Excerpt from roundtable during Tango’s virtual retail summit The Next Normal for Retail Location Strategy on May 19, 2020.
Consumer Shopping Patterns in a COVID-19 World
Shai Verma – Partner, Retail Technology, Deloitte:
“What kind of shifts in consumer shopping would you expect as we come out of this?
“Yeah, but there isn’t a crystal ball that we’re all gazing into and we know with absolute clarity what this new normal is going to look like. But one thing I think is relatively clear is that the digital channel, the online channel is it going to become much, much more important than it once was for every segment in retail. Those companies that had a robust digital channel before, probably faired relatively well through what has happened in the last two months or so. Again, the point is that this isn’t the last time we’re going to see some disruption in the marketplace that’s going to drive less traffic to brick-and-mortar and more to online. So, definitely I think consumer behavior will tell us that they’re more comfortable shopping online for a number of different product categories, not just electronics and things of that nature that certainly is where it started, but now people are going to feel more comfortable shopping that way going forward. Certainly, with product guarantees and a more robust returns process and channel, those things will become even more prevalent.
“I’ve been in this business long enough to remember when e-commerce first became a thing. Everybody was thinking, “Oh my goodness, brick-and-mortar is dead, traditional retail is dead and everyone’s going to jump over to the Amazon way of buying.” It didn’t happen quite at that point in time. I’m not saying that right now it’s going to happen either, but definitely there’s going to be more of a tendency for people to look at online as a replacement to physically visiting a store. As I said, this isn’t going to be the last disruption, so what do you have to do to change? You’ve got to bring stronger digital capabilities, you have to build agility into your supply chains, and you have to build flexibility into your real estate arrangements. All these things mean that you have to be able to respond to a market force much more quickly than perhaps what many retailers have struggled with.
“Lastly, we are a consultancy, we’ve got a motto or a white paper on almost anything you’d like. Our approach is that we responded and if you’ve responded, and you haven’t filed for chapter 11 or other forms of bankruptcy protection, then you have an opportunity to recover and you have to put certain things in place to allow you to do that. There is an opportunity just like at the beginning of any crisis, there is an opportunity to thrive and to relook at everything that you do in your business and look at it through the lens of, quote, unquote, this new normal. So, these are all things that we’re recommending companies be thinking about.”
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