Even though we still find ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are already looking ahead. There is no doubt that the retail future will be changed forever. First of all, even after restrictions are eased, and people can move about more freely, it will be some time before we have the same level of comfort they did before the health crisis. Second, between the length of the pandemic and the likely extended period of transition, consumer habits will have changed radically. It is highly unlikely that things will ever be the same.
None of the changes in retail caused by COVID-19 will be all that surprising. In a way, the pandemic only accelerated changes in the retail future that were already happening. One accelerated change will involve a rapid shift to e-commerce. Many people who made the shift to purchasing online during the pandemic will opt to continue the practice. This will create new challenges for brick and mortar retailers already trying to compete with those online.
Contactless payments, a feature that accelerated during fears of spreading the virus, will continue to be preferred. Once consumers have positive experiences with completing purchases via their smartphones, they may no longer want to touch public-facing screens and keypads. Contactless payments also bring some of the positive aspects of online purchasing to physical stores.
Curbside pickup is another shift in retail that, accelerating by the pandemic, may not likely go away. Eliminating the need to enter the store may be another convenience that helps brick and mortar retail stores compete with e-commerce. Consumers get the more immediate satisfaction of not needing to wait for a package to arrive without the need ever leave their cars.
Despite the rise of e-commerce during this crisis, retail stores are adapting fast and finding ways to be viable now and post COVID-19. By making shopping safer and more convenient, stores taking advantage of technology improvements may see a healthy retail future ahead.