NEW DELHI :
Once a proponent of in-store experience and personal assistance, Decathlon has stopped product trials and pivoted to ‘phygital stores’, following a surge in covid cases, to ensure a safe shopping experience. The sports goods retailer is now providing a mix of physical retail and digital touch points, featuring virtual reality, digital payments, and self-checkouts.
The Indian arm of German sports brands Adidas and Puma have also trained staff and transformed stores to provide a contactless retail experience with customers gradually returning to stores following the government’s decision to ease lockdown restrictions.
Product trials will be allowed for both brands, but the unsold items will be sanitized and kept in a box for at least 24 hours before another customer can try those on. Thorough sanitization of trial rooms has become a norm and Puma said it is providing trial socks, which are discarded after use.
This is the way forward, said Ankur Bisen, senior vice-president, retail and consumer, Technopak, a management consultancy. Contactless checkout and tech-enabled self-service stores are present in Europe and US at Amazon and Walmart Express, he said.
“For the post-covid consumer, these initiatives are important to assure them of safety and hygiene. I feel they also improve visualization and re-purpose the store for the consumer with respect to online," he said.
Decathlon has started providing on-call assistance to help shoppers pick suitable products, apart from offering virtual assistance to install and service big sports equipment.
It has launched a zero-contact shopping initiative, in which customers can place orders online and collect their merchandise through newly introduced formats under ‘Reserve and Collect’ at stores.
This includes a Drive-Thru zero-contact pickup option in certain stores with designated pickup areas at car-parking facilities, or from ‘Connect stores’, such as in Bengaluru.