As the retail sector picks up pace after lockdown, how will we get our goods in the future?

“Do not forsake us, oh my darlings” – must be high noon

As the retail sector picks up pace after lockdown, shopping won’t be the same…so what IS the new way of getting our goods?  

The Coronavirus pandemic triggered a huge shift in consumer behaviour – now retailers must consider new approaches to ensure long term success

CEO of Ubamarket, Will Broome, discusses how the pandemic will transform the way in which we shop and explores the technology ushering in a new age of retail

The coronavirus pandemic has had a deep impact on many facets of our society, and one of the sectors which felt this impact the most was undoubtedly that of retail.

The introduction of lockdown resulted in the closure of most physical shops for almost three months, which triggered an unprecedented shift in consumer behaviour and sentiment, whilst causing retailers everywhere to seriously rethink their strategies.

According to ONS data, less than 20% of all shopping was carried out online in 2019, but by May 2020, that figure had jumped to over one-third of all transactions at 33.4%. With the pandemic scuppering physical retail, many shoppers had no choice to move the majority of their purchasing online.

Does this mean that the Coronavirus pandemic marks the beginning of the end for physical retail? Despite the mass shift of consumer spending online during the pandemic, the ONS found that a staggering 83% of people reported preferring to shop in store as the reason for not buying goods or services over the internet; this comes as a survey carried out by the British Retail Consortium discovered that over half of the UK’s consumers believe that retailers are doing a good job of keeping them safe in-store.

With the reopening of the high street, shopping centres and most physical retail locations, these figures would suggest that consumer spending in-store is likely to increase significantly in June, July and beyond. However, the pandemic has called into question the status quo in the retail sector, and has forced consumers and retailers alike to consider alternative methods of shopping and retailing.

Will Broome, CEO of retail tech pioneers Ubamarket, comments on the effects of the pandemic on the retail sector and discusses the new technologies and approaches that will transform the sector moving forward:

Despite the havoc that the pandemic wrought on the retail sector, I believe that it has also forced retailers and consumers alike to face a number of pre-existing problems with the way in which we shop. 

Ever-changing store layouts, outdated queues and checkouts, and the lack of communication between retailers and their customers are just some of the issues that COVID-19 has made very clear. 

Now, the question facing retailers is not ‘when will things go back to normal’ but rather ‘how can we adapt our offering to make sure we are aligned with the changing trends and new retail landscape?’. Adhering to the new guidelines established by the government in terms of cleanliness, social distancing and hygiene measures is of course essential, but that is only one piece of the puzzle.

As we emerge from lockdown, the ONS and BRC statistics suggest that while many turned to online shopping, a huge proportion of the UK’s shoppers are committed to physical retail. Therefore, people will be more hygienic and convenience-conscious, and retailers will be looking for ways to adapt to the shift in consumer behaviour and protect themselves against future shortages.

 The implementation of retail technology holds the key to building the future of retail that supports our new shopping habits whilst also helping retailers to safeguard themselves against future cases of irregular consumer behaviour. 

Retail tech offers an all-encompassing solution; in Ubamarket’s case in the form of a simple app; which can put consumers in control, doing away with the need for time-consuming queues, unhygienic checkouts, and confusion about where products are and whether they are in stock. It remains to be seen how the sector will fare beyond Coronavirus, but retail technology is sure to play a significant role.”