The future of retail in the post-COVID world
Global reality changed radically during the coronavirus pandemic. The danger is still not completely gone, but there is no doubt it shifted many businesses and changed consumer habits forever. Today we want to focus on retail — the basic pillar of the economy and one of the main industries that were influenced by Covid-19.
Nowadays, we can buy almost anything, no matter where we are. Due to globalization, we are not surprised to see tropical fruits in European supermarkets or that we purchase clothes from a brand that was founded in America. For many people, going to the mall is a form of entertainment and one of the best ways to spend their free time. But what happens when suddenly you can’t visit all your favorite stores?
What changed during the pandemic
That’s exactly what happened when the world started to fight the new virus outbreak. Almost every country recommended to stay at home and isolate. Many shops got completely closed, except for grocery and drug stores. Many businesses suffered incredible decreases in revenue and had to rethink their strategies for this year. People started to lose jobs so their desires when it comes to non-essential purchases had to be muted. Everything happened suddenly, so there was almost no time to prepare beforehand.
Let’s be honest — traditional retail was already evolving before the Covid-19 outbreak. Thanks to technological growth, we gained new ways of buying things or not buying them. Shifting to online shopping was one thing, but growing ecological trends made people reconsider their consumer behaviors and change some of their habits. Sharing economy, renting certain products — these are also dangers for retail as we knew it until recently.
Some categories of goods suffered more than others — that’s obvious. Food, cosmetics, fitness equipment, educational materials (for homeschooling) — they were definitely on the top of demanded products.
Now we will analyze trends that were born or became extremely popular during the pandemic and try to determine which ones are here to stay. What made the future of retail different because of Covid-19?
E-commerce acceleration and evolving consumer behaviors
72% of people with internet access buy stuff online. According to research, if you ask someone where they purchased their last product or service, 60% will answer that it was in an e-commerce store. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these statistics grew 27%. Being available to your clients in the digital environment is a must.
Changing consumer behaviors mean that e-commerce stores need to optimize their processes to make them even more intuitive and user-friendly. They simplify checkouts, provide better security measures and find more ways to turn customers that visit their shop occasionally into loyal ones.
The growth in the e-commerce sector is visible and dynamic at the moment and there is no way to predict when it will stabilize. Until then, all the digital shops should look for ways to lead the clients to them. And everyone who is not online yet needs to quickly rethink their business strategy.
Gathering information about potential clients
E-commerce businesses based their operations on customer profiles for years. And they used various techniques to collect information about their preferences, needs and desires. In times of lockdown, analyzing this data might become a crucial factor for growth in online retail. Knowing more and more about potential clients helps to create a perfect, tailor-made offer for each one of them.
Different pickup methods
Social distance is still recommended and many citizens are willing to comply. Sellers that want to keep personal, face-to-face relationships with their clients might not survive post-epidemic changes. People prefer to pick up their goods in a safe, contactless way. That means significant growth in the industry that includes post offices and postmen, courier companies and delivery services.
In Poland, InPost was a company that could proudly announce its success during Covid-19 thanks to its innovative service called Parcel Lockers. These machines allow people to receive packages without seeing or talking to anyone. And thanks to the remote locker opening feature, customers don’t even have to touch the machine’s computer screen which promotes hygiene and safety during the pandemic. Check out how we created this app for them and why it’s such a success in our blog article about that!
For many companies, introducing a drive-through model or curbside pickup will be the only way to safely deliver their products and goods to their clients. 25% of consumers admitted that click-and-collect is one of the most important options when looking for a suitable e-commerce store.
Recreating offline relations in an online environment
Small businesses and big companies approach the e-commerce world with bigger courage and they are looking for ways to maintain vivid relationships with their clients. Direct engagement during a lockdown is not impossible thanks to social media platforms that allow brands to organize creative marketing campaigns, provide personalized customer service and offer exclusive bargains to their followers.
Online presence is everything not only during the pandemic and after it. Modern websites, feature-rich mobile applications, user-friendly websites and web platforms help to grow sales and allow the clients to identify with the brand. Without visibility and accessibility, an online seller can’t even dream about success. And when people can’t leave their homes it becomes essential.
The technological outburst will support e-commerce activities
The fact that thanks to technology we can buy things online is just the beginning of a revolution. Artificial intelligence with algorithms like machine learning can change the way products and services are sold on the internet. They analyze every piece of data that is collected in the whole process of purchasing and look for relevant conclusions that can help to make it more efficient.
Cloud computing helps e-commerce stores to scale their operations and offer thousands of products to millions of users. Augmented reality (AR) can enhance online shopping experience — for example by giving furniture buyers a chance to visualize their new purchases in their homes. There are already first tests of robots as delivery machines — think autonomous cars or drones instead of couriers. Thanks to technology, pandemic lockdown becomes less annoying — because we can compensate for the lack of experiences we would have outside our homes with the possibilities it brings to us. And even after the pandemic, we will want all these conveniences to stay.
The trends we mentioned above are indeed interesting and rather unpredictable — everything can change, as we could see when the pandemic came out of nowhere. And of course, these are not all the changes you can expect — just the most crucial ones. What will never be different is taking care of consumer’s needs and desires — that’s the main purpose of any business, not only e-commerce. Each change brings new chances to grow business, provide better service and become a market leader — it’s up to us how we will use these new opportunities.
If your decision in 2020 is to build an app or a website, we can help. Contact us and tell us what you need exactly. With software products developed at iteo, you can be sure you will thrive during the pandemic and long after it.