The widespread shutdowns of public spaces across the country – including retail locations – left owners of nonessential retail establishments wondering how they could
keep the lights on. Though many were able to secure government funding, adapt to new safety guidelines, and take their stores online, many others closed. As a result,
the way people shop may never be the same again.
Online shopping is more important than ever
Shopping for goods and services online is nothing new, but the pandemic accelerated the rate at which business owners opened e-commerce shops and consumers shopped
online. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the NetComm Suisse e-Commerce
Association, online sales have “increased by 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. “The changes we make now will have
lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover.”
While there was growth in many sectors, the researchers warned that spending per shopper “dropped markedly,” as shoppers were “focusing more on essential products.”
The study suggests that companies that can operate online, regardless of sector, will be able to thrive in 2021.
“Companies that put e-commerce at the heart of their business strategies are prepared for the post-COVID-19 era,” said Yomi Kastro, founder and CEO of Inveon. “There
is an enormous opportunity for industries that are still more used to physical shopping, such as fast-moving consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.”
As e-commerce grows, brick-and-mortar stores will be restructured
Since online shopping will continue to be a driving factor, businesses of all sizes could be forced to reconsider how they set up their brick-and-mortar locations. In
previous years, the idea for most successful businesses was to start with a single location before branching out to surrounding areas.
Melissa Gonzalez, a retail strategist and the CEO of The Lionesque Group, believes brands and retailers will “take a more holistic look” at their physical stores this
year. That focus, she says, will create a “more diversified approach to how they show up nationally and globally.”
“Capital allocation will have a tiered process where flagship destinations will exist in locales where there is evidence that a physical presence is justified or
critical 12 months a year,” Gonzalez said. “Flagship locations will be complemented with smaller-format, specialty locations anchored around a specific purpose or
localized effort. Partnering with department stores will also continue to be reimagined as they restructure and reposition as collaborative marketplaces, and there
will be a deeper dedication to pop-in-shop retail.”
Small businesses will need to consider tech upgrades
Though some Americans were able to work from home in 2020, that wasn’t an option for retailers that rely on foot traffic. As the vaccine distribution begins, Mike
Morini, CEO of WorkForce Software, thinks companies will need to consider emerging technologies to help them manage onsite staff.
“An hourly workforce has unique pay rules, labor regulations, compliance obligations, and scheduling needs, [while] the pandemic has added new safety requirements,
unpredictable staff availability, and changing regulations, which are driving businesses to upgrade their antiquated tools,” he said. “Companies need technology that
can support their growing requirements and evolve with their business. The pandemic has increased the adoption of new digital technologies, which can save
organizations money by increasing efficiencies and improve the experience of their employees.”