With retailers around the country welcoming customers back into their stores, it’s important not to forget lessons learned in recent months about evolving consumer shopping preferences and delivery methods. At a time when store visits can feel uncomfortable and recreational shopping has been hit hard, it’s a challenge for retailers to balance new regulations with customer experience.

Tried and tested methods to increase dwell-time and encourage impulse purchases simply don’t work in the current retail environment. Instead, offering a range of safe alternatives to connect customers with their purchases can give retailers a competitive edge.

Contactless alternative delivery options

Offering contactless delivery options will help alleviate the strain put on the home delivery network, and keep customers and staff safe. As a result of consumers navigating the ‘new normal’, increasing their interactions with brands online and integrating shopping habits into their daily routines; alternative delivery options are gaining traction, experiencing 30.3% year-on-year growth.

Recent research from Doddle reveals that almost one in two Australian shoppers have used Click & Collect (C&C) in the past 12 months, with cost and convenience cited as two of the major drivers. Despite this, only around 40% of Australian retailers currently offer the service. Yet, C&C is one of the key solutions to relieving Australia’s over-burdened delivery network, while providing a safe collections option for shoppers.

Putting words into practice

A completely contact-free C&C service where goods are placed directly into the boot of a car might seem counterproductive for retailers who want customers to return to the store, but it has both psychological and commercial benefits. It reassures customers that their concerns are being taken seriously and that their wellbeing is a priority. An efficient booking system where customers are notified via SMS about updates to their collection allows the retailer to maintain effective communication and manage traffic to and from their store. Stock management becomes more efficient as stores act as mini-distribution centres rather than being fully reliant on a main warehouse. Furthermore, orders can be picked and packed in-store, allowing retailers to fulfill online orders more time-and cost-effectively than home delivery, while saving on delivery costs.

Services like Australia Post’s Collect & Return network, enabling consumers to choose from over 4,500 locations Australia-wide to have their online purchases delivered to, will also play a vital role in driving footfall and re-engaging consumers with instore retail. After all, up to 70% of people collecting orders from retail outlets make additional purchases once they’re inside. However, the experience at the point of collection is pivotal. Effectively designing the dedicated C&C area into the store plan ensures convenience while providing eyeline opportunities to engage customers with further reasons to return.

A strategy to ensure retailers are future-ready, now

While consumer confidence won’t reach pre-pandemic levels for some time, these strategies will have both short and long-term benefits. Retailers can expand delivery and collection services to support consumer convenience and safety, effectively enhancing the brand perception and creating a competitive edge. From a commercial perspective, retailers can save on operational costs that come with the ability to get online orders into the hands of customers, quickly. More so, creating a seamless, safe delivery and returns experience for customers means that there’s further reason for even a nervous customer to visit a store. The result is a more cost-effective delivery process and the potential for additional in-store sales.

Despite the current climate remaining full of uncertainty, we can find some reassurance in the lessons learned over the past few months, such as the importance of alternative delivery options. New, innovative options for consumers won’t just be vital over the next few months but will shape customer expectations for years to come.

Justin Dery is CEO of Doddle Asia Pacific