What is the Consumer-Retailer Relationship in the New Normal?

Although the retail industry is on a recovery mode, it still needs to adopt an approach suitable for a pandemic-ridden economy.
What is the Consumer-Retailer Relationship in the New Normal?

Bringing the entire world, as well as the global economy to a standstill, the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely played its role in twisting and turning lives upside down. After a year since it was declared a global pandemic, today we are here with an entirely different and fresh outlook towards life, and its different aspects. 

This is almost unbelievable, but the society has evolved dramatically under the subset of the global crisis in a matter of just one year. The rapid transformation of the society has left people with no absolute definition of the term ‘normal’, as things are changing rapidly, and nobody can tell normal from abnormal anymore. 

Although the retail industry is on a recovery mode, it still needs to adopt an approach suitable for a pandemic-ridden economy. Resilience is the key mantra for any business in the post-pandemic era, and for starters, it can be displayed through integration of customer analytics and a simplified retail supply network. In fact, there are several organizations who dedicatedly studied the consumer sentiment by conducting various surveys during the ongoing crisis period. And many of these have been able to list down a few valuable insights that retailers can put to use while strategizing the revival of their businesses, in respect to the new normal. 

Consumers will Prioritize Value Over Price

Among the most talked-about retail industry trends in the new normal, changing consumer behavior is the most concerning one for any business. Owing to the global economic slowdown in 2020, followed by over millions of people losing their jobs in a blink, the shopping expenditure pattern has naturally gone through significant changes in the past months. Apart from a few product categories that may continue to see high levels of interest, people will definitely try to limit their expenditures on shopping, especially in terms of their discretionary spends. Going forward, consumers are expected to majorly make value-conscious purchases over shopping on whims. 

With working from home, and online classes becoming the new normal, a spike on the sales of electronic goods like smartphones, laptops, routers, dongles, headphones, as well as other consumer durables is a given, apart from the obvious priorities in the purchase list like food and grocery products.

Revival of Pre-Pandemic Footfall in Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Might take a Little Longer

Although the collective sufferings in the extensive lockdown period has made people value their freedom more than ever, the majority still harbors the lingering fear of getting exposed to the virus, and  would still like to stay on the safer side even after the pandemic is over. The result is, there are fewer people visiting the physical stores now, even without the restrictions being imposed. 

However, when it comes to high-value product categories, the physical stores are still the most preferred option, while online stores bag the attention for everything else. In fact, there is a very interesting theory that says Indian men mostly prefer the offline over online mode when it comes to shopping for certain high-value products, like consumer durables, electronic goods, entertainment systems, home décor and sports equipment. While on the other hand, women are more inclined to doing online shopping from the comfort of their homes. There is definitely a profound divide between men and women, the old and the young, and the big cities and the small ones. While one group prefers to walk into a physical store, touch and feel the items they would like to purchase, there is another group that is a total fan of technology, and tries to make the most of it by indulging in online shopping. The rise of online shopping is, in fact, also necessary for a retailer’s overall growth. That said, for the ones who still prefer the old-fashioned in-store shopping sprees, businesses should make sure to take adequate safety measures.

With the vaccination process going strong in different parts of the country, the day is not far when we will all be released of the fear of COVID-19, and when that happens, we expect both the online and offline modes of shopping to co-exist happily.

Tips on Bringing Back the Balance Between Offline and Online Retail

To begin with, retail, in the new normal, the retailers need to reset their priorities. In addition to focusing on consumer choices, convenience, and experiences, businesses have to prioritize maintenance of hygiene and safety, as well. At these times, it is up to the retailers to give the consumers the much-needed assurance that it is a safe environment they are entering into, where they are guaranteed to have a fulfilling shopping experience, with zero fear of coming into contact of any virus. 

In addition to this, it is important for retailers to take basic safety measures at stores like regular sanitization of all the touch-points, daily temperature checks for anyone entering the premises of the stores, and limited interactions between customers and staff. 

I believe, there will not be a better time to install virtual trial rooms in apparel stores. Although it is too early for this technology to be introduced in the Indian market, however, this crisis might just be the best opportunity to get used to its brilliance.

The pandemic has, in a way, intensified our actions by putting on extra focus on hygiene. Going forward, this pandemic will eventually be over, but the experience gained throughout this crisis will prove the resiliency of every retailer, and help them shine in the days to come.

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