3 Predictions on How Covid-19 Will Change Retail Forever

Contributed by Mark Hook, Global PR Director, Brightpearl.

 

In the midst of a global pandemic main street is struggling. From Gap to Staples, retailers large and small are trying to maintain their business and stay afloat, with many wondering about the long-term impact of coronavirus on the retail and ecommerce industry. Indeed, there are growing signs that the pandemic could impose permanent lasting change on retailers far beyond the end of the shutdown with the after effects of coronavirus changing how consumers shop and likely requiring merchants to innovate to keep pace.

 

Here, Derek O’Carroll, CEO, Brightpearl, spotlights three ways coronavirus will change American retailing forever…

Fewer Stores, More E-commerce

A recent report on coronavirus and consumer behavior found that 8% of so-called baby boomers are shopping online more. That doesn’t tell the whole picture though. Another study shows that overall, 60% consumers have purchased more goods since the shutdown began and some 39% of respondents also reported that they had been encouraged to purchase products online that they had not considered before, such as pet food, alcohol and shoes.

Online grocery is also now 10 percent of the total, up from 7 percent in the space of just a few weeks. Mintel expects the market to grow by a third this year. Experts also expect a chain of business failures among larger retailers, and an escalation in the decline of main street after the pandemic.

The changing nature of retail and change in consumer purchasing behaviour is leading to many retailers using the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to re-evaluate ecommerce operations and pivot quickly to remain competitive, and this will lead to fewer stores and more ecommerce.

 

Rapid Technology Adoption

The C19 crisis is forcing retailers to act much more quickly than they normally would.

As the world moves digital, entering into technology partnerships will become increasingly common. Digital transformation is something we’ve been talking about for a long time in retail, but many brands are swifty moving online – a quick glance at Shopify’s recent sales surge shows some merchants are quickly adapting operations to survive the coronavirus. Other retailers are opening up multiple channels online using Amazon Marketplace and eBay.

The shutdown is pushing consumers online and this creates a huge opportunity for smaller players, especially in niche sectors that traditionally didn’t operate purely online, like gardening and home fitness product suppliers. One such brand, Rep Fitness, based in Denver, has seen a triple digital increase in sales since the shutdown began.

Experts suggest more retailers will now take a deeper look at the tech stack and recruit new partners that can help ensure the entire retail operation is fit for purpose post C19. Leading analytics company Forrester even talks of the new era of the Digital Operations Platform, where legacy ERP is phased out for flexible platforms better suited to support modern digital business. In an era of rapid change, agile technology stacks will be vital for merchants to react quickly to the coronavirus challenge.

 

BOPIS Will Accelerate

Buy-online pick-up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup have become increasingly popular, but similar to e-grocery have seen a sharp increase because of coronavirus.

With more stores and restaurants beginning to  reopen and needing social distancing and safety measures in place, expect a major uptick in new zero contact BOPIS systems which allows guests to order their item online before collecting it safely from outside or via car delivery.

Retailers exploring the BOPIS model need to ensure they have in place the underlying technologies that enable a smooth transaction. This includes integrating BOPIS early in the checkout cycle as part of the range of buying options as well as the ability to implement accurate/real-time inventory management – it’s vital to have an accurate picture of which stores have what inventory so that shoppers can select the most convenient location and not be disappointed when they arrive at the location to pick up their product.

Even with BOPIS increasing over recent years, the necessity of using it now is likely to cause permanent adoption to spike. There are some major upsides to the model with regards to cost-saving opportunities for both the retailer and the consumer. More and more consumers are choosing to pick-up in store to save money and avoid the high shipping costs of next-day delivery.  According to Brian Cornell, CEO of US firm Target, when a customer orders online and uses BOPIS about 90% of the cost goes away. So, there are some hefty benefits for stores to keep the adoption of these services high – even when normality (eventually) returns.

 

Brightpearl is a retail operations platform for retailers and wholesalers with a clear mission to automate the back office so merchants can spend their time and money growing the business. Brightpearl’s complete back office solution includes financial management, inventory and sales order management, purchasing and supplier management, CRM, fulfillment, warehouse management and logistics.

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