Months of uncertainty and fear, there is indeed no denying the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously altered how things work. With new perspectives and lifestyle changes, consumer behaviors have negatively affected many retailers while some have thrived even more. Numerous brick-and-mortar stores have closed their doors, however, businesses that already have an established eCommerce and online presence have benefited enormously.
Pre-pandemic, many consumers are aware of or using omnichannel services such as curbside pickup/delivery, online shopping, and contactless transactions. However, these channels have bloomed unprecedentedly during lockdowns and will still be stable post-pandemic.
Insights from Accenture's retail coronavirus consumer habits data reveal that eCommerce purchases are predicted to increase by 169% post-pandemic. And it's not only due to health and safety concerns. But many other factors including the fact that 86% of consumers still plan to keep working at home.
COVID-19 Impact on the Retailer Sector
The negative disruption that the coronavirus pandemic has brought several retailers, big and small, to their knees. Many companies went bankrupt, closed stores, and laid off staff.
While sales are still good for grocery stores, the challenge is on operating in social distancing standards. Implementing the required health and safety measures as well as keeping items in stock and preventing people from panic buying are among its big challenges today.
Although considered essential, convenience retailers are facing the challenge of sufficient staffing. The health risk associated with being a front-liner makes hiring and keeping staff stretching.
Unfortunately for the jewelry industry, the pandemic has hit it hard. Many have stopped production as sales plummeted and consumers categorize it as non-essential.
But fine jewelry always has its loyal customers, that’s why retailers like Noray Designs, offer free 2-day shipping on all orders. Having a flexible shipping system and guaranteed quality increases customer’s satisfaction and trust for online shopping.
Staying and working from home has affected the apparel industry's performance. However, it has been observed that there is an increased demand for apparel tops as online meetings become the new norm.
A tumultuous decline in sales has led to the closure of many retail department stores since most of its merchandise is classified as non-essential and customers are apprehensive to step back into stores.
How Retailers Handle Pandemic Challenges
Social distancing and stay-at-home initiatives have pushed consumers to choose alternative channels for safety and convenience purposes. Moreover, consumers are strongly shifting buying behaviors.
Nonetheless, these trends and new consumer behaviors are a stark indication that businesses nowadays should have a robust online presence. Retailers must adapt to the new world where online transactions and contactless interactions are more preferred. Omnichannel marketing was introduced a couple of years ago, but now more than ever, it is the now.
For sectors such as jewelry and apparel, there is a strong need to be more creative in marketing products and services. Since many stores have shut down, building a strong online presence and re-engaging customers is a necessary move. According to a McKinsey & Company survey, 67% of consumers are optimistic that businesses will bounce back providing they implement sustainable, fair, and long-term solutions.
Consequently, retailers should shift toward eCommerce as the newly established buying habits of consumers will persist long after COVID-19 is gone. Retailers must strive to be visible online and engaged online.
Retailers can start by giving perks to encourage customers to make a favorable action just like what AlpineSwiss, an affordable professional clothing provider, is doing by offering discounts whenever a customer signs up for their newsletter. Another example is that of Macy's offering an extra 30% off on sale and clearance styles jewelry when customers use their current promotion code. They also announce clearly on their site that they are open for curbside or in-store pick-up, as well as same-day delivery options.
Preparing for the Holiday Season During COVID-19
The holiday season is usually the busiest month for retailers. Though COVID-19 still stands in the way, it is still expected that consumers will participate in this shopping season. With that, here are some things retailers should consider.
More Online Shopping
As more and more consumers shop online, retailers should strengthen their online presence. During this season, people are still going to buy things in preparation for the holiday amidst the pandemic. The sooner retailers establish their eCommerce platforms and social media pages, the more opportunities for them to bounce back.
Christmas Big Sales
Retailers prepared well for the anticipated big sales day despite the pandemic. Consumers are still expecting to get a good buy from their favorite brands.
- Specialty Retailers: this is the best time to re-engage your customers. Fisher-Price for example launched the "2020: Holiday gifts for all kinds of kids", "50 Gift Ideas Under $50", and "Special deals."
- Apparel Retailers: As mentioned earlier, apparel tops are on-demand. Apparel retailers should feature more of their waist-up collections. GAP was offering limited-time deals which are up 50% off on everything.
- Convenience Retailers: C-retailers should boost their sales by offering bundle deals or good service deals. Just like 7-Eleven which offered free delivery for the rest of the year with code FREE4U in about 30 minutes if you order online.
Adopting a New Content Strategy
Retailers should also adopt a new strategy by creating personalized and more relevant content. It is also crucial to be sensitive with your audience especially during this time and stay engaged. Businesses online should craft messages that effectively communicate their brand, product, culture, and vision.
The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly has brought catastrophic effects both on individuals and businesses. The retail industry has been hit hard by new consumer behavior and spending habits. To survive, it is crucial then for retailers to rapidly adopt new strategies and be innovative. Whether the goal is to get through the pandemic or up their holiday shopping sales, retailers should consider omnichannel marketing and sustainable solutions.