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Shifting Customer Engagement Priorities for 2021

RCP recently published it's 2021 POS & Customer Engagement Survey Report and top Customer Engagement Priorities for 2021 are certainly reflective of the impacts that COVID-19 had on the retail industry in 2020. As retailers rushed to adapt, and continually refine, new processes and technology to respond to dramatic shifts in consumer shopping behaviors, 2021 will be a year of continued enhancements of these capabilities.

Personalization Takes a Backseat to Flexible Fulfillment & Retail Mobility Whereas personalization of the shopping experience was a top priority for the past couple of years, providing customers with flexible and convenient product fulfillment solutions is now the most critical customer engagement priority heading into 2021. Impacted by store closures, limited shopper capacity, and overall consumer fears around in-store shopping, retailers have been forced to accelerate many of their “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere” objectives from years past, and over half of our surveyed retailers (52%) indicated this was their top priority for 2021.

Growth of BOPIS and BOPAC Retailers who had not already invested in buy-online, pickup-in-store (BOPIS) spent considerable time and effort in 2020 scrambling to put those capabilities in place. Rushing to implement these omni-channel capabilities, in many cases, the solutions have been cobbled together. Retailers will need to expend additional effort moving forward to ensure these integrations and solutions are optimized to minimize manual work and operational support. In addition, buy online, pickup at curb (BOPAC) become a much more common fulfillment choice for consumers in 2020 and continues to be a key capability of retailers seeking to minimize the brick-and-mortar revenue impacts of COVID-19.

Increased Focus on Mobile Solutions Retailers implementing BOPIS and BOPAC capabilities and seeking to enhance those solutions in 2021 have a strong focus on retail mobility. In the past, retailers’ customer mobile experience alignment was focused on ensuring consistent messaging, pricing and overall experience between the digital and physical shopping environments. However, moving into 2021, customer mobile experience alignment is all about building features and functions that allow a consumer to interact with a brand’s physical location via their mobile device and 41% of retailers indicated this is a critical customer engagement priority for 2021.

The Real-Time Retail Imperative With customers initiating transactions and purchasing product online in record numbers, it’s imperative that retailers solve the available-to-sell quandary that has plagued them in the past and resulted in lost sales and abandoned carts. This is evidenced by real-time retail coming in as the 4th most critical customer engagement priority of 2021. Retail in real-time helps deliver a vast swath of critical capabilities for today’s modern shopper: true product availability, order status, and consistent pricing and promotions across all sales channels.

Real-time retail also extends to retail employees, as retailers are increasingly finding it important to ensure that their associates have access to the same amount of information as their customers.

Empowering associates with the right mobile tools, makes them much more knowledgeable and they can also be seen as value-added resources to shoppers by providing access to customer-specific shopping history and suggesting customized recommendations and personalized offers.

Self-service Options We have seen a marked increase in self-service retail as a key priority for 2021. No doubt buoyed by the pandemic impact in 2020, consumers are increasingly desiring the ability to consummate their transactions in an associate-free process and retailers are responding in kind with increased investments in self-checkout lanes and self-service kiosks for product information and assistance.

This has been aided by a notable shift to contactless payments and away from cash in many segments. This helped drive down the cost of self-checkout by allowing retailers to avoid purchasing bill and coin accepter units in an increasing large percent- age of their self-checkout units. In parallel, shifting technologies have now brought the cost of a credit only self-checkout unit to the point it is comparable with a traditional POS device. We will continue to see the expansion of self-checkout and self-service into new retail segments. Ever-increasing customer expectations, retail transparency and today’s anywhere, anytime, anyhow shopping have put the customer experience center stage for most retailers. This retail transparency also makes the retailer’s job more difficult as they can no longer differentiate on just product or price, the custom- er experience itself has become the key differentiator that is driving customer loyalty in 2021.

If you want to read more about the changes in customer engagement priorities, along with key business and POS priorities for leading retailers in 2021, be sure to download our full 2021 POS & Customer Engagement Survey Report here.

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