How the pandemic is changing in-store retail

There is no doubt that the pandemic has placed a huge amount of strain on physical retail. With high streets already feeling the effects of the increasing popularity of ecommerce, 2020 saw this amplified at breakneck speed.

However, retailers are not taking things sitting down. We are seeing an increasing push towards omnichannel retail and reimagined bricks and mortar retail spaces, as a result of fast-tracked strategic reviews.

With physical stores closed for months at a time over the course of the past year, retailers are focusing on how best to redesign, transform and consolidate the future of physical retail.

More scope for the human touch in retail

One positive is that retailers have got so much more to offer their customers than products and services. According to research by Ubamarket, 50% of consumers said that visiting shops and supermarkets during lockdown was essential in reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

With so much uncertainty around tourism in 2021, consumers are going to be looking for other pick-me-ups. And retailers will be looking to fill that gap, managing opportunities as they appear and making informed decisions about which segments, markets and channels to pursue.

While e-commerce has increased as a result of the pandemic, retailers have found the reopening of physical stores boosted sales further still. Marc Metrick, president and CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue has been struck by just how important physical stores are to consumers.

As he explained: “Stores are a very important part of the overall customer experience. For luxury especially, it’s theatre. To touch, to feel, to experience.”

He continued by saying he was surprised by the resilience of customers as they sought comfort and “escapism” through their retail experiences.

Other retailers would agree that bricks and mortar stores remain an important part of retail. Many brands have found a sharp uptake of omnichannel services – such as click and collect and buy online, return in-store.

Customers like the human touch in retail and aren’t ready to let that go. Retailers who can harness omnichannel marketing strategies will be able to offer the kind of modern logistics shoppers are coming to expect.

Experiential offerings: Upping the ante

Our high streets are facing a period of evolution. Even before the pandemic, we’d seen a drop in demand for retail spaces – resulting in cheaper rents and more opportunity for short-term leases in recent years.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, smaller physical retail spaces (such as Arcadia Group’s Topshop and Miss Selfridge) have proved easier to repurpose than larger department store spaces (such as Debenhams).

Brands are taking this opportunity to rethink their physical retail spaces and revise formats. Flagship stores are being rebranded as discovery zones, in which customers can make a more emotional connection with brands via experiential retail. According to analysts at McKinsey, getting this right comes down to retailers “leveraging data and analytics to predict footfall, manage assortments, and build personalised offerings.”

After all, where big-name brands go, the rest tend to follow. According to McKinsey: “We have already seen Burberry and Nike, as well as digitally native ARIAS New York, invest in hybrid spaces and deploy technologies such as apps and body scans to create more compelling experiences.”

Brands must also make sure they continue to engage with social media as a way to offer shoppers exclusive content and more personalised experiences.

At Delta Group, we can help you create dynamic multichannel marketing campaigns to help secure a robust future in-store and beyond. Find out how we can help your brand connect with your customers and emerge from the pandemic stronger. Get in touch with the team today.