Analysts had long predicted a shift in sales from brick-and-mortar stores to the e-commerce shelves. For the past decade, e-commerce sales have been steadily taking about 2% of annual retail sales. In 2019, online sales hit approximately 16% of overall sales in the U.S., expecting to hit 18% in 2020. That was before COVID-19 happened.
The steady move of retail sales to online https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2018/econ/e-stats/2018-e-stats.html
News reports, government briefings, and constant social media reminders have encouraged us all to stay home, wear a mask, and keep our social distance. These are all helpful tips to slow the spread of the virus but have proven extremely damaging to retailers, from big box stores like Macy’s to small family storefronts. The transition from in-store to online was already progressing before the pandemic, but COVID pushed the transition into full speed.
In these past 10 months, we have seen some businesses become remarkably creative and highly reactive: expanding curbside pickup, offering new delivery options, offering call-ahead, and much more! But what all these have in common is increased use of technology. Whether it’s your first choice or not, to create a sustainable retail business in 2021 you will have to embrace the tech-savvy you!
I have identified a few thoughts for you to keep in mind going into 2021.
The more information a business can gather about everything from the product’s creation to getting it into the buyers’ hands and then even after to understand what they thought about the product is all key data to creating a better product and offering a better experience. ExtremeCloud IQ solutions offer unlimited data, meaning your business can track data for years; revealing historical trends, customer behavior, and detailed reports on network and device usage. ExtremeCloud IQ offers a host of benefits even greater than unlimited data. (Feel free to check out all of its benefits here)
Online shopping can, at times, feel cold or leave shoppers a little lost. When developing a website or social media account try to give it a personality. Your mind might automatically go to adding a customer support person to pop-up when someone enters the page, which, yes that’s good! But in 2021 livestream and videos with real workers holding, wearing, or using the actual product will go a long way. If a customer cannot be physically in a store to feel, smell, use, and hold the product in their own hands it’s important to give them the next best thing.
COVID restrictions have limited most businesses to 40% capacity, leaving fewer people to do the same job. Robotic technology can offer a solution to these problems and a relief to the budget in the future years. Many large wholesalers or fulfillment agencies have already taken advantage of the robots to clean, track inventory, and stock shelves. Walmart relies on Alphabot, Amazon relies on Kiva, and many chat messages that pop up when scrolling through a website are robots. Robotic technology has only gotten better and will continue to offer itself to a broader scope of businesses.
This pandemic has pushed everyone outside of their comfort zones, forcing us to think in new ways. It has become apparent that shopping malls and large storefronts have seen decreased foot traffics. Finding ways to make up for that loss of traffic will be key. I think we should never underestimate the ability of a creative mind.
The shopping experience has completely changed from what it was 15 years ago and I’m sure it will take more unexpected turns. To learn more about how Extreme can help enable a new normal in the retail world check out the resources below: