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Unexpected benefits: Silver linings in the cloudy future of commerce

Published April 14, 2020

In today’s environment, when we’re constantly bombarded with bad news and separated from our friends and closest colleagues, it’s easy to take a negative view of things. Each day seems to bring a new COVID-19 headline—and yet another restriction on our daily lives.

Indeed, the world is changing all around us. And, many of the changes are here to stay.

But when you take a moment to examine what's changing—particularly in the area of commerce—you’ll find a lot is for the better. In fact, once the pandemic subsides, we’re likely to find that since customer interactions have become increasingly digital, they’re also more convenient and personalized as well.

And, ironically, as a result of “physical distancing,” we may come back more connected than ever before.


Digital preference is surging

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, consumers were warming to the benefits of digital experiences. Now, with the necessity of physical distancing, they’re red hot.

For example, several studies have shown that families are turning to digital grocery services in a big way—dramatically increasing the number of average daily downloads for apps like Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt. Furthermore, according to data from Rakuten Intelligence, online order volume from full-assortment grocery merchants rose 210.1% from March 12–15 over the same period in 2019.

In a recent survey by RTi Research, 54% of first-time online grocery customers said they would continue to shop this way after the virus subsides. That same study also found that 66% of consumers who had food delivered to their homes for the first time said they would keep doing so post-virus.

Leading independent research Technomic sees potential for positive growth in digital channels as well. They see a potential for positive impact in the areas of limited-service restaurants (especially in segments such as pizza), delivery and supermarket foodservice.

Nowhere is this increasing digitalization more prevalent than in how consumers choose to bank. A recent IDC Research study reported nearly 50% of respondents aged 18–54 said it was easier to interact with their bank through digital channels than in person. And with COVID-19 potentially contaminating physical touchpoints like cash, deposit slips and other surfaces, the preference for digital banking is unlikely to subside any time soon.


Digital drives customer satisfaction

Why is this all good news? Because engaging through digital channels provides much more flexibility to enhance the experience for consumers, easing their burden during a very trying time, and building customer loyalty in the process.

For those banks who want to meet their customers’ needs, there are many digital tools available to help. For example, contactless voice banking apps can provide quick account updates and the latest information on branch hours or availability. Mobile apps can even let customers deposit checks without the need to go to the branch. For customers looking for a branch, location services embedded in the app can help customers find one nearby.

In retail, many stores—especially grocery stores and supermarkets—are using digital channels to make the necessary adjustments to safely serve customers while keeping employees safe, too. Alternate shopping methods like curbside pickup and delivery rely heavily on online or in-app ordering. Furthermore, retailers can lean on digital services to drive traffic to ecommerce channels to help account for store closures.

Restaurants can also use digital channels like websites, social media and online ordering to deepen engagement. Because they can’t currently benefit from face-to-face interactions with patrons, some restaurants are turning to social media to poll customers to help decide the next day’s special or new menu additions. And this is just one of many ways restaurants are learning to engage with customers digitally—and provide a community where they can engage with each other—driving revenue along with connection.


Digital delivers personalization

Another important benefit to digitalization is that it creates data businesses can capture and use to improve products and delivery of services, as well as build greater customer loyalty.

Applying artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to that data can enable businesses to more effectively and efficiently offer personalized communications, such as promotions that are relevant to each customer’s individual wants, needs and preferences. This not only helps your business drive greater revenue at a time when it’s needed the most; it also helps build an affinity for your brand that could last long after the virus has passed.

So, while seemingly all news is bad news today, there is plenty of good news out there, as well. And there are also opportunities to build a brighter tomorrow with a few key investments in the right areas.


In a time of uncertainty, count on NCR VOYIX.

NCR VOYIX is committed to helping our customers navigate the many challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information on how to make the most of digital channels today, and ready yourself for the future - or just for an empathetic ear and ideas to help - please contact NCR.

Our retail solutions experts are in the trenches with our customers, working hard to help provide guidance, solutions and recommendations.

You can find us at, have us call you back, call us in the U.S. at 1-800-CALL-NCR or call outside of the U.S. at 1-937-445-1936.


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