5 consumer expectations for the return to brick-and-mortar shops.

Written by Jereme on

Consumers’ standards have remained high through all the retail operational changes of 2020 and early 2021, and they’re now looking ahead to what comes next.

COVID-19 drove a number of changes in consumer behaviors. Although ecommerce and restaurant online ordering were already on the rise when the pandemic began, their adoption has skyrocketed as customers quarantined to comply with stay-at-home-orders. The pandemic also forced some consumers who were previously set in their ways to take advantage of new services, such as online grocery ordering or food delivery services. Consumers adapted throughout the crisis — but what are their expectations now that brick-and-mortar businesses are beginning to see more foot traffic? 

Keep the following five things in mind as you help merchants deploy new payment solutions and prepare to welcome customers back into their stores.

1. Consumers will expect to be able to do everything they do now.

Now that more consumers have experienced the convenience of buying online, there’s no turning back. In fact, research from Finaria is projecting a 10 percent growth in ecommerce users this year, as well as continued growth to 3.8 billion ecommerce shoppers (and $3.4 trillion in sales) by 2025.

Brick-and-mortar is still relevant — consumers who weren’t able to shop in stores are more aware than ever of how important in-person shopping is, especially for certain buying decisions that require trying on or testing out the actual item. Having said that, they also now know that it’s more convenient in other cases to order for pickup and delivery.

Basically, they want — and expect — the ability to do it all.

2. Customers will expect stores to improve services.

For the most part, consumers have been patient as merchants launched new services during the pandemic. However, that patience won’t last long. Moving forward, customers will expect stores and restaurants to have the bugs worked out and provide seamless experiences from online ordering and pickup, to delivery and returns.

A SOTI report found that 57 percent of shoppers are now frustrated with at least some aspect of delivery, shipping, or returns. Furthermore, if fulfillment takes too long, they’ll look for other places to shop.

3. At least for a while, expect a demand for both indoor and outdoor options.

Although the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, count on consumer caution to continue. Some consumers will continue to choose curbside pickup to minimize contact with store employees and other shoppers. Others may prefer outdoor pop-up shops or sidewalk sales so they can stay out in the sun and fresh air.

4. Consumers will demand a continued focus on health safety.

Inside the store, consumers will demand checkout experiences that allow them to keep their distance, minimize contact, and use touch-free options whenever possible. They may appreciate using a kiosk or self-checkout rather than interacting with sales associates or cashiers. They’ll also continue to use their smartphones to find the information they need or make payments.

5. Merchants will feel the pressure to innovate.

Anytime a market goes through changes and technological advances, consumers start asking the question, “What’s next?” Competitive merchants are already pushing the envelope — a prime example is checkout-free stores like Amazon Go.

Additionally, merchants who didn’t accept digital payments prior to the pandemic, such as farm stands, outdoor festivals, or crafters and hobbyists, may need to modernize their businesses to capture more revenues and continue to build customer loyalty.

Payments’ role in meeting consumer expectations.

Your merchants are setting out in new directions. They need the right tools to do business in new ways. An omnichannel payments platform gives merchants the flexibility to accept payments online, in-store, on a mobile device at a pop-up shop, in-app, at a kiosk, or even by a customer scanning a QR code or clicking a text link. A unified solution also gives your clients the advantage of managing payments on all of those channels from a single platform, and makes end-of-day tasks easier with a single report.

Furthermore, a full-featured payments platform will help merchants improve the new services they introduced in 2020, such as streamlining buy online, pickup in-store processes, or tokenizing payment data so that returning online customers can order with one click or set up subscription payments.

An omnichannel payments platform also gives your clients the option to accept all types of payments, including contactless cards and mobile wallets. Equipping your clients with near-field communication (NFC) technology may even help boost business. Visa reports that 63 percent of consumers would switch to a store that began offering contactless payments, and 48 percent say they won’t shop where they need to have contact with a cashier or a shared device, such as a card reader.

Change, opportunities, and your business.

Value-added resellers (VARs), independent sales organizations (ISOs), and other merchant services Sales Partners have a unique opportunity to grow their portfolios by providing merchants with the payment solutions they need to adapt to their changing industries and meet customer expectations.

Stay educated on changing regulations, as well as the progress of the pandemic, so that you can share that information with your customers. Just as importantly, be ready to learn from them. Listen to their pain points and brainstorm on the best way to solve problems. You’ll also learn how to expand your portfolio, the services you need to offer, and how to meet your own customers’ changing expectations.

Everyone is still trying to figure out how to navigate businesses through the pandemic and the changing consumer expectations that have come with it. Be there with the answers merchants need about payments.