The new normal

The new normal

The COVID-19 crisis has had big short-term impacts on retailers’ operations — from spurring store closures to slower shipping speeds — but also, in some cases, hiring, bonuses, and pay raises.

Article by Laura Kennedy — Lead Analyst at CB Insights

But what will this monumental disruption mean for retail and consumer businesses in the long term?

The uncertainty that the crisis is creating for consumers — in their health, their financial positions, and more — is already reframing how they view value. This event could fully transform their perceptions of what constitutes quality, convenience, and an engaging shopping experience.

Retailers, meanwhile, continue to face pressure around sales, shopper connections, and profits nearly across the board. Supermarkets and other essentials-geared retailers in particular have a new view into supply chain reliability, agility, and efficiency. Other retailers are re-examining supply chain visibility internationally.

Looking ahead, we see a refocusing on the business models and innovations that will drive execution, conversion, and efficiency.

For instance, average daily downloads for the top online grocery apps are way up as new users try out delivery and other low-contact services. Beauty brands’ interest in virtual try-on tools like augmented reality has intensified as well. Retailers, meanwhile, have had the chance to take a closer look at any technology that will further automate their stores.

What other innovations could become more relevant?

We’re tracking three big shifts — and we have research to help you navigate them:

With temporary store closures and social distancing measures, e-commerce is now a bigger part of many shoppers’ retail habits.

  • Online grocery will boost retailers’ interest in micro-fulfillment centers to make fulfilling orders more profitable. Autonomous delivery will look more attractive, though will still require a fair amount of investment to get up and running in the US.
  • Experience-driven retailers will lean on low-investment online engagement like livestream shoppingImmersive product content and virtual stores will get more attention, but will require more investment in an efficiency-focused world. Clients can read about more of the innovations elevating the e-commerce experience here.
  • At the store, profits will be in sharp focus. Retailers will look for technology that automates the store, including AI for inventory management, robot associates, and cashierless checkout. Clients can learn about what else is gaining speed in in-store tech here.

In the absence of in-person experiences, consumers are focused on the essentials. These will range from pantry items to products that have become more necessary for home life, like tech for kids.

  • Wellness will remain a priority, but consumers will focus more on necessities, such as skincare or grooming. At the same time, mindfulness supplementscannabis-infused food, and aromatherapy may get more attention from anxious consumers. Clients can read about more self-care trends to watch in 2020 here, and rising trends in CPG here.
  • With gyms closed, consumers are taking advantage of more at-home fitness tech to maintain physical fitness; sleep tech and other wearables could also get a boost.
  • Gaming‘s virtual worlds have attracted renewed attention as consumers look for new ways to engage with people from within their own homes. This could draw more attention to the potential for virtual goods, though they’re likely to remain limited to a narrow range of products.

Communication will have to be even more precise to reach consumers who are further away.

  • Loyalty startups that make engagement more personalized will help brands and retailers remain connected. E-commerce’s importance means more sophisticated advertising tech will be crucial as well.
  • Connected “products-as-a-service” will also help brands stay in touch with (and learn about) consumers at home.
  • Virtual one-on-one consultations for categories like beauty will provide shopper engagement that is more personalized than AI-driven quizzes (and also has the potential to help keep people employed).
  • We’re already seeing the expansion of digital connections beyond strictly consumer businesses — and from telehealth to remote working tools, virtual communication is likely to become more common across daily life.

We’ll keep tracking progress across these trends. Reply and let us know how the trends you care about have changed and where we can help.

Hope you, your family, and friends are staying well. Happy shopping (even if it’s out of your pantry),

Laura Kennedy.


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CEO Staff
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