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COVID-19 is Changing the Future of Retail

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on the way we live. Not only is the pandemic affecting our way of life now, but many of these changes will be a part of our lives well after the current crisis.

Retail is one industry that has seen some of the most dramatic changes as the result of COVID-19. These businesses have had to adapt quickly. Brick-and-mortar locations have had to find ways to continue serving customers and retail app developers are looking for ways to adjust online shopping experiences for people who are staying at home.

While some of these changes will be temporary, many of them will become a lasting part of the normal retail experience. In this post, we will look at some of the ways shopping has changed and the strategies that have been used to adapt.

Shifts in Buying Behavior

Running a retail business became very challenging as states started to issue stay-at-home orders and social distancing policies. Some businesses had to close and others had to adapt by offering services like delivery or curbside pick-up.

If you look at the online retail sector, you will also see significant changes to buying behavior. The purchasing of things like luggage, cameras and swimwear saw dramatic decreases when compared to this time last year. On the other hand, we see increases in the purchasing of clothes, toys and home/garden supplies.

Many of these trends will reverse, but some of them will be slow to regain traction. Businesses are also going to continue with some of the innovations and adaptations that helped them make it through the pandemic.

Moving to Digital 

Retail has been going digital for some time now. With that said, the shift to online shopping has grown considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers who either couldn’t or didn’t want to go out to shop started buying more online and businesses are responding by building out their online presence.

In a survey from Salesforce, 44% of respondents said they are doing more of their shopping online. For many of these shoppers, this is not just a temporary solution. Consumers are expected to continue with this shift toward online shopping even after the pandemic has run its course.

This means that investments in digital will be more important for retail businesses than they were before the pandemic. Businesses will have to invest more in their websites. They might need to consider developing an app if they don’t have one and they will have to consider expanding their online presence through social media and on other digital touchpoints.

A Seamless Online Experience

Retail businesses that invest in online assets will fare better than those that do not. However, there is more to it than just having a website or an app. Businesses need to build a consistent experience through all digital touchpoints. Whether customers are interacting with your brand on your website, an app, a chatbot or through a digital voice assistant, they need to know what to expect and the experience needs to be convenient.

Beyond creating an experience that works well across every platform, businesses will need to put more of an emphasis on personalization and the buyer’s journey. You’ll have to create content that speaks to the individual and have the ability to deliver it to the consumer at the right time and on the right platform.

Retail businesses shouldn’t view COVID-19 as a temporary problem. It might be some time before physical retail stores can expect to see traffic that compares to pre-pandemic levels. If many of these businesses are to survive, they will have to adapt and find ways to reach customers in their homes.