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GUEST COMMENT How the post-Covid digital shift has triggered a new era for retail brands

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Earlier this year, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the world was turned upside down and industries globally were forced to embrace a new kind of normal. With no choice but to welcome change following a global pandemic, organisations have had to adapt their digital strategies and methods in order to keep afloat. 

Honing in on retail, the industry has had to adapt from consumers switching from high-street shopping to habits which are increasingly virtual. Across the UK and Europe, online shopping rates continue to surge, growing 129% week-on-week. And while many consumers say that online shopping wins on the convenience front due to its speed and efficiency, others place more emphasis on the experience of testing products, feeling fabrics, and smelling fragrances as an important process before making a purchase. 

With the gradual reopening of stores across the world and the repercussions of the global pandemic still unfolding, will organisations make a permanent shift to their newfound approaches for the future? Or will they revert to their original forms? 

A world with new opportunities for businesses

One thing’s for sure; businesses will need to consider the new consumer behaviours that have emerged following the Covid-19 outbreak. As individuals across the world have been forced to stay home, now more than ever they are relying on technology to meet their everyday needs. According to research we carried out in April, nearly half of UK consumers (43%) and over half of people in the US (54%) say they increased their online shopping habits because of restricted access to high-street stores following the outbreak. Just over one fifth (21%) tried online shopping for the first time, with 12% using a digital wallet for the first time to make an online payment. These figures were even more pronounced in the US; 25% of consumers shopped online for the first time following the outbreak and 18% used a digital wallet to make a payment for the first time. 

With these adjustments to everyday life, businesses need to jump on the opportunity of digital change and re-think how they engage with audiences. By catering to a broader target market and tailoring strategies to suit a new, more digitally empowered generation, businesses can continue to achieve their goals.

Revolutionising the retail experience

The traditional in-store experience has been a topic under close examination for many years within the retail industry. Before the Covid-19 pandemic it was obvious that the growth of digital was forcing change. The pandemic has played a major role in accelerating this shift and making projections and theories become a reality. 

We are seeing retailers turn to white-label delivery apps to make the transition from in-store browsing to delivery. Simultaneously we’re seeing an increase in businesses launching app loyalty programmes and providing incentives to make purchases, in order to build relationships and increase brand loyalty via a new retail experience. 

While the satisfaction of trying out products in real life is incomparable, the enhancement of new behaviours and expectations must be met in-store as well as online. According to Marketing Toolbox, consumers now expect digital interfaces to access details on products, sizes and get assistance on DIY checkouts to provides quick and convenient experiences while in store. 

Retailers should also take a fresh look at the checkout experience. The change in access to physical stores prompted digital payments to become the new norm. Our research also told us that over half (54%) of UK consumers said they had tried at least one new payment method when shopping online during the pandemic. As people are now becoming familiar with digital payments, retail businesses will in turn be expected to create a more seamless payment experience with increased choice in store.

Finally, ensuring that the digital experience is truly frictionless will be vital to making ecommerce appeal to all generations. It’s easy for some generations to feel alienated by some methods, so it’s the retailers’ duty to guarantee that digital channels are integrated and offer consistent services (such as payment options) and experiences (such as shopping carts updated in real time across devices). If they miss the mark and their service isn’t user friendly, they risk losing a whole customer base. 

Louise Clements is chief marketing officer at Paysafe

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