The “retail apocalypse” has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020. The term, which the media frequently used to describe the mass closing of brick-and-mortar retail stores as consumers increasingly chose to shop online, is being bandied about once again as retailers are forced to temporarily shut down stores — and lay off or furlough staff — to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This has led many industry analysts to question whether already challenged traditional retailers can withstand the significant revenue losses that have come as a result of the global pandemic.
And if they can survive, how can they chart a profitable path forward with brick-and-mortar stores? Will consumers be comfortable returning to shop with others in physical stores, or will they opt to shop online — and practice social distancing in the process? According to a recent survey by Shopkick, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they’re concerned about shopping in-store in light of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Getting consumers to return to stores in a post-coronavirus world is just one part of the equation for retailers. The other is the experience retailers give shoppers once inside their doors. In fact, these have been challenges for retailers for quite some time as they deal with the continued growth of e-commerce, and Amazon in particular. COVID-19 has exacerbated — albeit in a major way — an existing business challenge.
Giving in-store shoppers a positive, safe, personalized experience that makes them feel comfortable will enhance a retailer’s chances of getting them to return. And that’s the beginning of developing long-term customer relationships that drive profitable businesses.