From social distancing and shelter-in-place orders to remote work, virtual meetings, and online school, the past year has looked completely different than anyone could have imagined when initially planning for 2020. Think about it. If you had told someone this time last year that they might not see the inside of an office building, retail store, school, or restaurant for months on end, they would have likely laughed off your suggestion—and rightfully so. After all, prior to the onslaught of the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, these were aspects of daily life that many carried out without fear of the effects on their own health.
Unfortunately, the implications of Covid-19 are being felt by practically everyone across the country, and most of the world, from restaurants and retail business owners to consumers. In fact, due to health and safety concerns and other local and state-wide restrictions, many businesses have been forced to choose between either redesigning their user and customer experiences to account for limited contact and adequate distancing or closing for good.
In rethinking the customer experiences, buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS) solutions, such as smart lockers, have become increasingly appealing. Designed to offer a practically contactless ordering process from beginning to end, smart lockers offer an easy-to-use solution for both retailers and consumers and are available in several different sizes and configurations—including both indoor and outdoor use.
The Emergence & Growth of Smart Locker Technology
While the coronavirus pandemic certainly accelerated the need for increased access to unattended self-service solutions like smart lockers, the trend isn’t new. In fact, as retailers, suppliers, and food service establishments have been implementing self-service technology in the past decade, smart lockers have been repeatedly cited by respondents to the annual Kiosk Marketplace censuses as being among the best growth opportunities in the self-service space. And grow they have. Smart lockers can now be found at brick-and-mortar locations of some of the most reputable names in food service, retail and for services including home improvement, IT repair, tax preparation, equipment rental and more.
Smart Lockers in the Age of Social Distancing
Throughout the year, many retailers have deployed smart lockers and other self-service solutions to reduce lines in-store and adhere to newly implemented capacity and social distancing regulations. In a time where health and safety are being highly prioritized, it’s critical that establishments provide reliable, sanitary, and accessible solutions for consumers to pick-up their orders without having to jeopardize their own health. Smart lockers offer exactly that. Designed for ease of use for business owners and customers, smart lockers can integrate with back-end point of sale, inventory management, and distribution systems. Store employees can easily load purchases into the locker and customers can simply scan a confirmation code at the locker to retrieve their order. The buy online, pick-up in-store process is both seamless and highly effective. So effective, in fact, that a recent report indicated 90% of brick-and-mortar retailers will likely offer BOPIS in 2021.
The Future Outlook for Smart Lockers
Though the current age of social distancing has certainly offered an unanticipated increase in demand for smart lockers and unattended solutions of all kinds, the outlook for these solutions in a post-pandemic world appears to be equally promising. After all, the benefits of smart lockers far exceed that of merely offering a socially distanced pick-up experience and their value extends far beyond retail and food service. From reducing overhead costs to improving customer satisfaction, expanding flexibility, and driving overall efficiency throughout the organization, smart lockers offer a valuable and easy-to-integrate solution for all industries.
Surely, 2020 has redefined the customer experience and established self-service technology like smart lockers will help bridge the now necessary gaps. As business owners and consumers continue to adapt to the new “normal”, there’s no denying that the demand for self-service solutions like smart lockers will continue to grow for the foreseeable future across industries of all kinds.
This article first appeared in the 2021 Kiosk Marketplace Annual Census Report.