Since the start of the Coronavirus, retail sales have been unpredictable. New information is constantly coming out regarding the virus which in turn has affected consumer behaviour from the initial panic buying, then an eCommerce plateau, to the slow growth back to normalcy. Along with the ups and downs of consumer shopping behaviour, retail has had to learn and adapt to new methods of selling to ensure safety and satisfaction for all.
The innovation in retail during the pandemic has led to a great number of businesses improving their online presence. eCommerce alone has seen a growth of 76% year over year since the ease of COVID restrictions. For companies that prefer the traditional route of in-store selling, precaution-methods have been taken to maximise the safety of both workers and customers.
Whether retail industries have chosen to go virtual or adapt their stores to meet COVID-19 safety requirements, most, if not all businesses have had to take action if they’ve wanted to survive during these times.
COVID-19 and Retail Innovation
The pandemic causing store closures across the globe has meant a race to create safe environments, both digitally and in-person, to compete against industry competitors.
Consumer safety has been a huge part of retail changes; companies have gone above and beyond to meet guidelines implemented by countries; United States’ CDC has instilled max-capacity numbers for grocery and retail stores, UK’s Department of Health and Social Care has reinforced the importance of social distancing and Italy’s Ministry of Health has given guidance on correct hygiene following a shopping trip.
COVID-19 being an airborne virus, stores abiding by national guidelines has overall led to safer shopping environments as well as easing the worry of spreading any germs to one another. Companies that have chosen to completely shift to online stores have ultimately reduced any danger down to nothing for customers and their workers.
5 Tips on Retail Innovations
Through different approaches and retail innovation case studies amidst Covid-19, industries can learn from these examples and apply them to their own companies to combat against the obstacles the virus has created, all while maintaining safety and customer satisfaction.
Go Digital: Business Insider has stated, “In the most recent May 1–3 survey, 51% of total respondents — 60% of those ages 18 to 34, 64% of those ages 35 to 49, and 34% of those ages 65 and up – reported increased usage on certain social media platforms.”
From these results, any retail industry can see what the benefits of utilising a store website would be. With more traffic online, retail has the opportunity to increase their presence and potentially boost revenue for themselves. For a company starting their first online shop, it’ll be important for brands to research Coronavirus marketing while promoting themselves on social media platforms. For instance, Guinness connected with their audience by creating a Youtube video to help people ‘stick together’ during these times.
Outside Dining: For restaurants and small eateries that are capable of moving tables outdoors, this is a great alternative to safely serve customers. Setting up tables at least 6-feet apart will minimise the chances of germs spreading, while workers practice safe measures by wearing their face masks to ensure maximum safety and hygiene between guests and other employees. Remember to also provide shade for customers by investing in umbrellas and tents to keep everyone cool and dry during the summer months. Eateries in New York have even turned to rooftop-only dining, such as Ampia Rooftop, which recently created mini-greenhouses that two guests can share as they dine safely away from other customers.
Capacity: All retail stores need to be aware of the amount of people they are allowing into their buildings to practice safe social distancing. In London, after three months of closure, the department store Harrods has installed technology that warns the shop when it’s close to reaching max-capacity. The store cap is currently at 4,500 people from the originally 80,000 capacity before the outbreak but will allow shoppers to safely be introduced back into a normal way of life.
Robot Integration: Since the uproar of workers at Instacart, companies have been working hard to incorporate artificial intelligence into their services. The Instacart workers had shed light on the unsafe nature of making deliveries during the height of COVID-19, which many industries are taking into account now for their own workers well-being. Autonomous robots are being integrated into retail work using this technology for delivery, cleaning, and accounting for inventory. A CVS Pharmacy in Texas has recently trialled self-driving services to deliver prescription medication to customers’ homes, after evaluation, this service is hoped to be implemented into more CVS’ in the area.
BOPIS: Buy online, pick up in-store will be utilized by a handful of industries moving forward. Starbucks, for example, was promoting customers to use their mobile app to buy coffee and only come to the location when their orders were ready for pick-up. This created a safe atmosphere for workers as well as a seamless experience for customers picking up. More stores are producing services online and through apps to allow customers to fully utilize BOPIS, keeping both workers and customers safe.
Most retail stores have become overwhelmingly concerned with following national guidelines and keeping staff and customers safe throughout this crisis. Innovation in retail during the pandemic continues to be made every day, and is likely to have long-term, if not permanent effects on future shopping and consumer experiences.
Ultimately, retail has worked to create the safest, most efficient experience a customer could have, from drive-thru pick-ups, online-only services to numerous new guidelines and precautions when in stores; moving forward, innovation in retail during the pandemic has significantly altered shopping experiences but will ultimately keep people safe and prepared for any future crisis years to come.