to fill their immediate needs – particularly for essential items that can’t wait for delivery. Recent data from McKinsey found buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) shopping increased 28 percent year-over-year  in February 2020 – a 10 percent increase over the January 2020 increase.

At Batteries Plus, a quick pivot to activate BOPIS options across the 720+ store system has yielded positive outcomes for franchisees. In September alone, 39% of BOPIS orders resulted in additional purchases when customers visited their local Batteries Plus to pick up their items. Investments like this, which have prioritized convenience and safety, have helped the economy overall. Consumer purchasing has actually gone up – in fact, total retail and foodservice sales were up 3.6 percent year-over-year  in Q3 2020 compared to the same time last year.

This leaves retailers asking themselves: To what extent do brick-and-mortar businesses need to adjust their operations to remain relevant – and safe – in the eyes of shoppers?

Here’s a look at what’s helping retailers attract, retain, reassure and delight their customers to keep them coming back in a post-COVID world.

In-Store Expertise Differentiates Leaders from Laggards

The in-store experience is often the most fundamental way for consumers to gain an understanding of a brand’s culture and appeal. Given the fact that COVID-19 has reduced in-store traffic, retailers face even higher stakes with every customer that walks through their doors. The biggest advantage is that there are more opportunities for one-on-one interactions between your staff and consumers, which tends to build stronger relationships and increases customer retention when you pull it off well.

Your customer-facing staff is the front line in making sure that each interaction is a positive experience that leaves every person who enters your store feeling valued and that they’ve found the right solution for their specific need. At Batteries Plus, we’ve invested heavily in our training and technology infrastructure to ensure franchisees and their teams have access to the latest trends and expertise at their fingertips. Through our interactive training platform, empowerYOU, franchisees can quickly get up to speed on the top categories for operating a Batteries Plus location, including:

  • Store Culture and Leadership
  • Selling and Customer Service
  • Day-to-Day Operation
  • Products and Services
  • Finance and Goals

Additionally, team members are able to maintain their product and service expertise through mini-degrees that focus on certain aspects of their roles, including device repair, lighting product knowledge and customer service.

Batteries Plus invests so much in making the in-store experience as high-quality as possible because of what’s at stake. To remain competitive in an increasingly digital world, franchisees and their team members must capitalize on every opportunity to showcase their expertise, quickly find the right product or service, and satisfy their customers.

Beyond Products – The Demand for Essential Services

The perceived reality many retailers face going up against online competitors is they’ll never win based on cost and convenience. That’s not the case across the board. Looking purely at products, there may be a stronger argument, but even then there are exceptions to the rule.

With Batteries Plus, for example, the e-commerce giants have a harder time competing when it comes to essential products. Batteries help power products that consumers cannot live without – smartphones, wheelchairs, smart home devices, car key fobs and medical devices. When these items need their batteries replaced, most people don’t have the luxury to wait around for the delivery date; they need them immediately.

But more to the point, there’s a service element that online retailers cannot match. While consumers can order a replacement battery for their smartphone, the majority don’t have the knowledge – or nerve – needed to effectively replace it. You can watch as many YouTube tutorials as you want, but few people are willing to risk damaging their phones or injuring themselves to perform the task. The same goes for countless other essential devices.

Batteries Plus franchisees are in the fortunate position to offer not only essential products but also the services that consumers need when their devices go dead. And customers can get what they need on the same day.

Autonomy through Omnichannel Experiences

A key differentiator for retailers heading into and coming out of the pandemic has been their omnichannel strategy. The brands that already made investments in having an online presence that was equally as helpful and convenient for shoppers as the in-store experience will maintain an advantage.

There are habits consumers developed or practiced with greater frequency that are expected to remain. According to McKinsey & Co. research, 56 percent of consumers reported they have strong intentions to keep using BOPIS shopping channels even after the pandemic has abated.

At Batteries Plus, we saw this firsthand. Using a powerful customer experience management platform, franchisees within our more than 720-unit system were able to gather direct feedback from customers and quickly make necessary adjustments to their business operations. For example, franchisees were able to roll out curbside pickup within 48 hours  by leveraging their existing BOPIS platform. This is a feature of our retail stores that has become permanent.

Being agile to adapt to consumer needs allows Batteries Plus franchisees to give customers a large degree of autonomy over how they live. That’s a feeling that everyone can appreciate, especially during times of heightened uncertainty.

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