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How brick & mortar stores can remain relevant post COVID-19

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While most countries around the world went into lockdown in a bid to bend the COVID-19 curve, the closure of brick and mortar stores gave room for growth in online transactions.

As a result of the pandemic, consumption habits, which normally take years to break, have been forced to transform over a short span as website and retail apps have become the new store-front.

Ironically, in spite of COVID-19 disruption of the physical retail industry, a recent survey by a strategic design agency, Shikatani Lacroix Design (SLD) identifies that retail stores remain a viable channel for consumers to shop post-pandemic.

“The key question we wanted to answer as part of the study, namely with the arrival of COVID-19 and its impact on all industries, was what impact it will have on the role of bricks and mortar locations both short and long term, and whether the move to digital has helped retailers maintain an acceptable level of operation?” Jean-Pierre Lacroix R.G.D, President and Founder of SLD said.

According to SLD’s retail consumer study conducted in May 2020, online channels, which served as a saving grace for many retailers, may disrupt future shopping behaviours and habits and thus the study which interviewed 2000 respondents said retailers who maintain a strong online presence will gain greater market share both during and after the pandemic.

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While the shoppers yearn to return to normalcy, SLD said some brands would have to rethink their business model to attract consumers back to their physical stores. For example, only 19 percent of the respondents reported going to a cinema as an activity they look forward to. Cinemas may see a new trend towards open-air drive-in culture which offers experience along with convenience.

On the ways physical stores can remain relevant, SLD said in the short term, retailers should continue to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers to regain trust and confidence.

“Stores should consider new operational processes and policies to prioritize a clean and sanitized retail environment, as it’s important for close to 75 percent of respondents that the store practices safe physical distancing and sanitization procedures,” it said.

According to the Toronto-based company discounts and promotions/ offers is another catalyst store can use to lure the customers who are slowly getting used to ordering products to their doorstep.

“As consumers are looking to save money, retailers can use this demand to rethink the purpose of the physical store, by offering added advantages to their customers beginning with limited time promotions, special discounts or extra loyalty points for visiting stores,” it said.

Discounts and Offers can work to lure customers in-store as price and promotion are important for close to 67 percent of consumers.

The highest priority for retailers, according to SLD should be to maintain items in stock, because it said it seems to be one of the most important criteria to ensure consumers who are trying to reduce the number of trips to physical stores get what they want on that first trip (73 percent).