The Next Time You Visit Your Favorite Retail Store

While most of the world has been sheltering in place for the first half of 2020, retail stores have been hard at work changing the look, feel and design of their respective properties. It is safe to say that brick and mortar will look very different as they re-open. Wharton Professor Thomas Robertson, has referred to the current environment as a time of “creative destruction” within the retail industry. What will be different? Let’s examine five changes many retail stores are in the process of making.

#1 — Contactless payment will become the primary way of paying for all goods. Using cash and even credit cards will quickly become obsolete. The majority of shoppers have a cell phone and the security for contactless payment is in place and strong enough for adoption by mainstream America. All shoppers will need to do is scan a quick QR code to complete the payment process. Once payment is made, you will then be led to …

#2 — Curbside pickup. Buy-Online-Pickup-at-the-Curb (an offshoot of BOPIS) is here to stay. During the peak of the pandemic, the only way to pick up items from major retail stores was at the curb. As the trend continues, it has become apparent how many stores turned into localized warehouses for brands, rather than a look-and-touch showcase of products.

#3 — Social distancing within stores will be the norm. Restrictions on the number of customers in a store at one time will be common. More spacious aisles to accommodate social distancing will reduce the amount of product on display in stores. Some retail stores will opt for an appointment-style booking system that will allow customers a limited amount of time in the store to shop before a new set of shoppers is ushered inside. Luxury and boutique brands that do not depend on high-volume sales will utilize this most.

#4 — A strong omni-channel presence will be required, and virtual reality is quickly becoming a part of that requirement. Clothing stores will allow potential buyers to try on clothes through a digital mirror. Appliance shoppers will have the ability to view a potential new purchase in a 3D virtual rendering of their home. The goal is to allow customers to continue to make major purchases in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

#5 — New jobs will be created for traditional retail associates. As fewer associates are needed on the floor, more assistance will be needed online — all those detailed questions about products aren’t going away. Through web-based chat apps, online retailers will benefit from having live humans available to answer a wide variety of questions at any hour of the day. It is a fact that some of the most active hours for e-commerce shopping are between 9 p.m. and midnight, around the world.

Have you visited a retail store in your city after shelter-in-place was lifted? Send us a note via social media and let us know your observations and predictions moving forward.