Ever since ways of life changed globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, civilians from all over have been struggling to adapt to a "new normal." People who are used to working in an office setting are being forced to work from home. People who are generally extroverted and crave human interaction are being forced to have most of, if not all of, communication through phone or video calls. Businesses, both online and in-store, have been drastically affected by CDC guidelines. Also, not only are consumers being forced to stay home, but with so much economic uncertainty, they are also watching where and how they are spending their money much more carefully.
Some businesses have benefited from these changes (such as online grocers or manufacturers of stay-at home essentials.) Many people are choosing to shop for groceries online and are panic buying supplies that have been in especially high demand during the crisis (such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.)
On the other hand, many business have suffered from these changes. For example, travel agencies, hotel services and businesses that sell tickets to largely populated events have taken a hit with the spread of the virus. With unpredictability as to when it will be safe to travel or gather again, people are hesitant to make travel plans or buy tickets to events they may not be able to attend. Also, business that did not have an online presence before are being forced to either go online or shut down altogether (especially small business that manufacture non-essential items.)
After a few months of these new guidelines, there is speculation of reopening in many capacities. Just like how business had to prepare for a world affected by COVID-19, businesses have to start preparing for a world post-COVID-19. Of course, this will not be the "normal" we knew and loved just a few months ago. This will be a new "new normal."
During the coronavirus pandemic, many trends have become popular, such as online shopping and curbside pickup. Even after restrictions are lifted, some pandemic-prompted trends may continue to be apart of everyday life. For example, ecommerce sites have become more popular as brick-and-mortar retail shops have been obligated to close their doors. This has led to a more convenient shopping experience for customers—a luxury they may wish to hold onto even after they are able to head back into stores. Another change is the growth of direct-to-consumer grocery. Studies have found that CPG food sales increased by 69.5 percent (year-over-year) in the middle of April of 2020. Since consumers are spending more time at home, they are looking for ways to make cooking in their own kitchens simpler. Direct-to-consumer grocery services, such as Hello Fresh or Daily Harvest, have become great options. Even though restaurants allow take-out options, nothing beats the convenience of cooking and dining in your pajamas. Even when restaurants reopen fully, and allow customers to dine in their establishments, consumers may prefer direct-to-consumer grocery services and continue ordering from those services. Also, trends like curbside pickup and home delivery options will likely still be popular even after the crisis. Consumers have adapted to these advantages and will probably continue to want to use them. In addition, payments will presumably continue to be contactless. With concerns over direct or indirect hand-to-hand content, many retailers had to install alternative ways to pay (such as Apple Pay). The less hand-to-hand or hand-to-machine exposure, the better.
The question then becomes, how can you, as a business owner, brace yourself for all this? First and foremost, get ready for a speedy increase in order. Many industries that have suffered during the pandemic, such as travel agencies, event services or non-essential businesses, may see an inflation in demand now that consumers are more free to have those experiences again and/or spend a little more once they have more financial stability. Another way to make sure your store is adequately set is to address any technological deficiencies and fix any glitches you find before reopening commences. This is optimal time to examine your online presence, your online integrations and your online marketing to make sure you are all ready to go once we return to regular shopping habits. This includes reviewing your site's search engine optimization (i.e. safeguard your page's loading speed and optimize the checkout experience.)
Another factor to consider when preparing for business post-pandemic is delivery time. During the crisis, many deliveries were greatly delayed due to popular demand and essential goods were privatized over nice-to-haves. A study found that approximately 39 percent of customers surveyed stated if there are faster deliveries, they would be persuaded to spend more. If they are sufficiently satisfied with the newer delivery speeds, they would conceivably forgive the extensive holdups during the pandemic and move on. In February of 2020, before the shutdown, a survey of 1000 online shoppers showed that 41 percent had ordered online and picked up in the sore, while a mere 13 percent picked up curbside. That number has increased dramatically during the pandemic, and could continue to rise going forward In March of 2020, 989 online shoppers were surveyed regarding the portion of their orders that came with free shipping (not including Amazon.) About seven-tenths of those respondents said that over half of their non-Amazon orders came with free shipping, which indicates that omnichannel will continue to be very important going forward.
Since we have been on lockdown for a few months already, it does not feel that long ago that businesses were preparing for the 2019 holiday shopping season. Even so, before we know it, we will be getting ready for the holidays again. How will the holiday season of 2020 look like and how can retailers prepare for any and all changes?
At this point, it is hard to know for sure which customers (and how many) will participate in the holiday shopping season this year. That will greatly depend on the state of the world once Black Friday comes around. Experts foresee that those who are financially secure and can afford to splurge will want to make up for lost time, since they may not have made significant purchases for quite a while. Gift givers may also feel inclined to shop more. Furthermore, retail business owners may want to promote earlier and more frequently to acquire more customers. Of course, with so many retail stores currently either on the brink of survival right now or have been driven out of business due to COVID-19, there could very well be more condensed pool of businesses for consumers to choose from during the holiday shopping season this year. may not be able to take part in the holiday shopping season this year.
All in all, the coronavirus outbreak may have taken businesses in unexpected turns, which is why it is essential to prepare for when restrictions are completely lifted and regular shopping habits resume. "If you invest in people during tough times, you will earn their loyalty in the long-term."- Mandeep Kaur Sidhu, Co-Founder of Simba Quartz.