We’re over eight months into the pandemic and consumer news seems to be tilting to which COVID-inspired trends and behavior will be sticking around for the long-term. We understand that you may be more worried about how you’re going to make it through tomorrow. But keep an eye on these ideas as they may provide some short and long-term solutions.
Browsing? Not Anymore.
We’ve been reporting that consumers are clear about their preference to “get in and get out” this holiday season. Big box retailers are responding, and Fast Company thinks that efficiency over browsing may be a more permanent change.
- By the end of the year, 200 Walmart stores won’t look that different, but how shoppers navigate through them will be streamlined. That number will climb to 1,000 stores by the end of 2021.
- Focus is on clear signage (tons of it!!) and newly consolidated category groupings, which in the past may have been intentionally scattered to encourage more time spent in store.
- Notably: The in-store icons and categories correlate perfectly with the new Walmart App, whose single-minded focus is on a “seamless experience between the digital store and physical one.”
- For context of how powerfully COVID has shaped this new direction, Target spent $7 billion in 2017 to create more browsable stores. The effort was a huge success, driving foot traffic in 2018 to the highest numbers in 10 years. Two years, plus COVID later, and the original goal needs to be completely redefined.
Here’s the kicker and why this trend may outlast COVID: Walmart started this redesign to create a quicker, more efficient shopping experience LAST YEAR. Of course, then the goal was the digital/real world integration via the app. Now it looks like it may be here to stay.
Can We Hear Another Shout for CURBSIDE Pickup?
In the Fast Company article referenced above, it was also noted Target reported a 734% increase in curbside pick-ups this year. Let’s not overcomplicate it:
“Americans are used to their cars and actually do like stores, so [curbside] is kind of a hybrid where you’re getting the best of both worlds.” – Oliver Chen, a retail analyst at Cohen, quoted in the New York Times
Many retailers have credited curbside pickup with their viability this year. Yes, the customer is still responsible for the last mile. But in addition to liking our cars and our stores, curbside is also offering same-day convenience, with zero shipping costs. It’s keeping retail workers employed, albeit with slightly different job descriptions. By definition, fulfillment is a good thing. And in many cases, physical retailers can provide same-day fulfillment, personal service and a connection to their community.
SIA Take: While there are technology tools and channel management investments that will provide a more streamlined, sophisticated curbside experience for your customers, don’t overlook the power of communications. Curbside pickup, as simple as it sounds, is a BIG solution for many of the concerns your consumers face right now. Get the word out and promote the convenience, affordability, zero-touch checkout, community support, and yes: fulfillment.
Will Working From Home Change Consumer Patterns?
Zoom is now a noun, verb and an adjective. ClickMeeting, a competitor to Zoom, is doing pretty well for itself this year, too. Nope, this isn’t a promotion or a sponsored post, but ClickMeeting did share some stats (quoted below) gathered from a recent survey.
- 59% enjoy remote work, whereas 23% of people miss working in an office.
- 46% prefer a hybrid workforce (working partly at home, partly at the office) model.
- 33% vote for pure remote work; 16% prefer an office environment.
WFH is changing our work lives and may have long-term implications for commercial real estate and shopping trends. One example is the athleisure boom.
“Consumers are swapping out jeans and office wear for yoga pants, sweats and shorts as they work from home and spend more free time there,” says Nathaniel Meyersohn from CNN Business.
Despite temporary store closures, Lululemon’s sales increased 2% to $903 million during the quarter ending August 2, compared with the same period last year. Lululemon was able to make up for temporary closures with online sales, which grew 157% last quarter. Beyond a surge in yoga pant sales, we’re keeping an eye on WFH-inspired shopping trends. Nothing is concrete yet, but are peak shopping times changing? Is e-commerce spiking during the day, when workers can place a quick order without worry that a manager will question their use of time? Are flexible hours accompanying WFH policies, and allowing in-person shopping at all hours? Could a lack of commute time “free up” more time to buy basic necessities locally, instead of online?
And… It’s Official: Ski Season Has Begun in the Northern Hemisphere
Resorts in Finland, Austria, Norway, Italy, and Switzerland are open. Weather permitting, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Area, both in Colorado, are the most likely contenders to open first in the U.S. – if history is our guide. But let’s wait and see where the snow falls.