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Post-Pandemic Retail Comes Into Focus

Post-Pandemic Retail Comes into Focus
Food and other retailers without robust omnichannel tools could fall behind in the post-pandemic world.

The COVID-19 outbreak will eventually subside but food and other types of retail, as well as restaurant operations, will likely change forever, at least according to new survey data from Cambridge Retail Advisors.

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts-based consulting firm said that 83% of C-level executives feel that retail and dining will be changed forever by the pandemic.

Those changes include not only more online and mobile shopping but more consumer use of curbside and store pickup services, more retailer use of stores as “micro-fulfillment centers,” and more restaurants using so-called “ghost kitchens” dedicated to the preparation of meals meant for delivery via digital services.

All those trends were on the upswing before the pandemic brought massive store closures and stay-at-home mandates. Now, a new retail and consumer reality could be emerging, at least according to this study. And retailers that don’t latch on harder to those trends risk falling behind in the post-pandemic consumer and commerce landscape.

Retail Survival Keys               

This new research from Cambridge Retail Advisors also found that that while 65% of retailer and restaurant chains plan to reopen all their locations in the wake of the pandemic, 25% plan to open only some of their locations and 10% don't plan to return physical retail at all. Not only that, but 56% of C-level executives feel that the pandemic will permanently change the way people shop and most consumers will move exclusively to those store or curbside pickup services, preferring to make purchases via online or mobile channels.

"Retail and restaurant companies have quickly adapted their customer journeys and processes to respond to new expectations and safety requirements," said Marty Whitmore, managing partner at Cambridge Retail Advisors. "Enhancing online and omnichannel capabilities has been an imperative as consumers have rapidly shifted brick and mortar shopping to low-contact transactions like buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), buy online, pick-up at curb (BOPAC) and home delivery. Retail and restaurant organizations that didn't previously offer BOPIS and BOPAC have quickly implemented these services to retain customers and maximize revenues."

Doing so successfully will require many retailers to invest in technology upgrades (including for inventory management) and associated staff training. That’s because the post-pandemic world of commerce likely will involve “improving order visibility for associates and consumers,” which the research report said “are imperatives for retail survival.” After all, if customers cannot trust that their orders will be available quickly and efficiently, a retailer could easily lose out to a competitor that can offer such assurances.

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