The retail sector is one of the worst-hit industries during the pandemic. Major retail chains closed down over 12,000 locations in 2020 and incurred thousands of job losses. Although there has been a massive growth in e-commerce, retailers still record an overall sluggish growth compared to previous years.
However, as more cities open and relax their quarantine protocols, customers crave the pre-pandemic shopping experience. This drives more people to brick-and-mortar retail stores.
To make the most of the retail industry’s post-pandemic recovery, here are some strategies to consider.
Touch-Free Shopping Experience
Before the pandemic, shopping involved a lot of hands-on tasks. Shoppers fit clothes in the fitting room, eat food samples at the grocery store, and try cosmetics and perfume testers on the shelves. When the health crisis hit, things took a 180-degree-turn. Retailers are now focused on creating a shopping experience that minimized shared surfaces.
This is because it will take a long while before the pandemic fully recedes. Optimistic projections show that the COVID-19 situation may improve in 2023, but that is one of the best-case scenarios. So in the meantime, retailers find ways to make shopping safe for everyone.
As such, successful businesses invest in the touch-free shopping experience. These include contactless payments, which are made by tapping a card or payment-enabled device over a terminal. This drastically reduces the risk of cross-contamination, as paper bills may harbor pathogens.
Some retailers take it a step further with contactless or autonomous checkout, which doesn’t require the physical scanning of items. Instead, the stores use camera-based technology to track the items that shoppers pick up or put back on the shelf. The system automatically calculates the total, and payment is automatically credited through the shop’s app.
To control the number of people entering their physical stores, shops implement appointment shopping. In this scheme, the only customers allowed into the location are those with a confirmed appointment, usually booked online.
Apart from preventing overcrowding, appointment shopping also creates a personalized shopping experience. Because the number of people in the store is limited, the staff can provide better attention to each client. The customer, in turn, receives faster and more responsive services.
It also helps the store save time. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but most appointment-based shopping has time limits. Since employees provide faster services, you can meet your shopper’s needs in less time.
Capture the High Spender
High-spending customers are the ones who tend to engage in appointment shopping. If a shop has an automated online booking system, you provide high spenders with an easy pathway to purchase. In their perspective, this is a value-added service because they get dedicated services at their convenient hours.
Although people crave the in-person shopping experience, e-commerce retail doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. As such, any business planning advisory service would urge retailers to improve their digital streams, even if the pandemic recedes.
A report from eMarketer predicts the retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. will soar by 13.7% by the end of 2021, amounting to revenues of $908.73 billion.
Even retail categories that were badly hit by the lockdowns will thrive in the e-commerce landscape. For instance, sales for apparel and accessories dipped during quarantine because people focused on essentials. However, projections show that this category will grow by 18.9%, larger than the projected growth of food and beverage (18.1%) and personal care (16.1%).
In fact, the category that will grow the most in 2021 is books, music, and videos, with an estimated sales growth of 69.1%.
The pandemic saw the rise of “everything stores.” Many — but not all — retailers saw huge losses, but those that thrived have a common denominator: diverse offers. For instance, the sales of Target, Home Depot, and Walmart soared because their customers can get everything they need in one place.
The convenience that these retailers offer is invaluable during a pandemic. A shopper can access essentials, like food and household supplies, as well as items that get them through the quarantine, whether those are books, crafts supplies, puzzles, or cosmetics. If they have a home improvement project in mind, they could simply walk into an everything store and buy all the materials needed — paint, tools, and even décor.
Because they only visit one location, they interact with fewer people and reduce their risk of acquiring infections.
Experts do not doubt that the retail industry will recover. However, the pace of the recovery will depend not only on the pandemic but also on the strategy of retailers.