As stores have reopened, the question is being asked as to what role physical plays in the new look world of retail – and what role it will play in the new digital and ‘phygital’ world.
An example of how this may look comes from the Cotswold Company. Since December 2020, The Cotswold Company team have offered a live video service to customers whereby walkthroughs and virtual tours of the store are given.
This advice and help in real time whilst viewing the products has proved all important in pushing lockdown sales. On top of that, it has been a great way for store staff to connect with people and provide a top-quality customer service.
The move to offer a body cam style shopping experience was a needed pivot for The Cotswold Company who had to temporarily close all shops due to social distancing rules enforced in March 2020. It has been a great success, with showrooms taking sales of 2/3 the figures they achieved when open.
Staff are currently trialling extending working hours into the evening to not let customers down due to the number of incoming ‘Go In Store’ requests the team were receiving. This virtual shopping experience helped to reduce furlough levels during the third national lockdown during the busy Christmas period (Cotswold reported a 44% festive sales hike).
There are 30 staff across all stores, with 90% not on furlough as they have been able to move across to the customer service team. Of course, no staff were forced to physically go in, but most wanted to keep busy and do so.
To put this into context, January 2021 to February 21 income from The Cotswold Company’s bricks and mortar stores totalled £1m, as a direct result of the ‘Go In Store’ experience. With a further £470k spent online post a ‘Go In Store’ experience. The Cotswold Company has five bricks and mortar stores: Norwich, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chelmsford, Godalming and Harrogate (all five are running Go In Store).
This digital pivot from The Cotswold Company is important to note on the backdrop of an ever-changing high street, with independent online brands levelling the playing field.
Ralph Tucker, The Cotswold Company CEO, says: “Since the start of the pandemic, it has been our mission to blend the offline and online experience to ensure customers remain connected and can effectively shop remotely. I am excited to today announce that this virtual ‘Go In Store’ experience will remain post-pandemic, due to both its popularity and the flexibility it offers our customers. The advantage here is that if customers want to see a table extended by the member of staff or two colourways side-by-side, staff can easily do this on the video call. These video calls are very different to a basic live chat that many other retailers offer, the ‘Go In Store’ function is something we see the rest of the industry following suit with”.