Things haven’t changed much in the last couple of days. We are clearly living in times that will go down in history as a time when the whole world collectively suffered. We have entered another week of lockdown and Social Distancing is being enforced everywhere.
Buyer behavior changed drastically almost overnight. The retail brick and mortar stores had to adapt to this with no preparation whatsoever. In this post, we will be discussing how the brick and mortar retail stores can survive the crisis.
The initial response
The initial response was panic buying or aggressive buying. People started stocking up on medical supplies, hand sanitizers, masks, household essentials, etc. Different generations reacted in different ways. The Gen Z and Millenials reacted by stocking up on essentials rather than spend on experiences. However, the Gen X and Boomers haven’t changed their buying behaviour drastically. It is understandable, this panic buying. People do not want to be under prepared if things become worse. It may have given them a sense of control and could also be because of crowd mentality. We will come to know about that only later. This initial response disrupted a lot of things for retail brick and mortar stores.
Stocks were cleared faster than anticipated. The supply chain was also affected. That meant that replenishing these stocks would take longer than usual. Because of the crisis, there was a difference in what products were sold more. Health and safety products and shelf stable goods were being sold more whereas luxury goods didn’t see much traction.
The current scenario
The retail brick and mortar stores weren’t prepared for this emergency. In countries where lockdown is in effect, people are allowed to go buy essential items. There are two types of retail brick and mortar stores now – One which is providing their services online also and the other which provides only in their brick and mortar stores. The former, gets the list of products a customer needs via their online website or mobile application. The latter, gets the requirement list via telephone. Post collecting the requirement, the store makes deliveries to the locations provided by the customers and performs contactless deliveries at a given time once in a day. Payment is usually made online to reduce contact.
Governments are making sure that the supply of essential products are met and price gouging doesn’t happen. The retail stores which have been providing online deliveries also are facing operational deliveries like long waits, cancellations, outages etc. At the same time, there are people who have a tendency to buy meat and vegetables only after seeing them.
This means that few customers will be visiting the brick and mortar stores to collect these products. Stores have to make sure they follow the World Health Organization guidelines like maintaining a distance of 3 ft, wearing masks, using hand sanitizers, etc so that these customers can buy the available products.
What lies in the future
We are going through unexpected times and It is unfortunate that we have to go through this. However, all isn’t lost. In future, we have to make sure that we are prepared for situations like this. Once the world overcomes these situations and life goes back to a new normal, the retail brick and mortar stores will also be able to get back on their feet. Two solutions the brick and mortar retail industry could follow are – Omnichannel model and subscription model.
- The Omnichannel model – Retail brick and mortar stores which do not have online presence can create online presence. Having both brick and mortar stores and online presence is important in this digital age. As mentioned earlier, the buying patterns have changed. A lot of consumers who earlier wouldn’t have bought products online are ready to buy online. So, it’s important that you have an online presence.
- The Subscription model – A brick and mortar store will definitely have its regulars. You can implement a subscription model for your customers. This will help the elderly, people who are working, etc a great deal. Essential goods, groceries etc can be included in this subscription model. There are a couple of mobile applications in the US and Australia which allow customers to subscribe to veggies and other essentials every week based on different criteria like recipes/ cuisines, etc.
The unexpected crisis of COVID-19 and the sudden change in buying patterns have definitely disrupted the retail brick and mortar stores. There is a huge difference in the supply and demand for products at this time, especially for essential goods. However, the stores are doing everything they can to survive this crisis. And post that we will be seeing a new normal when it comes to buying behaviour and the retail stores need to be prepared for that. It is difficult to overcome a crisis. But, together we can. Follow the guidelines of WHO. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Together, we can build the world.