Online shopping is here to stay

‘Covid-19 has created and demands change’…

That is stating the obvious, but another statement easy enough to make is that retail and catering businesses alike are growing their online presence more every day.  ‘The new normal’ is a headline we now see regularly, but what is the new normal when looking at garden centres and farm shops, and just how much potential is there in online shopping for an industry that often thrives on atmosphere, immersion and feeling?

UK businesses are diversifying and remodelling their business models to meet customer needs and this includes farm shops and garden centres alike. 

Click and Collect

Developments in online ordering, leading to both a delivery service and click and collect models have suddenly become a major part of the business model for many retailers and caterers.  A report published by retailgazette.co.uk in February 2020 highlighted that the UK online click-and-collect market was expected to grow to almost £10 billion by the year 2023.  With the Covid-19 effects seen in the UK since then, this estimation is likely to grow, and because of the need for strict social distancing in stores, it has in turn supported the increased need for online ordering even more.

Businesses across the world are reacting to this by developing their online offer further and we have seen examples of retailers combining their online shop and ‘click and collect’ service with their current business model.  We are seeing developments that include order online delivery services all the way through to fully automated drive through offers.

Online shopping generally focuses on two core methods.  There is the standard delivery service, and as many retailers have run for a number of years now, there is also the click and collect method.

Here at Malcolm Scott Consultants the team is working on design and planning for both drive through and collection concepts which support the click and collect shopping experience.   It can’t be ignored that online shopping is growing and that it does have a place in the rural retail market.  Identifying the correct model for each business is essential, however there is a balance for all sizes of business to support financial commitment and size.  We are working on different concepts already and often there is a symmetry between the shop and the vehicle that needs joining up.

MSC is fortunate that it has a team combining operational experience with design and town planning meaning the business can not only review and question how things can work, but can financially review the offer and then move on to the design and go through town planning too.  I am sure will help many businesses and the entrepreneurs out there will thrive on this support.

Benefits of Online Shopping from the eyes of a provider

Nigel Bogle is the  Founder and CEO at The EPOS Bureau, a ‘point of sale’ and software business that has focused exclusively on the independent food, garden and hospitality sectors for over 23 years.

He says: “Understandably, when the lockdown began, there was a great deal of fear and anxiety about how businesses would survive. Would they be in a good place to trade their way through what was clearly going to be a very tough time for everyone? 

“Those that had good EPOS systems already in place were enabled to adapt quickly. Across our customer base, we began to see a seamless rework of hospitality space into picking and packing areas for click and collect and home delivery services; soon after came a wave of retailers rushing to ‘get online’. 

“We also saw businesses with other EPOS systems having to create makeshift solutions ‘to keep them going’ and these seem to have varying degrees of success.  One of the main problems highlighted from this user group was the inability to link everything together. There was no concept of timed collections and stock levels were a major headache. Customers were often frustrated to order from an online store only to discover repeatedly that one or more of the items ordered wasn’t actually in stock. Some took to social media to vent their frustration.”

He adds: “In my experience, one-size-fits-all EPOS systems just don’t cope well with the intricacies of running a business in the food, garden and hospitality sectors.  Each industry has its own particular set of requirements and for a solution to drive profitability through efficiency, it now needs to provide more than ‘a bit of stock control and the ability to take payments at the till’.  Consumers are demanding more and businesses not making investment in their technology simply won’t be able to keep up.

“The time has come to invest in systems and processes that will enable retailers to trade efficiently and support an offer and experience the consumer has now come to expect. 

“Retail has evolved and it is long past the time to ditch the cash registers and generic till systems in favour of a proper solution, specifically designed for your type ofstore, that will allow your business to grow and thrive. 

“In our sectors we are pro-actively looking at ways in which we can utilise smart technology in an appropriate way.  We want to offer convenience to consumers who want to interact with the retailer via an online store whilst, at the same time, creating efficiencies in-store for owners and staff so they can focus more on that all-important customer service when people walk through the door, prepared to spend,” says Nigel.

Summary

Shopping for ‘core products’ that support customer expectations, convenience, clarity of product, social distancing, and ease of purchase mean that online shopping is here to stay.  The question for retailers is not ‘Can we afford to do this?’ but ‘Can we afford not to do this?’