Changes for the better? Did retail adapt successfully to digital sales during pandemic?

The retail sector has had its fair share of ups and downs during the Covid-19 pandemic with many shops being forced to closed temporarily and in some cases, for good as the loss of earnings has been simply too much to bear. Did retail adapt successfully to digital sales during pandemic? There are some in the retail sector who would consider 2020 the year that their business changed for the better and that being forced into looking at different ways of selling namely going digital has been fantastic for the development of their company.

A new ‘norm’?

Back in early March 2020, people in the UK were going about their daily lives with little thought of the goings on over on the other side of the world. Knowing what we do now about the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps we wouldn’t have remained so nonchalant and oblivious to the change coming our way. Retailers had consistent opening hours, weekly or daily deliveries arrived with the exact items they had ordered and shoppers fuelled their addiction to retail therapy with gusto. However when the first national lockdown hit with restrictions on daily life that had never been experienced by the majority of the population, all the norms of shopping went out of the window. Panic buying began, major organisations started to crumble and supply chains broke down. Online shopping began surging and those so-called e-tailers that had been driving away footfall from those bricks and mortar retail outlets were on a mission to win the battle. The new norm had begun.

Routine change-a-rama

We are now a year on from when the first lockdown hit and many things have changed. Online shopping became more than just a pastime, it became the routine. The website experience had to match the expectations of the customer else the retailer faced social media condemnation. Primark springs to mind with this one! Their refusal to embrace ecommerce was dubbed a ludicrous decision. In fact according to BBC News, they were reported to have lost £1 billion during lockdown. Their reasoning suited their business model and they appear to have come out of the pandemic unscathed unlike many other high street shops. However were they right? Have they lost loyal customers who found other ways to shop? Are you perhaps one of those loyal customers who once wafted around the vacuous stores of Primark for your low price fashion fix but have now moved on?

Did retail really adapt?

Well they got a website and sold online right? Well, yes and no. Many retail outlets already had an online presence although some didn’t actually have the capacity or logistical infrastructure to push this side of their business. Location of their shop had always been key and social media fun and games was essential. However without the footfall of people these two things did not go in hand in hand. What was the point of a beautifully crafted and witty TV advertising campaign paired with clever and creative social media images if you could no longer visit their shop due to lockdowns and Covid restrictions galore! The gap between those who had already created an online empire and those who were playing catch up became increasingly clear. Independent one and two person bands with teeny tiny but thriving businesses found that their audience had just expanded beyond all imagination. Personally I think many people were either in two camps – convenience and door drop delivery from a speedy delivery driver working for a large company who needs no further promotion OR try something new as time was simply not an issue anymore.

And now…what about now?

Many shops are open again across the UK depending on where you are (at the time of writing shops are due to open again on Monday in Scotland whereas in England they were allowed to throw their doors wide open again last Monday 12th April) and this means that many have abandoned their online offering. Quite rightly too as with such a long time away from customers, it’s fair to say they want to get back to a certain state of normality.  However the world has changed and buying and selling online is here to stay. This isn’t the time for the retail industry to try to simply turn a blind eye to the past 12 months. A more proactive and progressive approach to the digital world and how it can work in tandem with their bricks and mortar business is surely the way forward? That’s what the customer wants and now expects so step up to the challenge and remember your customer is key! Not always right but they are key 😉

Two Cows Web says…

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