Shopping by Appointment Helps Retailers Reopen Safely

This is a guest blog post from NGC Software's Mark Burstein as part of a series on innovation concepts relevant to retail. 

Retailers that were required to close are now beginning to reopen across the U.S., and they are taking great care to ensure shopper safety and put customers at ease as they start shopping again. One way that is getting increased attention from retailers is “shopping by appointment.” It’s a familiar concept, and it can be the key to helping retailers manage customer traffic.

Scheduling an appointment: a familiar concept to consumers

Consumers make appointments all the time: restaurant reservations, doctor visits and hair appointments are just a few examples. It’s a universally accepted concept. In the same way, why can’t retailers start scheduling shopping appointments via their apps and websites? This permits a limited number of customers to enter the store on a set schedule while preventing long lines and overcrowding at the store entrance.
Scheduling is much safer and far more efficient than waiting outside a store in long lines. The principles of social distancing have been introduced at many locations, but it’s burdensome for shoppers.
Prescheduled shopping appointments allows retailers to apply the same principles, while offering a better customer experience that prioritizes customer safety and ensures a secure, uncrowded shopping environment. Retailers can limit each shopper’s visit to a pre-set amount of time, in order to make sure the appointment schedule remains on track.

In action: how shopping by appointment could work

It is not difficult to roll out a robust reservation solution in a short period of time. Most retailers list their store locations on their website and within their mobile app. A simple enhancement is to add a “Make Appointment” button next to each location that allows the customer to select the day, time and number of shoppers that plan to visit that location.  The number of appointments would be limited to the safe occupancy level of each location as determined by the state or local government, based on square feet of floor space or a percentage of maximum occupancy allowed under pre-COVID conditions.
Another option is a new application from FareHarbor, which provides the reservation backend for, Google Reservations, Expedia and TripAdvisor. FareHarbor built a Retail Shopping Reservations platform that has all the features need for appointment-based shopping, including QR codes for entry/exit scanning and real-time visibility into store volume, shopping experience and other associated metrics. This allows retailers to scale quickly and take advantage of a proven third-party platform.
As stores continue to reopen and consumers become comfortable with in-person shopping again, we will see a surge of pent-up shopping demand, especially since fashion retailers and department stores are relying heavily on promotions and discounts to attract consumers and reduce inventory. There must be a mechanism in place to prevent large crowds from gathering outside the stores. "Shopping by Appointment" is a way to mitigate this risk.

  • Technology & Innovation

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