The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a sea change in the shopping behaviour of many Indians. The prominence of online shopping became a reality as the physical stores were compelled to shut down to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Consequently, the disruption changed the shopping habits so speedily that thousands of offline retail businesses have been particularly hit hard, leading to a huge crisis like job losses. Today, as most Indians prefer shopping online for not stepping outside, the online retail sector has been booming now more than ever. With the upward growth trajectory of the Indian e-commerce industry, consumers are safely receiving their deliveries right at their doorstep.
A humongous shift to online shopping
According to a report by Mckinsey, around 96% of consumers have adopted new shopping behaviour and approximately 60% of consumers are anticipated to shift to online shopping in the festive seasons and continue it throughout COVID-19 and beyond. Such humongous growth would never have been witnessed without the ever-increasing smartphone and internet penetration. A noteworthy fact also states that due to this huge disruption, numerous retailers landed into trouble after being unable to adapt to the unexpected customer demands without a proper infrastructure in place. Above all, the COVID-19 disruption managed to radically change the retail landscape in India bringing a series of whole new trends to the table.
Here’s a roundup of the leading retail trends in 2021
Offer Personalized Online Shopping
Numerous brands have started offering unique and personalized online experiences to their customers. Today, almost all e-commerce websites utilize chatbots and virtual assistants to serve customers to be the best extent. This facilitates the consumers to engage with the brand 24/7. Chatbots and virtual assistants let the brands serve as a cheaper customer service option. This exclusive retail trend in the new year is convenient for both retailers and consumers.
Even video calls turned out to be a new mode of communication. Retailers after realizing the significance of video call as a potential consultation and sales tool are utilizing them to effectively communicate with their customers. Virtual consultations offer supreme convenience to demonstrate a product’s functions, share product videos, and earn consumers’ trust.
Significant Rise in AI Customer-Facing in Retail
Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven big data retailing analytics have been ripening for ages now. It led to a large number of retailers depending on advanced analytics to recognize the types of items they must keep in stock in their stores. At present, the majority of the retailers are putting their main focus on AI marketing outreach to boost their customer-base and conversions. AI-enabled voice recognition technology has enhanced to a great extent and has been adding immense value to both in-store and online vehicles of shopping. Using one’s voices to search for something online or control any device has become increasingly common. In the way forward, it will be undoubtedly used extensively to search and shop items online. What’s important for the retailers is to establish a proper infrastructure to cater to these changing habits. In 2021 too, we can expect to witness robots in inventory management occupying the shop floor.
Self-Driving Delivery Vehicles & Drone Deliveries
The exponential growth of online shopping until lately by courtesy of the pandemic is inevitable. With the shutting down of the considerable offline stores across the globe, retailers have discovered ever-innovative modes of delivery inclusive of self-driving delivery and drone deliveries of products. Even though online shopping significantly decreases the chances of coming in close contact with individuals carrying the deadly virus, still, there are chances of contamination from delivery networks caused by poor hygiene practices.
Self-driving deliveries and drone deliveries further reduce the risk of contamination leading to the wide acceptance of these span-new technologies.
Transformation of Physical Retail
Unquestionably, it is a known fact of how online retail has accomplished a clear victory over offline retail in the COVID-infused year. The ease, convenience, and safety provided by online retail attracted consumers in a whole new dimension. The nationwide lockdown even introduced a large number of customers who never shopped online. But despite such humongous growth, these people would more likely return to physical stores with the fading of the pandemic. The physical stores which were once adversely affected by the pandemic are likely to give a tough fight to online stores. Although the fastest way to grab groceries is to visit a local store and purchase them, still many consumers do not prefer this mode of shopping in the COVID-era. Due to this, many big and small offline stores have started offering their consumers an ‘order online’ and ‘pickup at store’ facility. Retailers are likewise forging alliances with e-commerce companies to deliver products to your doorstep. In this way, consumers can place orders from their favorite offline retailers and get them delivered within a day or two via e-commerce companies.
The emerging ‘Shop Local’ Trend
With shoppers fearing to travel to large shopping malls, numerous local shops witnessed an upswing in their sales margin. This emerging trend is likely to continue throughout 2021 and beyond as the majority of office goers would work from home. Today, many consumers exist who tend to immensely support local shops producing good quality products at affordable pricing. Consumers want to shop from independently-owned businesses and local to support entrepreneurship, experience good customer service, and buying unique products. So, these independent retailers and local shops will have to focus on their messaging and highlight the benefits they offer to the community alongside adopting key features offered by large retailers to satisfy consumer needs and demands.
The COVID-infused year 2020 brought major upheavals and unprecedented changes across every industry with the retail industry being no exception. The retail industry is amid a radical transformation. Thus, retailers must efficiently adapt to these dynamic trends to prevail in the competitive 2021 marketplace and understand the constantly shifting shopping behaviour of the consumers.