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Retail in 2020 – how has the Coronavirus pandemic changed things?

  • November 23, 2020

When the coronavirus began to spread across China in the early part of the year, retailers in many countries were mostly concerned about their supply chains being disrupted. Being a manufacturing hub, numerous companies were dependent on China for a significant share of their products, or parts of them, and were concerned about factories being shuttered in China as part of measures to stop the spread. However, as the virus began to spread across the world, physical retail began to realize the magnitude of what is likely the greatest challenge faced by its modern iteration.

Unlike previous economic downturns, where stores were still in operation and an economic stimulus package could lift consumer sentiment resulting in an uptick in economic activity, the pandemic situation meant governments put in place lockdowns and social distancing regulations. Movement restrictions meant that consumers could not shop and non-essential stores (those other than pharmacies and grocery outlets) could not operate. This was also a challenge for governments as retail’s share of labor employment is large, and workers began to feel the heat of the economic downturn as well. Governments relaxed restrictions to allow workers to seek the employment they could while still receiving unemployment benefits, relaxing timings for essential stores and working hours for them to operate for longer, and even allowing for operations on Sundays.

As the pandemic began to draw out, numerous retailers saw their businesses go under. While lockdown measures were a significant reason for their collapse, many of them had problems prior to this, and events this year only pushed them over the edge. Even after lockdown measures were lifted in countries where the virus was still at large, consumers were wary of going to stores as they didn’t want to risk transmission of it. This saw a concurrent rise of e-commerce, which filled in the gap left by traditional retail.

Necessity is the mother of innovation:

Retailers too began to transition to omnichannel offerings, to reach consumers where they were. Curbside pickup, no contact delivery, offering online shopping options were some of the ways that traditional retailers began to innovate. Where their business involved offering services to their consumers, retailers began to offer virtual consultations. A prolonged period of staying at home saw people take up hobbies like gardening, and these consultations advised consumers on how they could go about their work. Where consumers were willing to shop personally, stores began to offer contactless payments to address concerns of distancing. Some of these offerings have been in place for some time, but the current situation has meant that they have become mainstream rapidly.

These, and other innovations from retailers, are necessary if they are to survive this pandemic and emerge stronger on the other side. Ecommerce has gained an advantage in this crisis because of the restrictions around movement affection retail stores, and physical retail needs to innovate to be resilient. Leveraging the advantages offered by the internet, addressing the needs of consumers and engaging with them to help them in their shopping experience, and innovating is what will ensure that retailers survive and emerge stronger on the other side. Every crisis is an opportunity to assess oneself and change according to the demands of the situation. And this crisis certainly mandates it. Physical retail should not only address the concerns that it is faced with today but also think about its role in the commerce of tomorrow and transform accordingly. Aiding in that necessary evolution is B2B2C’s mission. Stores have to address the concerns of shoppers who are anxious about shopping today, and they need to attract customers tomorrow and know their preferences to provide them with an elevated shopping experience. It is this, and more, that B2B2C helps retail stores with.

How will the future of retail be post-pandemic? What are the capabilities that stores need to secure their position in the commerce of tomorrow? And how does B2B2C Solutions help in providing stores with those capabilities are things we’ll be writing about next time.