The COVID-19 pandemic changed how businesses used to operate in India and all over the world. Similarly, the retail industry also completely transformed, owing to a global health crisis that led to norms, like quarantine and social distancing. The commercial retail space is being taken over by online spaces. The crisis has radically changed the way customers buy their products and impacted the commercial activities of the shoppers. Even after more than a year when offline stores have now reopened, consumers continue to shuffle between online and offline shopping weighing the pros and cons of the two.
Finding Opportunity in Chaos
Amid all the chaotic transformation, the pandemic has provided opportunities to enhance the offline retail customer experience by embracing technology. The retailers, now more than ever, need to adapt to the changing times to stay afloat in the race. To sustain themselves, retailers should adopt newer retailing methods and techniques that ensure comfort and ease without compromising safety. The online to offline (O2O) approach is the solution to the retail dilemma. The O2O retail will help implement innovations and the physical shopping experience for consumers to make the most of both the retail world.
Finding the Balance
Though the stores were closed due to the pandemic, omnichannel retail proved to be the savior for the retail industry. Retailers are now refining their business models to adapt to changing market trends while meeting the needs of consumers. The O2O experience is becoming the heart of their retail strategies. In short, O2O's business model is adding your touch of paying online, searching for physical products in brick-and-mortar stores and providing a try-on experience.
Now, retailers should also focus on balancing their physical and digital presence since there is a significant increase in digital literacy during this period. Innovation was not a problem for large retailers, however, a significant part of the Indian retail industry includes local brands and small businesses, which until recently have been using the most basic forms of technology. The pandemic and related struggles changed everything for them. The customer looks for a seamless digital experience and O2O retail is the answer. Retailers must keep in mind that to stay afloat in the market, they should provide their consumers a seamless experience.
Way Ahead for Offline Retail
With the current situation getting better and retail spaces opening up for lease, people are likely to go to the stores to buy in real-time, as they have been missing the real-time experience for a long time, simultaneously they will also buy online depending on the need and convenience, which brings in huge demand for online to offline and vice versa experience.
To sustain, offline retail spaces have to revamp themselves according to the changing times. The two channels have to coexist as per the changing customer’s needs that entirely depend upon the advantages of online shopping and offline shopping. Customers want to enjoy without compromising safety thus opening avenues for the commercial retail property.
Thus, it concludes that as the world is still recovering, consumers are likely to continue their new purchasing behaviors, with increased expectations. To navigate after the pandemic, retailers will need to deliver a cohesive and consistent experience in all interactions with customers and leverage technology to deliver an enjoyable shopping experience.