The global growth of COVID has clearly become the most major element influencing retail patterns in 2021. Continuing from 2020, it’s something that is unlikely to just disappear in 2022.
However, we can’t say that COVID is to blame for all contemporary retail trends. Sure, technology has hastened many things, such as the transition to online shopping, but there was already momentum in that direction. COVID, on the other hand, has drastically impacted the retail transformation timeframe.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at some of the most recent retail trends, as well as some predictions for how things could change in the near future.
- Despite the pandemic, consumer sales have been generally strong.
The global economy has gradually reopened since 2021, when the high street came back online. Many people have gone on a buying spree as additional non-essential stores have opened. Consumers are spending money on things like home improvement and consumer items. In many regions, limitations on the hotel industry are also being relaxed. This consumer-led recovery is expected to last until at least 2022.
- The Threat of Store Closures Remains
There has been an avalanche of retail closures in recent years. This practice started long before COVID and became unavoidable once internet purchasing became popular. The pandemic has expedited this movement, with stores closed for prolonged periods of time during lockdowns.
A return to “regular” post-COVID life seems unlikely to alter this tendency. As a result, while the rate of closures may be decreasing, there will still be many more closures to come.
The dollar store industry, which is growing, is an exception to this tendency. Dollar General has declared that it will establish 1,050 sites in 2021, accounting for half of all store openings in the United States in 2020.
- People will continue to switch to online shopping
The surge in sales produced by online competitors has been a clear counterweight to the closure of brick-and-mortar retailers. Many of the consumers who traditionally made purchases in person are now switching to online purchase patterns.
As the globe becomes more open, the ratio of people who claim to conduct most of their shopping online appears to be rebalancing. For example, 16 percent plan to do most of their shopping online in a year, up 6% from before the epidemic but down 8% from now.
Many merchants are increasingly adopting a digital-first strategy, prioritizing their online stores above their physical locations. They’ve made significant investments in digital technologies and developed online-only warehouses.
- Customers expect free shipping and quick delivery
There is now a disconnect between customer expectations and COVID reality. Despite the fact that consumers are conducting more shopping online, they still want access to their products as quickly as feasible. They anticipate faster delivery than ever before, and several online businesses, such as Amazon, have made significant investments in this area.
Unfortunately, COVID has resulted in a massive shipping catastrophe, with delivery delays occurring all around the world. As we move away from COVID lockdowns, world logistics should improve, and average delivery times should decrease once again.
For internet customers, free delivery might be a deal-breaker.
- The “At Home” Economy’s Expansion
Despite extensive relaxing of restrictions, the “at home” economy arose during the epidemic and looks to be thriving. Consumers’ purchasing priorities have changed to areas like home cooking, internet shopping, and digital product use.
Although fewer individuals are working from home than a year ago, many people have realized that they prefer not having to commute and have continued to work from home at least a couple of days a week.
- Retail Stores Redesign Customer Spaces to Make Them Feel Safe
Customers have learned that brick-and-mortar retailers must alter their premises to keep them isolated and secure. While some of the measures that have been put in place will probably be reversed once COVID is gone, many will remain in place for some time.
Many consumers prefer to shop in physical stores because they like the in-store experience and want to physically contact with things before making a purchase. They must, however, feel secure before entering a business.
Changes can be as basic as installing Perspex screens at the checkouts or as sophisticated as completely overhauling the in-store layout, with distinct entrances and exits to segregate traffic.
- Increased Use of Self-Checkout Machines in Store
Increased usage of self-checkouts is one example of shop redesign (often allied with contactless payments). According to the Verizon Look Forward report, self-checkout is now used by 23% of respondents.
Mobile payment systems have even replaced static POS counters in certain establishments.
- The use of contactless payments is on the rise
Contactless payments were in use long before the pandemic; however, they most certainly grew in popularity between 2020 and 2021. Contactless credit cards (36 percent), contactless mobile payments (33 percent), and supermarket delivery services (38 percent) were all used or heard about for the first time during the Coronavirus epidemic, according to the Verizon Look Forward research.
Contactless payments have been sluggish to take off in some countries, such as New Zealand, because of hefty bank fees for shops that employ the technology. Due to increasing demand during COVID, banks cut these costs in 2020, but several of them raised them in 2021. Consumers have now seen the benefits of contactless payment and continue to demand access, resulting in a conflict.
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- Retailers Recognize AI’s Benefits
Retailers are progressively leveraging artificial intelligence within their operations. The internet of things took some time to transition from idea to reality, but it is already mainstream. Inventory management, adaptive homepages, dynamic outreach, interactive chat, visual curation, guided discovery, conversational support, customer engagement, and more are examples of AI applications in retail.
Firms are also employing AI for a customized buying experience. One obvious use is chatbots. Estimates say that 91 percent of internet users interact with a chatbot daily.
- Voice search and personal assistants are being used more often
Growth in the usage of voice search and personal assistants is another specific outcome of the increased use of AI.
According to Google, 27% of internet users currently use voice searches on their mobile devices. It’s especially popular among Millennials and Generation Z, who would rather talk into their phones than type.
- Livestreaming Is Getting More Popular
Over the years 2020 and 2021, live streaming has become increasingly popular. Consumers who are unable to leave their homes found live streaming to be an engaging method to participate when shopping online. Consumers watched celebrities and influencers deliver entertaining events on a variety of themes in order to promote products.
- Seniors Are Embracing New Technology
Seniors have a reputation for being the slowest to adopt new technology. They have lived much of their lives without technology and are adamantly opposed to change in their later years. Seniors, on the other hand, have been the most vulnerable to COVID and have had to adjust to the new post-pandemic environment.
The elderly have been compelled to embrace retail technology such as internet shopping and telehealth consultations as a result of the epidemic. To avoid nursing homes, some people have turned to smart home technologies and virtual assistants. Even if economies open up again, this pattern is unlikely to change.