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What’s the New Normal for Retail in a Post-COVID-19 World?

Mike Perekupka

Retailers are facing a wide spectrum of challenges and successes in light of the massive shifts caused by COVID-19. Some have fully transitioned to e-commerce operations and doubled down on online marketing efforts to reach new customers. Others are navigating a challenging supply chain, in some cases impacted by Amazon’s fulfillment constraints, and developing new partnerships to ensure fast and reliable delivery. But as retailers continue to find their footing amid COVID-19’s disruption, they also should look ahead to the environment and opportunities that come next for their businesses.

That was the topic of Sidecar’s most recent Influencer Interviews podcast. The latest installment featured Justin Silverman, Co-Founder of JustBrand Limited and a Sidecar customer, Mike Farrell Senior Director of Integrated Digital Strategy at Sidecar, and Mike Perekupka, Senior Product Manager at Sidecar. These retail experts discussed what a post-COVID-19 world will look like, what processes and strategies retailers will need to prioritize, and how shopping behavior may change for the long term.

Despite the challenges ahead, Silverman sees a bright future for retailers, particularly online. More shoppers than ever before rely on e-commerce for their shopping needs, and he anticipates that trend will continue into the future, creating new opportunities.

Listen to the full podcast below and learn how to prepare for retail’s new normal.

Top Sound Bites

(edited for brevity and clarity)

On the impact COVID-19 will have on retail organizations in the long term:

Mike Farrell: I think that more retailers are open to the idea of working remotely. They have the systems in place to support this now. The more that people work from home, I think you’ll start to see employers looking for talent outside their immediate region. That’s going to really open up the talent pool for retailers.

On the business side, we’re going to see a greater emphasis on e-commerce infrastructure and investment. That’s already been happening for the last couple of years, but I think COVID-19 shined a pretty big light on the value of e-commerce, and the growth of e-commerce is going to accelerate as a result.

One of the things that’s been a topic of conversation for the last year or two in retail is how retailers can start to leverage their stores and e-commerce together. I think retailers are going to be looking to improve their e-commerce experience to better service customers on a regular basis, and they’re going to start to look at physical stores more as showrooms that provide an experience.

Justin Silverman: To your point of brick and mortar stores, I think how people perceive going to a store and trying on clothes will change. Are they going to feel comfortable going to a changing room that may or may not have just been sanitized? These are hurdles that are going to have to be leaped and new issues that we never previously thought of. Are people going to be comfortable having a salesperson handing them three pairs of shoes to try on and then those being restocked?

Some retailers may transition to body scanner tools that allow you to figure out what size you are in a certain brand. Those already exist in some upscale stores. Similarly, I think AR tools that allow you to virtually try on clothes may gain traction too. We might see some really interesting developments in apparel shopping coming out of this.

On what retailers should expect and how they should prepare for the post-COVID-19 industry:

Justin Silverman: I’m on the optimistic side when it comes to what the future of e-commerce is going to be. I think more people are going to be shopping online.

I think that something we’ve really been focusing on is circling back to our own supply chain and our own relationships with our vendors and manufacturers. Because in a post-COVID world there’s got to be some sort of restructuring of the supply chain to be better prepared for these sudden changes.

There’s also going to be a change in competition. Who you thought that your competition was last year, might be out of business now. Or there might be some other companies that are pivoting, and are now going to be entering your space.

Amazon exited selling some of our competing products over the last month, and we saw that drive a spike in our sales. In the next month, they could go much heavier into those products or some other company that we’ve never seen before could be entering our space. I think we have to prepare for that uncertainty and monitor those developments closely.