A new post-pandemic role for physical stores

Bricks and mortar stores will have a new role to play in the post-pandemic retail environment. According to research, retailers are planning to reimagine their physical stores as online fulfillment channels as part of their post-pandemic recovery strategy.

The Transforming the Physical Store for a New Shopping Landscape whitepaper, carried out for Sensormatic by IDC, reveals that retailers are increasingly prioritising their bricks and mortar stores. Almost eight in ten (76%) retailers said their physical spaces have become more crucial in customers’ buying journeys due to the pandemic. As a result, retailers are seeing stores more as experiential and fulfillments hubs than simply high street shops, reports 365Retail.

As part of their post-pandemic recovery plans, 71% of retailers have altered the layout of their stores in order to create a more joined up approach. This means click and collect, contactless, and self-service technology have all become more commonplace in stores both on the high street and in retail parks. Meanwhile, 49% are now using a section of their physical retail spaces for omnichannel fulfilment. 

According to the whitepaper, the predominant priority for retailers today is ‘ship from store’ –  something that also features among retailers’ top four priorities over the coming 24 months.

Speaking about the findings, Filippo Battaini, research manager at IDC Retail Insights, Europe, said:  “The pace of transformation in retail is accelerating as retailers respond to a new shopping landscape. The Covid-19 pandemic has fast-forwarded this process.”

He continued by explaining that retailers are starting to rethink their processes to enable “an effective response to fast-changing expectations from increasingly demanding, technology-savvy and time-crunched consumers”.  

As a result, Battaini continued, the role of bricks and mortar stores is no longer simply a sales channel. Instead, these spaces are being primed to play a much bigger role in retailers’ operations.

Increased demand for ecommerce during 2020 has meant retailers are not just looking at boosting their click and collect capabilities. They are also considering dark store retail formats. Previous research shows that 84% of consumers are keen to continue using dark stores post-pandemic.

The question now is whether retailers will be able to keep apace with consumer demands and expectations in this area. There is clearly still some way to go, with research revealing many click and collect customers experiencing either long delays or out-of-stock items.

Consumers are shopping less frequently in physical stores, but are making those trips with more purpose. Product availability and the speed and accuracy of fulfillment are crucially important.

At Delta, we help retailers and brands leverage insight from their customers and make the most of sales opportunities. To find out how we can help your business better engage with your customers, get in touch with the team today: hello@thedeltagroup.co.uk.