The world faced a digital overhaul in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. For a long time now, retail has slowly but surely been working its way online. This process was fast-tracked in 2020, born out of the need to reach customers where they were instead of bringing them to the physical store. Technology became the default rather than an optional avenue.
Retailers were not the only ones forced to change during the pandemic. Shoppers' habits also changed, possibly forever. The hygiene concerns the pandemic brought up reduced the footfall rate in physical stores, consequently lowering the viability of businesses not adhering to the new hygiene standards.
Luckily, technology helped several outlets recover from such shortcomings.
The Rise of E-Commerce
One of the most noticeable outcomes of the pandemic was the number of retail outlets that went online. Whether in the form of an Instagram profile or a complete website and a corresponding mobile application, e-commerce became the norm and remains that way today. Online retail took the world by storm, with giants like Amazon also looking to hire 10,000 more employees in March 2020 to keep up with the increased demand.
Retailers quickly understood the viability of e-stores and went online. The online space also allowed for more localised and targeted marketing based on pin code. This further helped businesses thrive amidst trying times.
Using AR for Personalised Experiences
Augmented reality (AR) was a severely underutilised technology before the pandemic hit. But once retail was forced online, several outlets started using AR to their advantage. AR let customers test products out without being in a physical store. Lenskart, for example, allowed customers to see how they looked in glasses before they made a purchase. AR allows retailers to personalise buyer experiences, therefore increasing engagement and overall satisfaction.
Digital Marketing for Brand Establishment
While digital marketing was not new before the pandemic, it faced a boom during COVID-19. Businesses realised how well they could use the digital sphere to reach more people. Especially through off-site methods like newsletters, emailers, and a social media presence, retailers could reach their customers in their homes. Customers did not even need to visit the e-store – they could browse their favourite outlets on Instagram, learn about offers through email newsletters, and get updates about offers and sales on Facebook.
The online avenue opened up the possibility of customers experiencing the same feeling of walking past a store with a big sign advertising a sale from their homes while scrolling on social media. With such personalised experiences, it comes as no surprise that India’s digital marketing industry grew from ₹47B in 2015 to ₹199B in 2020.
These are just a few ways technology helped the retail industry come back and regain its footing during uncertain times. There is nothing quite like a pandemic to test the market's resilience, but with technology by its side, the market successfully built itself back up. Technology, therefore, is a strong ally in ensuring the continued success of the retail industry.