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The ever-changing role of stores post-pandemic

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

Once life returns to normal – in-store shopping will be shown in a new light. Brands have adapted their sales model to fit the needs of the current pandemic. And once stores are operating as they used to, the savviest retailers will be able to focus on providing the delightful part of shopping – discovery and entertainment.

Experiential is not a new concept for brick and mortar. In fact, many retailers have had to integrate these concepts to continue to grow and flourish in today’s landscape. Stores have been created to fully immerse customers into the world of the brand – introducing them to new concepts, products, activities, and more.

“Experiential retail had been a growing trend, but the pandemic will turbocharge it,” said Katherine Cullen, head of industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation trade association.

This is where intentional shopping comes into play. E-commerce will be a channel, used for mindless browsing, but brick-and-mortar will become an adventure for consumers. According to a survey from retail newsletter The New Consumer, grocery and pet categories will continue to be an online preference for its convenience. However, this leaves other sectors, such as retail, to craft a unique in-store experience driven by discovery.   

“The mindless shopping is going to stay online. The intentional shopping—the browsing, discovery, socializing, learning—will continue to happen in stores,” said Dan Frommer, founder of The New Consumer.

Stores are becoming an immersive story – a place to experiment fun, new things. Even with their ever-changing roles, physical spaces serve as an opportunity to create meaningful experiences that drive community.

Brick-and-mortar shopping has already changed a lot in the past year, and it’s about to change even more post-pandemic. Smaller-format stores, beauty partnerships, and mobile-driven concepts are just a few of the trends that have popped up over the last several months. Retailers are designing their stores to engage and promote community – with spaces for cocktail hours, workout classes, lectures and more. After an extended period of social isolation, consumers will desire a shopping experience that promotes and encourages physical connections between one another.

The future of shopping is filled with possibility. One of these possibilities is buy now, pay later. This has been a prevalent trend in the e-commerce world, especially during the holiday season. Now, retailers are working to incorporate this concept into brick-and-mortar shopping.

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) allows customers to purchase items online without having to pay for them all at once and instead make installment payments. BNPL is most popular among millennials and gen x, according to an article from PYMNTS. Using this payment option allows for instant gratification, which would only be enhanced if it was brought to the brick-and-mortar space.

“Installment payment plans are not just becoming more popular in the retail space overall but are also well-suited to serving shoppers at brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers are clearly placing more emphasis on flexible payment methods that align with their personal spending needs both online and in the evolving brick-and-mortar space,” noted in the article.

Omnichannel shopping has surged significantly in the past year and will only continue to grow post-pandemic. Most companies were transitioning to this approach, but when the pandemic hit, this accelerated omnichannel and the need for it to survive in retail today.

Consumers are using omnichannel to compare prices, research and identify physical stores, noted by data from Nielsen. Online channels serve as a chance to better the in-store purchasing experience for consumers, and this is exactly what they’re using it for. Retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot, Levi’s, Adidas, and Nike are reinventing digital and physical store formats to encourage shoppers to navigate their stores using the company’s app.

A post-pandemic environment will not only change the future landscape of brick-and-mortar but show that omnichannel shopping options are here to stay. The future of shopping is upon us and there’s endless possibilities for fun, experimentation and discovery.

Source: Post-Pandemic Shopping – Fast Company, Buy Now, Pay Later – PYMNTS, Pandemic Fueled Omnichannel Shopping – Retail Dive
Photo Credit: Pixabay

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