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A New Normal

Retailers plan for a future of new, pandemic-shaped consumer preferences.

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WHILE WE’RE STILL at the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic and its overwhelming impact on our daily lives, many retailers are considering how COVID-19 has shaped shopper habits over the past year and how they will need to adapt to a post-pandemic world.

According to the Intouch Insight (Fort Mill, S.C.) survey, “Changes in Consumer Habits: A Six Month Comparison of the Evolution of Retail,” consumers have increasingly sought frictionless offerings from retailers, including curbside pick-up (86 percent), delivery (40 percent) and personal shoppers (18 percent). Of those surveyed, 80 percent said they planned to continue to use these new services.

Early in the pandemic last May, Suitsupply (Amsterdam) rolled out freestanding shopping partitions to allow for safe tailoring sessions, and the brand also aimed to reduce in-store traffic while continuing to serve its customers – something it expects to continue after the pandemic. By enabling virtual appointments, customers can browse online offerings with a live style expert and reserve a
private try-on session.

It’s not a huge departure from the way Suitsupply has always interacted with shoppers, says CEO Fokke de Jong. “People were exploring our collections on the Internet but shopping in person,” he says. “To have that personal experience – especially with a product like ours – is indispensable. We connect with customers online and finish that journey offline.”

CVS recently partnered with Venmo and PayPal, allowing shoppers to utilize QR code technology to pay with their mobile devices at checkout.

CVS recently partnered with Venmo and PayPal, allowing shoppers to utilize QR code technology to pay with their mobile devices at checkout.

Between January 2020 and the end of the year, CVS Health (Woonsocket, R.I.) observed a 43 percent increase in touch-free transactions. Adapting to shoppers’ needs around cleanliness, the drug store retailer partnered with PayPal and Venmo to integrate QR code technology at the point-of-sale in all 8200 of its stores so shoppers could complete transactions digitally, without having to touch cash or keypads.

“Enhanced digital offerings such as QR code payments offer customers a seamless, touch-free way to pay at the register and is just one way that CVS is evolving to further improve the shopping experience in our stores and better cater to customers,” says Jamie Hill, Divisional Merchandise Manager, CVS Pharmacy.

Innovating within its three-year-old grocery delivery program, Walmart (Bentonville, Ark.) has recently partnered with a “smart cooler” company to allow for 24/7 grocery delivery – reflecting a rising need for contactless grocery shopping (which 39 percent of shoppers say they have taken advantage of in the past year). This spring, customers in the retailer’s hometown will be able to accept grocery deliveries via a secure Internet of Things (IoT)-connected cooler on their front porch.

As consumers go back to their normal workday schedule away from home, these kinds of innovative solutions accommodating customers’ new preferences will be a growing necessity in the retail industry at large.

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

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