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Although Covid-19 has thrown retailers into crisis mode, the pandemic has also forced the industry to face pre-existing problems and rethink how to move forward, says Will Broome, CEO of retail tech company Ubamarket.
“Ever-changing store layouts, outdated queues and checkouts, and the lack of communication between retailers and their customers are just some of the issues that Covid-19 has made very clear,” Will explains.
“Now, the question facing retailers is not ‘when will things go back to normal’ but rather ‘how can we adapt our offering to make sure we are aligned with the changing trends and new retail landscape?’”
According to data from the ONS, while online shopping grew to make up a third of all transactions by May 2020, a majority of consumers would rather shop in brick and mortar stores. The ONS said 83% of people reported preferring to shop in store as their reason for not buying goods or services over the internet.
As the retail industry reopens, the first priority will be adhering to the government’s new guidelines on cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing. Research by the British Retail Consortium suggests that over half of UK consumers believe retailers are doing a good job of keeping them safe in-store.
But Will says this is “only one piece of the puzzle” – new technologies will also play a significant role as the industry moves forward. “The implementation of retail technology holds the key to building the future of retail that supports our new shopping habits whilst also helping retailers to safeguard themselves against future cases of irregular consumer behaviour.”
Responding to the changes in consumer behaviour is a challenge that all retailers are facing, and rethinking strategies will be critical. But as Will explains, the ONS and BRC statistics show that “a huge proportion of the UK’s shoppers are committed to physical retail”.
“Therefore, people will be more hygienic and convenience-conscious, and retailers will be looking for ways to adapt to the shift in consumer behaviour and protect themselves against future shortages.”
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