Retail stores have started reopening in different parts of the world, after two months of lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Retailers, for most part of this time, have been wondering if people will show up at stores to shop, after the pandemic, to understand what the post-covid shopping experience looks like.
Long queues outside the Zara store in Paris on its first open day since the pandemic hit, and the sales recovery of Gen-Z driven brands like Abercombie indicate that things are looking up for retail. However, new sets of social-distancing guidelines for retail businesses causes reasonable doubt about the number of footfalls in physical stores in the coming year.
Restricted Store Experiences
These are some of the rules imposed by governments across the world:
- The number of customers in a retail store can’t exceed 50% of the maximum occupancy capacity
- Maintaining a six-feet gap between customers
- Only allow a short (30-minute) shopping window
- Returned products go through a quarantine period
For instance, Gap announced that it will reopen 800 of its stores but the fitting rooms will remain closed. Macy’s and Nordstorm also intend to do the same.
It is safe to presume that these precautions will negatively impact consumer experience, if brands don’t have an online storefront and an effective digital strategy in place.
The Need for Balance between Offline and Online
Nordstrom is a fine example of a brand that is thriving in the post-covid world. Its e-Commerce business and omnichannel solutions served well in the current financial year. In Q1, the retailer registered more than 50% increase in new online shoppers, 5% increase in digital sales and 9% YoY increase in online orders. Sales from digital platforms contributed 54% to total net sales, a huge jump from previous year’s 31%.
They achieved this impressive feat by connecting physical and digital retail through contactless curbside services, and strengthening digital capabilities and omnichannel efforts via long-term investments. Astute management of excess inventory via Nordstrom Rack also turned out to be a winning move. With this strategy, the retailer managed to increase the average customer spend by 4 to 11 times!
Is Digital Transformation a Mandate for the Post-Covid Shopping Experience?
Nordstrom and other retail businesses that were able to minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 have been leading the path to digital transformation.
US ecommerce witnessed a 49% increase in daily sales. UK’s online sales growth hit a record high in April with 23.8% YoY increase. Digital purchases increased in Europe as well. And, the online shopping adoption rate in people over 40 increased exponentially because of the stay-at-home orders.
Retailers without an online and omni-channel presence have been suffering in these uncertain times. For example, Primark’s sales dropped down from £650 ($804 approx.) million each month to zero.
Even while dealing with a peculiar situation like ‘quarantined clothes’ and the problems that come with it, retailers can leverage digital technologies. For instance, AI-powered retail solutions like automated product tags, on-model fashion imagery, and omni-channel personalization will help retailers to reduce the load of ‘to-be-sanitized-and-quarantined-clothes’ by eliminating product returns.