08th Oct, 2021
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- The pandemic has forced some everlasting changes that will redefine retail in the modern world
- Key trends shaping retail operations post-pandemic are digital technology, hygiene awareness, and the need for personalization in customer experiences
- Orchestrating contactless payments and last-mile delivery processes will help retailers stay relevant down the line
The term ‘agility’ becomes pivotal in the current dynamic environment while navigating the lockdowns and keeping up with home and the work. Agility is not only crucial for survival but a necessity to access opportunities on the move. In the age of disruptions, retailers seemingly look to embrace a customer-first approach and create frictionless buying models. They are now reining in the digital ecosystem to empower employees and create personalized experiences to drive greater revenue.
The covid-19 pandemic has accelerated 10 years of change in the retail industry within a year and a half. Old plans were shelved, and new models were created to overcome the restrictions imposed by the contagion. Read this blog to discover emerging trends and opportunities in the retail sector directly from the industry veterans and retail experts. Also, get an inside scoop on how brands optimize customer experiences to drive trust, brand loyalty, and sales.
Landmark changes within the retail landscape
Fundamentally, the moments of change or disruption that last forever comes rarely in life. In this sense, the covid-19 plague represents an unprecedented event of long-lasting disruptions for retail businesses worldwide. The spread of the virus brought significant change in the market dynamics and made retailers pause, reevaluate, and reengineer their modus operandi. The pandemic caught brands off-guard as the government imposed restrictions on movement, social gathering, and stay-at-home advisories. In the context of retail, there were a few trends that stood out among others, namely:
The first exciting trend that the industry witnessed was a sudden shift towards digital. The closing of stores and reduced footfalls made digital technology mainstream in the business. Prior to the global health crisis, digital was peripheral, but today digital and online shopping is the norm.
The health scare and the lockdown measures compelled shoppers to switch to online retailers even for their regular grocery needs. Companies like Grofers, Big Basket, and Swiggy capitalized on the newfound opportunities and expanded their supply chain arrangements to meet customers’ increasing needs right at their doorstep. This phenomenon, however, was limited to large metro cities, and some extent, in tier-2 cities.
The second change that happened in the trade has been an increasing awareness about hygiene. Customers no longer want to shop in a crowded store. They are wary of coming in close contact with others and looking for safe shopping and check-out options. This forced retailers to develop contactless buying and payment models built on the back of UPI and digital payment mechanisms.
The third and most important trend witnessed by the retail industry was change in customer experiences. Today there is a much greater need for personalization to nudge a prospect into buying a product.
Rise of the internet and digital shopping channels has exposed consumers to a heap of information about everything. Customers can quickly look up product information on price, specification, reviews, etc., directly on their smartphones. Therefore, customers now expect a knowledgeable experience at the store level. They want an expert sales assistant to help them decide, offer live product demos, and price transparency. Physical stores have evolved as a place of socializing, a concept rationalized as retail entertainment that in turn has fueled the need among retailers to build richer customer experience.
Rise of last-mile delivery and contactless payment options
The two immediate changes identified within the retail industry after the pandemic are the return of offline shopping and contactless payment options. As the covid-19 virus nears its endemic stage, an extra spurt in offline shopping is expected. This trend has already picked pace in countries like the USA, where online commerce declined to 11% compared to 16% in 2020. However, this needed fundamental changes in the offline retail space, especially on the payments front. The majority of consumers shopping making a purchase offline today prefer swift and contactless payment mechanisms. This has supported the mandate for improving connectivity and installing contactless payment models at the stores to manage the crowd amidst the virus scare.
Secondly, there is an impending threat of disintegration in the last mile retailers, particularly the mom-and-pop stores. The disintegration is powered through a blend of contactless payment and last-mile delivery chains making home deliveries a business-critical ingredient in the modern retail mix. Orchestrating digital payments and home delivery processes, therefore, will be crucial for offline retailers to stay relevant in the future.
In the light of the above points, it is safe to say that retail operations are divided in terms of online shopping vs offline shopping. A careful blend of digital with the traditional business model is integral to driving personalization and add value for the customers. While the payment structure is streamlined in online retail, offline retailers must push for contactless and easy payment options to maximize conversions. Reluctant store owners failing to implement UPI and digital payment models will suffer a decline in sales and brand loyalty.