Reinventing Front-of-Store Merchandising for Today’s Shopper  12/29/2020

This past year ushered in more challenges than any year in modern history, and has accelerated any changes in shopper behavior as well as retailers’ responses to these changes. One place that has seen a major impact of these changes is the front of store, which will continue to be a focal point of change throughout 2021 and beyond.

Why? Because shoppers realized that buy online, pickup-in-the-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, shop-from-store, and third-party delivery saves them time, proves convenient for them, and with less human interaction, many consumer view these as safer ways of shopping during a pandemic. And after using these methods of shopping, many plan to continue employing them long after the pandemic ends.

So unlike restaurants which can expect a return to some degree of normalcy at some point in 2021, mass retail will forever feel the impact of these changing shopper behaviors, and merchandising solutions are adapting to address them.

Accelerated demand for BOPIS
However, they have some catching up to do. At the end of 2019, 30 percent of retailers offered BOPIS, and were already falling short of shopper demand, so the pandemic accelerated the race to increase that offering. Here are some of the merchandising solutions and equipment retailers are currently evaluating to meet these demands:

  • Picking systems/carts needed reinvention
  • Expansion/creation of front of store shelving/dry storage  
  • Front refrigeration and/or freezers 
  • Pick-up storage lockers inside the store and/or outside 
  • Reallocation of cashier space/pickup stations
  • Plexiglass shielding at POS
  • Parking lot construction and signage
  • Curbside lanes (concrete companies cite unprecedented demand in retail frontage) 
  • POS/e-commerce integration, 
  • Third party delivery accommodation
  • New front end associate roles
  • Online shopper arrival technology
  • Front end cart & shopper sanitation stations
  • For some: Contactless POS installation

For 2021, many retailers will roll these solutions to an increasing number of stores, reinventing their front-ends in particular, and others are already designing ‘digital-first’ stores, with up to one-third of the store allocated to digital fulfillment, and others will expand space to accommodate growth of shopper demand.

New tech and equipment on the way
Retailers will also be installing new technology and equipment with an eye toward driving efficiencies, including:

  • Store plan integration into mobile devices, to speed up a clunky, inefficient bottlenecks, enabling ‘smart’ order picking for associates, and enhancing third-party delivery capabilities (and even shoppers). 
  • SKU location-based inventory technologies to identify stock levels, boosting visibility and accuracy for online orders
  • Cart-based and handheld scanner technologies as cashier-free storefronts expand
  • BOPIS and curbside recommendation engines to increase revenue at order pickup
  • Redesign impulse space at modified self-serve/cashier-free lanes

All of this radical re-work will be produced in large part by domestic suppliers, as front-end metal, wood, and plexiglass fabricators are predominantly North American. 

On March 2 to 3, 2021, many of the leading companies that supply front-of-store solutions will be presenting at the annual ECRM Merchandising Solutions Virtual Program, providing a convenient and effective way for retailers to do their own ‘shopping.’

We hope to see you there!

Doug Hope discusses COVID's impact on merchandising solutions


Doug Hope

Merchandising Solutions Specialist

Doug Hope is co-founder of design:retail magazine, and founder of the leading national design & merchandising show GlobalShop and was Show Director of the event for more than 25 years, and currently working with ECRM on the March 2&3 2021 Merchandising Solutions annual event.

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