It’s no secret that 2020 was a tough year for many businesses. The closure of non-essential stores meant that the majority of retailers have had to find new ways to continue operation.
Whilst the situation has and continues to be difficult for many businesses, we’ve also seen many become more creative than ever, finding new and innovative ways to diversify their offering and adapt to an unfamiliar environment.
In this post, we take a look at how many retailers have kept business going during the pandemic and its subsequent national lockdowns.
Increasing digital presence
It sounds obvious that during a time when we cannot leave our homes as freely that we should move to a digital format, but for some retailers this is easier said than done. It is therefore no surprise that retailers who adopted a digital and omnichannel approach pre-pandemic have adapted more easily to the current climate than businesses that rely solely on a physical store.
Driving traffic to digital assets is also important, allocating any available budget to your paid search, SEO and social media channels. Digital engagement has replaced human interaction, meaning these channels will likely be a customer’s first point of contact with your brand. Building an online community has always been important, but now more so than ever. Creating digital content, whether it be blogs, videos or social media campaigns, that meets your customers’ needs will help your brand remain at the forefront of their minds.
Even with the pandemic bringing travel and tourism to a grinding halt, online holiday rental marketplace, Airbnb, has continued to inspire user-generated content that keeps people interested in the brand. The Online Host Experience allows you to join a community that spreads across the globe from your own home, meaning you can meet new people and earn some money at the same time. This is a prime example of innovation and diversifying your services, all whilst building up hype and generating fresh content that remains relevant to the target audience.
2020 saw many brands turn to digital channels in order to showcase products, make the shopping process safer and build trust among consumers. Coca-Cola launched a touchless vending machine in the summer, allowing for contact-free pouring via the use of a QR code and smartphone.
Video shopping has also become normalised during the pandemic. Go Instore reported an 800% increase in interest around its technology since the initial UK lockdown, with Mamas & Papas, Currys PC World and Ernest Jones all adopting the software to engage with customers and encourage purchasing. Video shopping allows brands to connect with store staff and experts via HD video call. This is particularly important for retailers who predominantly sell products with a high price point – consumers need to feel confident in their purchase decision – especially in such a difficult economic climate.
Improving website functionality
Even existing ecommerce websites have had to make adjustments since March last year – higher volumes of web traffic combined with higher expectations for the online experience mean that ecommerce performance is a priority like never before. At Venture Stream, we’ve encountered a significant rise in enquiries around Shopify website builds, whether it be from scratch or a migration due to the platform’s ability to handle the higher volumes of traffic being generated.
Searches for the term ‘ecommerce website’ peaked massively in June 2020 compared to the rest of the year according to Google trends, indicating that the first lockdown sparked an interest in ecommerce website builds and optimisations. Consumers are using multiple devices to browse the web at unprecedented levels, meaning websites must be optimised for all devices – not just mobile which has often taken priority over the past few years. We are no longer browsing on the move like we did when we commuted to work and ran errands outside of our homes.
Adapting products & services
Perhaps the most interesting (and radical) way businesses have diversified during the pandemic is by adapting their products. This doesn’t just apply to traditional retail businesses either – other sectors are turning to ecommerce in order to cater to customer needs.
Newcastle-based pizza restaurant, Pizza Punks, launched a Shopify store this year selling ‘Bake at Home Pizzas’, ‘Cocktails Boxes’ and ‘Pizza Party in a Box’ – a DIY pizza kit which contains everything you need to recreate the experience at home. You can even choose a delivery date and time for optimum convenience. Many other eateries are offering a similar service, marketing these products as the “restaurant experience at home” whilst no one can go out to enjoy a meal. Even McDonald’s has diversified its offering by launching McDelivery on JustEat, with no contact delivery an option. Retailers should consider flexible delivery options with health and safety at the forefront.
Shifting consumer behaviour & the future of retail
Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about dramatic changes when it comes to how we shop, it’s likely that many of them are here to stay even after Covid-19 leaves us.
Now that routines are primarily internet first, searches for “home delivery” have soared, growing by over 20% by the end of March 2020. The convenience of online shopping will more than likely lead to favour among consumers for digital channels. This in turn is increasing expectations, and retailers will need to ensure these are met. Investment in your website, delivery options and digital marketing channels has never been more imperative to your business’s success, meaning we’re likely to see more innovation and creativity from retailers even when Covid-19 becomes a thing of the past.
Emily Crosby is a PR and content executive at the digital marketing agency Venture Stream