- Peri Avari
Future of the Retail Industry Post Pandemic
Updated: May 11
The retail industry, as a whole, generates around 25 trillion USD worldwide in sales, with e-commerce contributing 4.5 trillion USD (Source). As one would expect, the global pandemic saw a drop of 5.7% in retail sales overall, though some areas of basic need, like supermarkets, did see the highest increase in online sales.
While the role of e-commerce in retail is still smaller than that of physical stores, there is no denying that post-pandemic retail industry trends are moving from brick-and-mortar towards online retail.
E-commerce Trends Impacting Customer Experience Post Covid
A customer’s experience in online shopping revolves around the ability of a business to adopt key technologies that inspire the client to purchase their product, followed by timely delivery and post-sales support. Some of the fresh retail industry trends seen in e-commerce include:
Purpose and Social Responsibility are key drivers for today’s consumers, and many sectors of the retail industry have risen to the challenge with strong, relevant brand messaging and visuals around their product line.
Logistics and Delivery play an important role in e-commerce. Most customer experience is based on receiving their purchases in a timely fashion with the least hiccups. Using local vendors also helps small businesses avoid the pitfalls of delayed deliveries.
Warehouse Operations are helping businesses cut costs while repurposing their existing spaces to fulfill the increasing demands of e-commerce.
On-Point Pricing and Cost Optimization have retail companies offering a niche selection of well-priced products that create value for the customer while using all the resources at their disposal to keep their expenses low.
Subscription Models give businesses a chance to cater to the needs of their most loyal clients in a targeted manner.
The Undeniable Importance of Technology in Retail
The growth of e-commerce rides on the speed of technological advances in retail. Technology is a defining factor in how retail is changing. Some emerging trends in retail that make the online shopping experience more attractive include the following:
Players in the retail post-pandemic are looking for ways to give customers the same or better experience than shopping in person at a brick-and-mortar store. One of the quickest ways to serve a retail customer’s pain point is to give them the information they seek quickly and efficiently using chatbots.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
The ability to get close to a real-life touch-and-feel experience is important for retail clientele who consider shopping to be a tactile process. AR/VR technologies aim to fill that gap in online shopping and even take it one step further, enhancing the experience by allowing customers to view upcoming purchases in their personal lifestyles.
Home Assistants and Voice-Activated Technology
Most people have access to mobile automation and home assistants that make finding the right products much more seamless, giving consumers the capability to shop for the best coffee machine and the best carpet from their couch without lifting a finger. Ensuring their products show up in voice recognition searches is a major retail industry trend businesses are following to get a leg up in their marketing efforts.
Contactless Customer Experience
The pandemic has created a clear need for contact-free customer experiences in retail using apps and digital technology. Contactless customer journeys are the new normal in post-pandemic retail. Today, even a car purchase can be made without the need to visit a local dealership. It’s as simple as picking a car on an app, paying online, and having it delivered to your door.
Personalization and Machine Learning
Loyalty programs that reward clients for staying true to a brand or a store have always been in place. But the pace of machine learning and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technologies currently available make it simpler for everyone to have an even more personalized and targeted e-tail experience.
Not all technology is positive, but big data is unavoidable. Large chunks of consumer information are easily available to help businesses understand the buying patterns of their broader target segments.
Where Do ‘Brick-n-Mortar’ Stores Fit in Post-Pandemic Retail Industry?
Physical stores still make up a significant portion of the retail industry, but all the emerging trends in retail point to an increase in online shopping during this next decade. Growing technology options and the residual effect of pandemic lifestyles will assist in the growth of e-commerce as we move on.
One of the largest global retail markets, the United States saw the closing of around 15000 stores in the year 2020, with a continuing trend of closings in 2021.
Some of these factors will come into play as retail businesses move forward:
Adopting a hybrid model of commerce that includes well-structured online sites and physical locations that cater to a specific set of needs.
Changing the face of ‘brick-n-mortar’ to have less front-end and a larger back-end operation catering to the e-tail needs of their existing loyal clientele.
Restructuring the retail industry organization chart to have fewer layers and well-trained employees that are comfortable using technological tools available to them.
Looking for every opportunity to create customer loyalty through subscriptions or selling a service along with a product and vice-versa.
Using digital media to attract customers to their fewer physical locations.
Post-pandemic, retail businesses are looking at an exciting future of growth and innovation. Having a finger on the pulse of social and industry trends while constantly getting client feedback to create product improvements will be critical for businesses in every retail sector. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the final aim is to serve the needs of the customer.