Our world has changed.
And retail has and will need to evolve with it.
The unprecedented worldwide pandemic has drastically changed how we live and shop, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
What changes in behaviors will remain the new ‘normal’ as the number of COVID-19 cases drop and stores begin to reopen? Certainly some shifts are already beginning to happen, now they’ve accelerated. But also new changes that we haven’t expected before.
In this post we’ll explore 3 ways COVID-19 has and will continue to change retail. Taking a look at the BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) strategy, that’s evolved from the spike in ecommerce. As well as the impacts of a pandemic on the consumer’s shopping habits. And how retailers and brands can build loyalty by embracing an omnichannel approach to connect with customers digitally and in store.
New challenges also brings new solutions. We also highlight the BOPIS: DESIGN CHALLENGE. Retail concepts to tackle the spread of infection and appealing to shopper’s desire for convenience.
Change 1- Rise of BOPIS: Buy Online Pickup In Store
COVID-19 didn’t introduce BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-instore) but it did blast it into everyday shoppers lexicon. Online shopping has been growing exponentially for years and the nationwide shelter – in -place orders has only proven that it’s the future, not a fading trend.
In late March of 2020, research and consulting firm Retail Systems Research conducted a study of 1,200 consumers which determined 90% of shoppers were hesitant to shop in stores because of the coronavirus and 45% expected online shopping would be a necessity for them during the crisis. As the anxiety around the spread of COVID-19 continues, shoppers of all ages will try and transition to the digital commerce space, especially as older shoppers realize the convenience that they haven’t experienced before.
Convenience also mean speed and ease for the customer, and the retailer. Not all products are available for shipping, not to mention the environmental costs if all orders we shipped. The pandemic has affected shipping delays with increased safety for employees and customer have been complaining for long wait times. In March, Grocery store chain, Kroger announced they would no longer fulfill deliveries and converted to click-and-collect for high-demand items.
Retailers that were ahead of the curve and started to incorporate a BOPIS strategy are now capitalizing on it. Of the 208 store-based retailers in the Top 1000 E-retailers, only 7.7% had the capability by the end of 2019 so retailers like Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 10), The Michaels Companies (No. 220) and Joann.com (No. 336) have had to introduce curbside pick up. While other big-retailers such as Target, Walmart and Home Depot have been promoting the convenience of their pickup services and mobile ordering.
Change 2 – Change In Shopper’s Buying Habits
COVID-19 has not only changed the way people shop but also what they’re shopping for.
According to research by ViaBill, a service provider for retailers, reveals increases in sales for fashion (106%), computer and accessories (50%), health and wellness products (34%) and home and garden (16%) products. The service provider contributes the results as a need for consumers to maintain a sense of normalcy in their troubling times.
Social distancing has also affected spending in general. 43% of Americans are using shopping as a way to reduce stress with “comfort buying.” And spending non-essential money on entertainment and alcohol. And in mid-April, Walmart and Target are reporting increased demand gaming devices, clothing and TVs, and even bikes and sewing machines.
All this shopping is in preparation for a new way of life, one that prefers space instead of crowds; cordial distance instead of casual handshakes. Which makes shopping indoors potentially uncomfortable. A challenge for retailers, especially since space is limited. However, it can be an opportunity if outdoor space is available.
Change 3 – Innovating To Drive Customer Loyalty
This is a critical time for retail.
It brings both challenges and opportunity. The companies that are willing to invest in new approaches to engage with customers will not only survive but thrive. In a May 12th, 2020 conversation with Peter Paine, former leader of eBay and Walmart, ” The benefit for retailers to list their stores on a large-scale marketplace is that they can significantly expand their e-commerce presence on such marketplace sites, leveraging online traffic to these big brands gets them more exposure. One of the more interesting examples is that even large marketplace brands such as eBay lists their store on Sears. Think about it – it’s like opening another (very large) online store.”
By capitalizing on digital platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to promote products and recommend retailers both online and brick and mortar. This is an opportunity for retailers and brands to combine their efforts to maximize their marketing ROI.
Bringing The Experience Outside
But what if customer can’t enter stores or are too scared to? How do you engage them if they can’t walk through the aisles? And how can a brand/product have more time to connect with customers?
In a challenge, comes an opportunity.
Shoppers now face a reality of long waits, for packages or in lines outside stores.
When it comes to outdoor space, some stores are providing enclosed or covered kiosks for curbside pickups. While, a vast number use a painted 2×4 lumber stick, sitting a concrete-filled bucket approach. It’s a missed opportunity.
COVID-19 has brought challenges but a new opportunity to engage customers along every step of the shopping experience. From the lines to get into the store to the pickup station.
For the August edition of, Wayfind, a bi-monthly e-magazine filled with insights, trends, and predictions from customer experience experts, WD Partners asked 1,500 consumers what they want in a BOPIS experience. Of the 8 concepts up for debate the drive-thru experience received 57% of the vote. Second was a pick-up center similar to Home Depot’s locker system that allows shipment from multiple retailers to 1 location.
Convenience is key and outdoor rings supreme.
For more information on WD’s POV on all things BOPIS: http://www.wdpartners.com/pov/bopis/
To see the complete study on BOPIS, check out this white paper: http://www.wdpartners.com/research/the-next-killer-app-stores/
Our world has been forced into a re-evaluating our lifestyles and priorities at an individual level as well as from a business (small and large).
As we adapt a consumers to manage the spread of COVID-19, it’s played a role in what we buy and how we buy it. And business will evolve to link the digital and real world experience. To thrive in this new environment, retailers have and will continue to look for every opportunity to enhance the shopping experience from the inside out.
What other ways do you see retail changing after COVID-19?
We’d love to hear your ideas.
And if you’re looking to explore quick, cost-effective retail solutions to help your brand or retailer adapt to this new trend, contact us benchmarcretail.com.
For more design, material and tech trends in retail, check out our blog: https://www.benchmarcretail.com/blog/
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