This post originally appeared on Raydiant.com‘s Re-opening of Brick and Mortar series which interviews top retail industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the sector.
WHAT WILL THE RE-OPENING OF RETAIL LOOK LIKE?
CZ: We are already seeing the phased approach to re-opening in retail, where stores are starting with curbside pickup and now some are moving to temperature checks before customers enter the store, as well as limiting the number of customers to 20% to start. I believe that we will see this continue throughout the summer. Curbside pickup is here to stay, so we will see companies continue innovation in and around curbside pickup.
WHAT SHOULD RETAILERS BE DOING NOW TO PREPARE FOR THE RE-OPENING?
CZ: In my opinion, retailers should have already begun strategic planning for curbside pickup strategies, how to keep their employees and customers safe/healthy, build on their eCommerce solutions, as well as put together a plan for if and when another outbreak should happen. I know that the safety of employees and customers is number one on their lists, and rightfully so. Consumers will return with a very large concern about personal safety – A report in April stated that 31% of them cited this as their #1 concern returning to pre-crisis commerce activities.
HOW WILL COVID-19 IMPACT CONSUMER BEHAVIOR OVER THE LONG TERM?
CZ: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumers’ relationships with their connected devices, making them more reliant on their mobile phones, laptops and desktop computers to help them remotely shop and pay for their purchases.
It’s a true shift – quickly – from brick and mortar to digital commerce. The result? A considerable uptick in the share of consumers who use digital channels to complete their purchases. The number of orders placed online and picked up at stores by customers surged 208% between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales in the U.S. jumped 49% from March 12 to April 11, compared with a baseline from March 1 to March 11.
WHAT WILL BE THE LASTING EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON BRICK AND MORTAR RETAIL?
CZ: In the same way 9/11 brought about lasting changes to the travel industry, I believe COVID-19 will do the same for retail. Technology will drive this evolution. We will see more checkout-free and touch-free shopping, as well as more investments in experiences that reduce the need for physical interaction in-store. Also, moving forward, I think that retail stores are going to become fulfillment centers. Also, as mentioned previously, curbside pickup is here to stay. I really expected consumers and businesses to adapt to curbside pickup somewhere between 2022 and 2024 – I’m talking like true adoption. COVID-19 has made that a reality in just one month.
WHAT RETAIL TECHNOLOGIES WILL SEE ADOPTION ACCELERATED DUE TO COVID-19?
CZ: We are hearing how smart lockers and mobile smart lockers will be used more for customer pick-up instead of the costs of delivery to various places. We are also reading more and more about trunk delivery of groceries and packages – even food! – where the goods are parked at work or at a home and the delivery is placed securely in the trunk. Drones are being used more and more to get packages from fulfillment centers to delivery vehicles for what I call that last yard delivery.
Only time will tell which of these innovations will prevail, but one thing is certain – the demand will only rise – and rise much quicker now, thanks in part to this epidemic.