Updated: May 10, 2021
Retailers are facing challenging times. As we emerge from national lockdowns and brick-and-mortar retail opens up, many people are still reluctant to visit stores for fear of contracting COVID-19. On top of that, the United States is now officially in a recession. How can retailers not only survive, but thrive in the coming months?
Digitization – With physical locations now carrying a risk of disease, online shopping has become more important than ever. Retailers need to offer the same great experience online that shoppers have come to expect inside a store. They also need the infrastructure to back it up, which is why buy-online-pickup-in-store and last-mile delivery have suddenly become much more important for retailers to get right, and consequently have become a huge opportunity for a startup to dominate.
Supply Chain Improvements – The shutdowns caused by the pandemic have opened the eyes of retailers to just how fragile their supply chains can really be. Historically, innovation in supply chain has been focused on a single goal: how can we make the supply chain more efficient to cut costs? Now, retailers are investing in improving the resiliency and flexibility of the supply chain so they aren’t cut off at the knees next time a disruptive event occurs.
Re-imagining The In-Store Experience – While the online experience is becoming more important, the majority of purchases are still being made in a physical store. So how do retailers entice customers back in? Some stores are already implementing mask policies, plastic shields, and hastily taped signs encouraging customers to stay six feet apart. But these are stop-gap measures. In the longer term, retailers will need to figure out how to make customers comfortable coming into a store, whether that means self-cleaning interactive displays, making reservations for shopping so customers can zip in and out, or hyper-personalized shopping experiences customers don’t want to miss. Only time will tell how retail will emerge from this pandemic, but it has undoubtedly changed forever.