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The New How: Keep your distance!

Introducing the tech wonders making retail safe & savvy in a post-Covid world

To support our clients and contacts in the retail and hospitality sectors, Shoosmiths hosted a webinar on 30 July 2020 focusing on the role of technology in making retail and hospitality safe and savvy in a post-Covid world #TheNewHow


As the saying goes “when the wind blows, some people build walls, while others build windmills". We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges, but what has also been illustrated clearly is that a lot of our old assumptions on how we operate can be challenged. We can be working smarter, faster, better. We want to emerge from lockdown with something positive to show for it: a new normal better than the old one. A ‘New How’.

On 30 July, in association with Tech London Advocates’ Retail Tech Group, we hosted a webinar focusing on the role of technology in the retail and hospitality sectors in a post-COVID-19 world. The webinar was hosted by Gary Assim, partner at Shoosmiths and the panel comprised Eugene Fisher, Entrepreneur in Residence, Kingston Business School (and former Lead Innovation Consultant at River Island), Richard Evetts, Chief Operating Officer, Bink, Richard Carter, Co-founder, Checkfer & OrderPay and Michael Moore Enterprise Account Executive for Retail and Travel, GlassBox

Below are our key tips and takeaways:

Shift in consumer behaviour

  • The pandemic has created a new pipeline of online shoppers in Generation X and the Baby Boomers who previously preferred to visit stores
  • The challenge for retailers is that websites tend to be designed for Millennials and are not intuitive for the new generation of shoppers
  • Intuitive platforms have won over those perceived as complicated – retailers need to consider how to make their digital offering accessible to all customers
  • Research shows that a change in shopping behaviour takes 13 weeks of repetition to become established as the preferred behaviour – so the expectation is the pandemic has created a permanent shift in shopping patterns
  • Face-to-face shopping is now radically different too with COVID-19 safety precautions in place – it is now generally regarded as a necessity rather than a leisure activity – so the revenue generated from browsing is likely to be lost
  • Consumers are now looking for brands that support wider society like charities or research and sustainability is also of key importance

The role of innovation & acceleration of technology adoption

  • Use of Shopify, the ‘online retail’s operating system’, has been amplified by new users that had no transactional website before the pandemic or one which needed upgrading
  • Some large retailers have given free access to previously subscriber only apps to attract particular consumer groups
  • A major shift from web to app is anticipated - an app provides a more appealing consumer browsing experience, as well as being convenient/ easy to use
  • One particular challenge for brands is likely to be app adoption - the competition for real estate on your customer’s smartphone and the ability to extract meaningful data

How best to conduct business at a distance

  • Any tech which can assist with social distancing and remove as many elements of physical interaction as possible is key
  • In the hospitality industry – the adoption of tech which permits customers to order and pay via their mobile phone (mitigating the need for payment terminal interaction and a physical menu) has been accelerated
  • Other hospitality tech adoption includes: ordering and paying via mobile plus mobile notification when/where you can collect your order and ‘Tap and Go’ solutions where the customer can make direct payment for an item via the barcode/ their mobile and take the product directly from the shelf without the need for any checkout interaction – particularly effective in reducing queues and where floorspace is limited

How to attract customers remotely/increase sales

  • The customer experience will be the key differentiator for retailers
  • Augmented Reality (AR) is likely to be adopted more widely to help drive up sales – examples are body scanners using the camera on your mobile phone – such technology has the potential to be used in physical shop spaces as well as online
  • Live streaming  has also become another channel for brands to show current ranges and answer consumer questions about sizing etc.
  • The ‘Tap and Go’ system mentioned above will appeal to consumers where time is of the essence
  • Consumers will still want to engage with loyalty programmes and retailers may consider even greater incentives to attract and retain consumers (given their need to recover ground lost during lockdown) so finding ways to facilitate this which are aligned with changes in payment behaviours (i.e. loyalty rewards automatically awarded on payment) will be key
  • Mapping the consumer’s online purchasing journey also has obvious benefits – visibility as to when the online consumer service breaks down and having intervention measures in place, such as an agent to offer assistance, will be the ‘gold standard’ of customer experience

Final thoughts

  • The pandemic will not result in the ‘death of the High Street’ – more likely we will see a repurposing whereby the customer experience is pivotal
  • Consumers may visit stores before making purchases online later and/or retailers may decide to offer products instore which are not available online
  • We are also likely to see a rise in ‘pop up’ stores – particularly to promote previously digital-only brands
  • What is clear is that the retail and hospitality businesses that are quick to adapt to the shift in consumer behaviours will be the ones to succeed.

For details of our future webinars visit the New How portal on Shoosmiths website.

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.

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