The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some significant changes to many industries and the way everyone operates. It’s shown that businesses that can continue to operate online can still thrive. Unfortunately, it’s also affected many industries that rely on the physical presence of customers and it can be hard to provide many of their services digitally.
While many countries are easing their lockdown restrictions or are completely coming out of it, it’s clear that we won’t be able to go back to the pre-pandemic life for a while. Social distancing will still be a challenge and something lots of businesses could struggle with. This could be anything from figuring out a new office setup to serving customers with enough space and safety to maintain social distancing. But to bring back some sense of normalcy, and more importantly, open up businesses, tech could be a big help.
Preordering and food delivery apps
People are bored of the lockdown and must be raring to go out, especially to bars and restaurants. No wonder the queues for KFC and McDonald’s drive-thrus have been insane. But before this can be done, restaurants will need to figure out a way to serve people safely and at a distance.
Prior to the pandemic, lots of restaurants were using the services of delivery apps as an addition to their main venues. Yet, very few remained open in the lockdown and have had to close until further notice. Now, food delivery apps could be one of the steps towards reopening our restaurants.
We’ve seen some of our favourite places in Manchester have started using them without opening the restaurant to the customers and their orders have been going through the roof. If this is feasible, we expect to see many more restaurant meals delivered straight to our homes.
For the restaurants that will start welcoming customers inside, they could use an app to take orders and payments to minimise human contact. For example, customers could book a table and preorder food in advance. This could also reduce table turnaround times as capacity will likely be halved, so they’ll want to serve as many people as possible.
Welcoming guests remotely
Perhaps holidays are still far away from happening, but travel will need to get back on its feet as soon as possible. To create a welcoming but safe and quick check in experience, hotels could also provide an app where guests could complete everything themselves. Upon arrival, they could be automatically issued with a key/code for their room, or even sent it in advance to enter without taking time on reception and limiting human interaction. While it’s not the warmest of welcomes hotel guests are used to, this might be the necessity for now.
Airbnb and Sykes Cottages apps are great examples of how hosts have been communicating with their guests, sharing valuable information and dealing with their queries without always being on site.
Allocating time slots
Shopping will likely be different than simply walking into a store and spending as much time as possible on browsing. Retail shopping isn’t as quick or as strategic as food shopping where customers tend to go off a list of exactly what they need. You want to browse, try things on and see how they fit. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help with social distancing. It’s still unclear how stores will be managing queues and how many customers will be allowed to go in at once.
Similarly, cultural attractions like museums and exhibitions will also need to start opening, and the experience in these venues tends to be similar to shopping where visitors take time to look at exhibits.
However, both shops and museums could start offering time slots for their visits to make queuing more efficient. Some museums and galleries have already been doing this to manage visitors and allow them to enjoy their time there without rushing or feeling too crowded.
Customers would only need to turn up for their booked time, just like any timed appointment. This way, they could spend this time browsing while not being surrounded by lots of other people. This could also help stores and venues manage their staff, as well as helping to maintain social distancing rules. It might not be ideal, but this could also offer a better shopping experience in the current situation.
National Trust has recently opened its parks to the public with a similar booking system. Slots are available for the week and it’s first come, first served. Although parks have much larger spaces, some of the larger stores could easily adopt this approach. Perhaps queuing for hours to enter IKEA could be avoided.
Cash payments have been on the decline since the rise of e-commerce, PayPal, Apple Pay and contactless card payments. However, up until now, it was still a common method. During the pandemic, more shops and consumers have moved onto cashless payments. Recently, Barclaycard reported processing over 25m contactless payments. It’s not only quicker, especially if you have contactless available from your smart watch or phone, but it helps to socially distance.
Cash is generally unhygienic and many vendors have moved onto cashless payments only to minimise risk. Going forward, we think this trend will continue and more vendors will likely be using contactless payments - they’re much safer and more efficient.
Bringing services online
There’s been a rise in smaller e-commerce businesses, and generally, lots of businesses have managed to continue trading online through their websites and apps. For any brand that has been reluctant to move their services online for any reason, this could be a great opportunity to future proof their trade and increase sales via digital channels.
While setting up a website and maintaining it could be a challenge, it’s proved hugely successful for many brands. Although stores are beginning to open, it’s still a gradual process. We recommend investing in a website to be able to provide services digitally for a wider range of customers.
The lockdown has been a crucial time for all industries and it’s been great to see how many have adapted thanks to moving onto digital platforms. We believe this trend will continue as we still try to figure out the post-pandemic life and social distancing. Perhaps it will also bring huge changes to many businesses that have been reliant on physical presence.
Tech could also make the customer experience a lot more convenient while social distancing measures are in place. We recommend that businesses look at the options of moving their services online to future proof their trade, as well as making it simpler for their customers to access them.
Would you like to have a chat about any of these ideas for your business? Contact us!