The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and it looks like a lot of these changes are here to stay. It’s changed the way we work, socialize, eat, exercise and shop. Nothing has changed more than the way we use and act in public spaces and shops. From shops being forced to close during lockdown periods to the placement of hand sanitizer products at every entrance, the retail space has changed.
Changed Customer Behaviours
The virus caused dramatic changes to our everyday lives that in turn caused changes in customer behavior. At the height of the pandemic in March 2020 nation-wide lockdowns started as the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus and global pandemic. As stores started to close, consumers started to panic and we saw supermarkets emptied as they started to stockpile certain foods and household items, like toilet paper.
As brick and mortar stores were forced to close, along with cafes and restaurants, e-commerce experienced exponential growth as traffic sord. Consumers where social interactions were restricted and started going online to avoid crowds and possible infection. Many businesses, particularly small businesses have not expected this sudden and dramatic change in consumer behavior and many tried to adapt as fast as possible. While large corporations and online retailers had already been set up for such a trend, saw profits increase at the time of recession.
Changed Retailer Behaviour
While consumer behavior changed, the behavior of the retailers had to change with it. On top of this retailers also had the added stress of adapting to new rules and regulations set out by governments to reduce the spread of the virus. Masks became mandatory in indoor public places; social distancing rules limited the number of shoppers a store could have at one time and sanitizing products become the norm at every storefront. Retailers have put in-between a rock and a hard place. They had to please the customer and follow the rules supplied by the government, and the two didn’t always see eye to eye.
A lot of retailers were met with backlash as they started to implement government order restrictions on shopping. Mandatory masks have been a controversial subject during the pandemic and have seen many shop boost security and angry consumers refuse to follow the mask rule. Many retailers were also forced to limit purchase quantity for some items. As toilet paper was ripped from the shelves, many retailers installed one item per person/household for such items.
The Outlook for 2021 and Beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we shop forever, and we need to adapt to this new normal. Some changes may not stick around as long as others, hand sanitizing products will likely stay but social distancing will likely go when the virus is under control.
The retail industry will also shift and small to medium businesses will start to adapt to contactless shopping as affordable shipping options are created that capitalize on the new consumer behavior. The retail industry may never be the same, but change is constant and this is just another obstacle that needed to be overcome, out of this the retail industry will be more resilient and ready than ever.