The Take-Out Shopping Strategy : Fad or a Solid Trend

With the advent of the pandemic, the grab-and-go shopping strategy has moved from burgers to mattresses too. Will this fast lane go far?

In a world where contactless shopping changed from a never-heard-before word to a staple way of life, it was hard for mattresses to stay away from the quick-service models. A lot of brands were first a little disoriented – as were many others in almost every industry – when the crisis hit the globe in an unexpected way. But slowly the smart and agile ones adapted to the changing circumstances. They made peace with the constraints this lockdown world imposed. They found ways around these dead-ends. And they evolved their offerings and services in a swift way to cater to the touchless era of the new consumer.

Did this shift work? Did it make things easier for customers and mattress players?

French Fries and Mattresses – Same thing?

Yes, at the onset it sounds like an obvious choice. Why would a customer prefer touching (forget buying) a mattress or bed that someone else may have just sat upon? No matter how many precautions a store takes, some rubbing of shoulders is inevitable for a touch-and-experience product like a mattress. And yet, it was something that most people had to buy because they suddenly found themselves for longer hours on a bed in the lockdown phase. Of course, online sales came as a relief but a hybrid model of shopping strategy worked well for both consumers and sellers.

If we look at some surveys done by the Nationwide Marketing Group it was clear that the in-store retail had been the most affected as 52 percent of survey respondents reported a significant fall in foot traffic. As stores got busy making operational changes for government directives, cleaning, and sanitization processes, some were also arguing with authorities if mattresses fit the ‘essential business’ box. (Ex- a dispute between the local government and an Illinois Mattress Firm). Consequent measures allowed limited in-store staff at some places while some stores had to shut down. The low-volume nature of this product made it possible to deliver the product in a unique way while enforcing the requisite social distancing rules. That’s how the drive-in shopping strategy took new traction. So did supporting services like rapid prototyping, 3D image experience, and omnichannel communication to help consumers decide on a product choice.

Analysts have seen that most mattress companies globally were enjoying “very strong recent demand” despite initial hiccups. One analyst estimated the bedding industry with a year-over-year sales increase of more than 30 percent. And the smart mattress industry has been projected to rise by $109 million between 2020 and 2024.

All said and done- Driving into a window for a hot parcel of sandwiches is a different thing. But for an industry where a lot of sales were largely dominated by in-store purchases and an unorganized sector, the zip-zap-zoom model was not so easy to switch on to.

However, a lot of brands did so. The recent advent of online players and bed-in-a-box rivals accelerated this phenomenon. They quickly embraced a model where a product can be chosen in a contactless way or through any omnichannel mode. And once the purchase is sealed, the delivery can be ensured in an entirely contactless way again – either through company options or through specialized packaging for the customer. This needed some extra investments in PPE kits, delivery teams, sealed packages, stringent hygiene practices, payment infrastructure, etc. – but it was all worth it. Customers liked this convenience and option. This served their needs for instant product availability as well as an assurance of hygiene.

The Next Stop

As we move ahead, the shop-with-a-hop format is expected to gather steam, albeit, with some key denominators. If you ask Strategy Director at Interbrand, Ashoo Advani, he reckons that the ‘Take out’ trend is here to stay. “Patterns have changed. People have got used to a new way of living. WFH (Work From Home) model will change urban living and people will move from large cities to outskirts and smaller cities. There is a fundamental shift that has happened and will impact many categories.”

Offering a contrarian view, Saurav Chachan, Engagement Manager, RedSeer argues that this ‘buy online and pay at the store’ approach of consumption works well for grocery items or items like coffee where one is pressed for time or does not want to go through the hassles of parking or interactions. Or it works for a customer who has ordered a product late at night through online research and just wants to pick the product without too much time invested at the store. It works aptly for immediate consumption categories. It will not fly off as much for a product like a mattress especially after the need for contactless interactions has faded. It is a good model for categories like groceries but not for fashion products or experience-related products. In metros, it can still work because people are pressed for time. But in tier-2 cities, this may not be too relevant.”

Either way – the industry will have to tune in to the models that were not around before. As per a Technomic ‘Delivery and Take-out Consumer Trend’ report, the off-premise landscape has been transformed to a large extent by the Covid pandemic. Competition for off-premise services is expected to intensify. It would be vital for players to create a safe and seamless experience for consumers. We can expect new concept models, contactless services, contactless-pick-up as well as contactless delivery to be refined and invested in as we enter a new phase. In order to make sure that customers walk out as happy as they are when they walk in, brands would need to invest in some salient areas for sure:
• High levels of hygiene and contactless features
• Sanitised packaging
• Automated prompts and contactless guidance for self-service products
• Contactless payment and service infrastructure
• Contactless does not mean disconnected. Investments in human warmth and service experience are still serious factors
• Consistent and agile communication standards
• Regular updates and information to customers about order confirmation, payments, vehicle details, package tracking, etc.
• Support should be both swift and personalized
• A streamlines back-end infrastructure and team
• Create partnerships with similar verticals for collaborative synergies and economies of scale
Of course, on the customer front, all necessary precautions are also called for. They should put in some effort on: • Prep and clean up areas
• Assembly, installation and contactless movement
• Careful unboxing
• Proper steps in case of threshold delivery for high-touch surfaces
• Area-wise availability information
• Adherence to safety and distancing guidelines
• Wearing appropriate attire, gloves and other accessories
• Removal of packaging and proper disposal
• Adequate cleaning and disinfecting of new purchase items as per product type

A customer would never compromise on quality, service and experience whether it is a falafel roll or a mattress roll. As long as that attention and effort are taken into priority, this trend will be a good sauce to accompany the industry’s new and uncertain journey ahead.

ISPF is an industry body which promotes importance of sleep and role of mattress for a Indian consumers. ISPF plays very important role in connecting Indian bedding industry ecosystem. ISPF also acts as bridge between India and international players.