The Next Normal: The Future of Retail in a Post-Pandemic World

The retail industry remains remarkably resilient, despite a large amount of adversity experienced in the past 15 years. Through economic downturns—and mandatory shutdowns due to stay-at-home orders—businesses have displayed the ingenuity and determination to adapt and overcome on the macro level.

Retailers will, however, feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis long after the pandemic begins to ease and eventually ends. Americans have changed how and where they shop in a commerce market irrevocably changed by COVID-19, and their shopping behavior is unlikely to revert back to pre-pandemic form. Businesses must adjust now to address the needs of their target market and to capitalize on trends that have accelerated in the era of the coronavirus.

This post lays out five trends retailers should monitor to thrive in a post-pandemic world:

 

Safe, Clean Environments

Consumers are likely to maintain a heightened sense of health consciousness while out in society. These inward expectations will manifest in the retail locations they frequent, as they seek locations with high levels of cleanliness and plenty of room for personal space. Shoppers are now conditioned to avoid crowded spaces, and retailers must adjust layouts and point-of-sale areas accordingly.

 

E-Commerce

The rise of e-commerce was well documented before the advent of the coronavirus, but it has served to fast-track the departure from brick-and-mortar retail. New data from IBM’s US Retail index indicates the shift from physical stores to digital shopping has been accelerated by roughly five years. Much of the increase in e-commerce preference can be attributed to once-resistant older shoppers who made the switch to online shopping.

To reach and retain the increasing number of potential customers online, retailers must be meticulous in the care they put into their e-commerce platforms. If it isn’t easy to use and intuitive for all customers who make a digital visit, a competitor’s site is nothing more than a Google search away.

Consider adding these features to improve the user experience:

  • A search bar to make it easier for customers to find items in your digital inventory
  • A chatbot to quickly answer basic questions a customer may have
  • A ‘related item’ feature to close additional sales

 

Contactless Payments

If they do decide to shop in-store, some consumers opt, if possible, for contactless card and mobile payments instead of using cash or point-of-sale terminal keypads. Businesses have moved quickly to capitalize on the demand for this new way to pay. Mastercard reports 78 percent of all of its transactions across Europe are now contactless. In the U.S., Walmart expanded the ways in which it provides contactless services, offering a “Scan & Go” feature  through its app. Many supermarket chains have also sped up their scheduled transition to accept contactless payments.

The ease of contactless payment options will likely make it a consumer expectation long after the pandemic is under control.

 

Curbside Pickup

From restaurants to bookstores, curbside pickup has helped sustain countless businesses during the pandemic. Consumers benefit from it, too. Through curbside pickup, shoppers get their purchases same-day without having to step out of their vehicle. New parents or those with a physical disability have found the service to be especially valuable.

And data suggests demand for curbside pickup is here to stay, with 75% of consumers saying they will likely continue to opt for curbside pickup—even after the pandemic subsides.

If you’re a retailer looking to attract more local customers, curbside pickup is a must-have. To ensure a seamless experience, display signage and utilize email and text communication to confirm orders and provide pickup times.

 

Virtual Offerings

Social distancing measures have forced many businesses that used to depend on drawing a crowd into expanding or launching a digital strategy. Performing arts centers and fitness studios, for example, have quickly learned the value of livestreaming and offering virtual classes and events through online services like Zoom.

While it’s still uncertain when the U.S. will be getting back to “business as usual,” the demand for virtual offerings is expected to endure well into the future.

Even in a post-COVID-19 world, virtual events and services—providing geographical and scheduling flexibility—will likely expand your customer base.

 


Is your retail business ready to embrace the “next normal?”

COVID-19 disrupted the retail industry and brought about revelatory changes to the way consumers shop. The sudden arrival of these trends was unanticipated and challenging to embrace, and there’s still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and its long-term impact on the economy. But, businesses who embrace the waves of change will be better positioned for success in a post-pandemic world. Is your business ready for life in the “next normal?” Get the resources you need from Baer Performance Marketing: