Unique Retail Opportunities in the Post-Pandemic World

More than a million people have received the COVID-19 vaccine. This number will only grow in the coming days.

The world is preparing to move on from a terrible year. Terrible for people, communities and businesses in general. Retailers in particular have faced a great amount of adversity this year.

Stay-at-home orders coupled with an economic turmoil made it tough to create a steady stream of revenue. To their credit, many retailers have braved through an unprecedented crisis and have proven themselves to be extremely resilient.

Although businesses are waiting for things to go back to ‘normal’, it is believed that the ‘new normal’ is here to stay.

Emerging Retail Trends After the Pandemic

A recent survey by UNCTAD shows customer behavior wouldn’t change that much once the pandemic is over.

The market has evolved greatly in the past few months, But that’s necessarily not a bad thing. New opportunities waiting to be capitalized by anyone willing to make the required adjustments.

Here’s are some retail trends to look out for in the post-COVID world:

1.  The Marriage of Online and Offline Retail

According to different studies, the on-going pandemic has sped up digitalization by roughly five years. eCommerce was already giving a tough time to brick-and-mortar with many experts calling for a ‘retail apocalypse”. The virus further accelerated this shift.

Old shoppers that were once hesitant to buy online had no choice when the stay-at-home orders were issued. This meant a whole new demographic was introduced to the wonders of eCommerce.

Businesses that never cared much for online shopping were forced to digitalize. With new entrants in the market, the competition increased further. Nowadays, it’s not just enough to have an online store. Your website should be intuitive and user-friendly. Customers should be able to search for a product and put in their order without much effort.

On the flip side, eCommerce might also want to establish a physical presence in the post-pandemic world. People who have been stuck at home all this time may wish to experience in-store shopping again.

Going forward, retailers would have to take an omnichannel approach and create an environment where in-store and online shopping complement one another.

2.  Personalized Customer Service

Already, high-end stores put in a great effort in personalizing shopping of luxury goods such as jewelry, cars and designer clothing. But this is about to change thanks to the rapid digitalization that has occurred in recent months.

Technology is bringing forth an era where personalization isn’t something that’s limited to Louis Vuittons and Porsches. Instead, even small businesses can apply algorithms to single out regular customers and target them with specialized offers.

This means rather than creating a single offer and disseminating it across the internet, businesses will determine which shoppers can be won over with a BOGO deal and which will prefer a discount. Perhaps creating a dedicated coupon marketing campaign might be in order for businesses who previously ignored this mode of promotion.

Regardless, ultra-personal marketing with the help of emerging technologies will be the way to go in 2021.

3.  Safe and Hygienic Retail Points

Since customers aren’t changing their buying behavior —it’s safe to assume some of their other pandemic mannerism will continue for a long time. In particular, a number of buyers will continue to remain conscious of environmental hygiene.

Dirty stores with people crammed into a small space won’t cut it anymore. Retailers would have to invest in establishments which are clean and allow customers to have some personal space.

COVID-19 has left a lasting impact on people’s social behavior, one that calls for a renewed focus on safe, hygienic and spacious retail stores.

4.  Buy Online Pickup at Curbside (BOPAC)

Data from Signifyd’s Commerce show curbside pickup orders increased by 450% within the month of a pandemic. While this number did decline later —it was 275% higher than pre-pandemic mode nearly four months later.

This shows that customers have taken a liking to this mode of shopping even though it was a rarity before COVID-19. It is not far-fetched to suggest that BOPAC is in a similar stage where eCommerce was a few years back.

Online shopping was ‘nice to have’ before it became an absolute necessity. Curbside pickup is on a similar trajectory where retailers who capitalize on its popularity will be big winners in the long run.

5.  AR-Driven Innovation

Before a deadly virus forced the world to socially isolate, Augmented Reality (AR) was used by retailers to create a buzz and paint themselves as ‘futuristic’. From IKEA and Home Depot to Louis Vuitton, a number of brands provided the ability to preview products from home.

But it was a marketing ploy that not a lot of customers took seriously. Flash forward to March and beyond, AR has transformed into an essential technology for retailers. Social distancing has forced retailers to regard Augmented Reality as a serious marketing tool.

In May of this year, Kohl created a special AR Virtual Closet in partnership with Snapchat. Anyone who had Snapchat installed could step inside this dressing room to mix and match items. If one liked what they saw, they could purchase directly from the app.

This AR-driven innovation would have good use in future too. Customers who are in a hurry or don’t feel like taking a trip to the store would greatly benefit from something like Kohl’s Virtual Closet.

As retailers seek to build more immersive shopping experiences, AR would prove to be a great weapon in their arsenal.

6.  Eco-Friendly Retailing

“The future belongs to Generation Z and they care deeply about the environment,” says Alex Reynolds of EMUCoupon. “If you’re running a business in 2021 and aren’t focused on sustainability and eco-friendliness, you have slim chances of success,” he explains.

According to “The State of Consumer Spending” report, 73% of Generation Z and 68% of Millennials are willing to pay more for eco-friendly goods. This is the reason sustainable eCommerce brands are emerging left, right and center.

Proof is an eyewear brand that takes raw material from sustainable forests, used skateboards and cotton-based acetate. Likewise, Nau (pronounced “now”) sells sustainable apparel that’s also fashionable and practical. Startups such as these are growing overnight, showing that sustainability and retail need to go hand in hand.

Conclusion

Even though 2020 has been a challenging time, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The post-pandemic environment will create unique opportunities for retailers. Those who will capitalize on the emerging trends through innovation and ingenuity will thrive in the COVID-free world

Here’s to better times ahead!