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As COVID-19 Upends Retail, Some Innovations Are Likely to Endure

  • Thousands of retailers have closed their doors during COVID-19, and surviving stores are likely to retain innovative features after the pandemic passes
  • Contactless purchases, at-home shopping options, and improved sanitation among the features expected to endure
  • Customers also embrace opportunities to skip the checkout line and pick up products ordered online

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severely detrimental effect on retailers, as fewer customers are venturing out to brick-and-mortar locations and a tenuous economy has caused consumers to reign in spending in a number of areas. One study found that 6,000 stores have closed since the start of the pandemic, with those located in malls or specializing in apparel being particularly hard-hit.

Specialty stores have not fared as well as those offering many different kinds of products, and smaller retailers have faced an uphill battle against larger ones that have been better able to introduce tech upgrades in response to the pandemic. Higher unemployment and sharpened income inequality has led to an increase in thrift spending as well as high-end purchasing, leaving midrange retailers in a more difficult position. Malls and department stores face a greater risk of closing, but some have indicated that they intend to experiment with smaller stores.

Services that debuted during the pandemic, such as touch-free shopping, are likely to endure in the retailers that survive the pandemic. Customers may also come to expect stores to maintain enhanced sanitation procedures and setups that support social distancing. Retailers are also more likely to support artificial intelligence and user-generated content to support online shopping, minimizing in-store browsing and leading to higher conversion rates among customers that visit a store.

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