The Impact of COVID-19 on the Retail Industry

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What the world expects from your business has changed dramatically over the past year. During a time when most retail stores have struggled tremendously just to stay afloat, these new expectations have necessitated increased sanitization and cleaning as well as a more catered approach to customer service, both in-store and online. Consumers are expected to spend almost the same amount of money in 2021 as they did in 2019, but you’ll have to adapt to the new landscape to make sure they’re spending that money with you.

 

Retailers who get on board with the accelerated evolution of sales are more likely to thrive this year and beyond. So what big trends did the pandemic bring to light?

 

Transition to Digital

 

This one may seem obvious, but we have to mention it. Even small, local businesses have to be online today with adequate digital infrastructure to support the growing demand for online accessibility. An omnichannel approach (a strategy that puts your brand in front of the consumer on multiple channels online and offline) brings more traffic to local businesses and prepares you for the next wave of transformation. You can accommodate the shift to e-commerce and future-proof your store with distribution spaces, curbside pickup, subscription services and “pay later” models. New touch-free tech and other developments that reduce operational costs can help facilitate your upgrades.

 

Operational Cost

 

Some of the new tech out there is designed to help businesses save money, which is essential after the type of financial year 2020 was. Some effective cost-saving measures could be right in front of your eyes—or in this case, above your head. Swapping out your outdated lighting for LEDs can save up to 50% of your lighting costs. Businesses who implement controls systems with new LED lighting can save an additional 20%. Not only can LEDs reduce your operational expenses, but better lighting throughout your store can improve the customer experience, support safety and make merchandise look more appealing.

 

Germaphobia

 

The lingering threat of COVID-19 continues to dictate store policy and operations. Retailers are cleaning, providing sanitizer, requiring masks and enforcing social distancing. What precautions will shoppers demand even when COVID is no longer running rampant through the aisles? Start preparing now by optimizing your store layout to prevent bottlenecks and accommodate social distancing in high-traffic areas. Implementing a more permanent sanitization solution will make your location more attractive to local consumers. For example, using intelligent controls can help you identify the most high-traffic areas where you should focus your cleaning and sanitization efforts.

 

In-Homing

 

In-homing is when consumers bring home the activities that they used to engage retailers for. For example, in 2020, we saw a lot of home gym equipment being purchased. Instead of going out to the coffee shop, people started enjoying a cup in the kitchen. In-homing will probably see a correction when conditions are safe because consumers are expected to be eager to return to normal life, but you might consider diversifying your major sellers if you rely on any of the products or services that have been replaced.

 

Curbside Pickup

 

Digital transformation in retail began long before COVID hit, but once it did, services like curbside pickup became absolutely essential for both the retailer and the consumer. This innovative combination of e-commerce convenience and immediate, touch-free delivery is not likely to fade away now that the general public has experienced the joy of sitting on the sofa to do their shopping.

 

Customer Experience

 

A mostly intentional and highly impactful effect of the accelerated transition to digital was a massively amplified customer experience. Surviving retailers emerged with new tools meant to bridge the gap between merchants and consumers. In doing so, they opened up a world of convenience and options. Many consumers abandoned brand loyalties in favor of retailers who could meet their needs. Putting your best foot forward now can increase your new customer acquisition and provide financial security for the future. As we continue to recover, the retailers who thrive will be the ones who differentiate themselves on a customer experience level.

 

Are you ready to upgrade your retail space to prepare for the next wave of customer expectations? Contact us for more information on how LED lighting and intelligent controls can help you save money while improving your store.

 

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