How Retail Is Shifting Due to Covid-19 and What Companies Will Have to Do to Cope
The Covid-19 pandemic has created obstacles for businesses across every industry from sports to hospitality to retail and businesses are faced with the challenge to recover amid and after the pandemic. As the coronavirus in the United States continues to spread, we as a nation have been urged to socially distance ourselves from each other, stay home, and refrain from most of our typical daily activities. Implementations as limiting as these have put immense pressure on retailers to make necessary adjustments and adapt to the new shopping reality.
In-store shopping restrictions have ultimately changed consumer buying behavior and shopping normalities face the unknown. Consumers are not only buying less, they are sticking to essentials and shopping almost exclusively online for non-grocery items.
Retail shopping mostly is driven by an occasion like parties, vacations, or a new school year. A decrease in sales comes as no surprise as many of these occasions are postponed. There is less sense of an urgency to buy new clothes if the event you planned to wear them to has been rescheduled until next year. This leads businesses to analyze loads of data in order to figure out what consumers are buying instead. Consumers are sticking to basics like groceries and work essentials that have a daily function. These behaviors are a wake-up call to sales and marketing teams to get creative and utilize retail technology resources to amplify sales.
What are retail companies doing to adapt amid the Covid-19 pandemic?
If you’ve been to any store in the last six months, you know the traditional shopping experience is a whole different experience. Stores must adhere to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Covid-19 guidelines, such as enforcing social distancing and face coverings to keep guests safe.
Stores are taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus in other ways too. Many encourage guests to switch their forms of payment and opt for a card or contactless payment option like those via smartphones. Additionally, shops are required to continuously clean high-touch surfaces like register conveyor belts and countertops.
Although these non-essential and retail businesses are allowed to reopen with extreme regulations, consumers are hesitant to return while Covid-19 in the United States is still out of control – forcing store operators back to square one.
Business technologies in every industry are quickly being incorporated as they are allowing us to stay connected and continue to be productive. Retail technology is no different as many stores have implemented systems for their customers such as online loyalty programs and the ability to order products online and pick them up safely outside of the store. These options are meant as an incentive to keep customers shopping and reduce the amount of daily foot traffic inside the store – all while satisfying customer needs.
Take a second and reflect on your last authentic in-store shopping experience and the factors that make it enjoyable. Was it the availability of clothing options? Ability to try on any piece of clothing to know precisely how it will fit? Or the store associates answering your questions? These are the questions companies need to consider when choosing the right resources to incorporate into their new business models to increase their sales. Technology is helping retailers determine exactly what will appeal to their customers and keep connected with them too.
While we are spending increased amounts of time at home, we are also spending even more time online. Whether it be social media, TV commercials, or online shopping, marketers are taking this opportunity to analyze collected information about their target customers. This data helps companies better understand what consumers are really looking for during the pandemic – leading to more appropriate advertising tactics and eventually amplified sales.
Based on this information, consumers are being guided to the world of e-commerce even more so than before the pandemic. By companies shifting their focus to online sales, they are opening a new door for income during this unpredictable time. Having products available for customers without having to visit a store will make or break a retail shop during the pandemic.
Engaging online is an excellent start for those looking to increase their sales and something retailers may want to consider are tools to enhance consumer’s online shopping experience too. This can consist of live video demonstrations and promotions through augmented reality, and even a fully engaged virtual one-on-one experience. By adding an interactive experience for those watching, companies can give customers what they miss the most about in-store shopping – a human connection.
It is truly up to individual retailers to embrace changes in-store or online as these decisions could be the best option to efficiently engage with get their customers. The future of in-store shopping is uncertain, but one truth we will always be able to count on is this: if consumers can interact with their favorite brands or stores, they are more likely to keep that connection after the pandemic. Now is the time for retailers to make the crucial decision to change their marketing strategies and fully embrace the world of e-commerce.