Three ways C19 could change British retail forever

In the midst of a global pandemic UK retailers are trying to maintain their business and stay afloat, with many now wondering about the long-term impact of coronavirus on the retail and ecommerce industry. Indeed, there are growing signs that the pandemic could impose permanent lasting change on retailers far beyond the end of the lockdown. Here, Derek O’Carroll, CEO, Brightpearl, recaps three ways coronavirus could change British retail forever…

Fewer stores, more ecommerce

Online shopping has been booming since lockdown, so much so that 4 in 10 consumers have been encouraged to purchase products online that they had not considered before, such as pet food, alcohol and shoes, according to Brightpearl data.

The changing nature of retail and change in consumer purchasing behaviour is leading to many retailers using the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to re-evaluate ecommerce operations and pivot online to remain competitive; this will lead to fewer stores and more ecommerce in future.

Rapid Technology Adoption

The C19 crisis is forcing retailers to act much more quickly than they normally would.

As the world moves digital, entering into technology partnerships will become increasingly common. Digital transformation is something we’ve been talking about for a long time in retail, but many brands are swifty moving online or are opening up multiple channels online using Amazon Marketplace and eBay.

Lockdown is pushing consumers online too and this creates a huge opportunity for smaller players, especially in niche sectors that traditionally didn’t operate purely online, like gardening and home fitness product suppliers. However, they’ll need to recruit new partners that can help ensure the entire retail operation is agile and flexible enough to be fit for purpose post C19.

Click and Collect Options Will Accelerate

Click & Collect (C&C) is already popular, but similar to e-grocery has seen a sharp increase because of coronavirus. With more stores and restaurants beginning to  reopen and needing social distancing and safety measures in place, expect a major uptick in new zero contact Click & Collect systems which allows guests to order their item online before collecting it safely from outside or via car delivery.

Retailers exploring the C&C model need to ensure they have in place the underlying technologies that enable a smooth transaction. This includes integrating C&C early in the checkout cycle as part of the range of buying options and the ability to implement accurate/real-time inventory management – it’s vital to have an accurate picture of which stores have what inventory so that shoppers can select the most convenient location and not be disappointed when they arrive at the location to pick up their product.

There are some major upsides to the C&C model with regards to cost-saving opportunities for both the retailer and the consumer, particularly around shipping and delivery. So, the current necessity of click and collect, combined with its inherent benefits will likely to cause permanent adoption to spike.

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