As with any other sector, the retail world has been going through a series of interesting changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the brick-and-mortar stores were closed during the lockdowns that followed “shelter at home” orders, and although they are slowly opening, it will take some time for businesses to recover completely.
At a more macroeconomic level, eCommerce has made it possible to keep retail afloat. According to a report by ROI Revolution, eCommerce sales grew by 76%, with Walmart beating eBay, thus securing its position at #2, while Amazon stood at the topmost position with a profit margin of 38.7%. But not all retailers, and especially the small stores, are online. In fact, CNBC revealed that about 1.9 million retail workers in the sector lost their jobs, among which 1.1 million were laid off temporarily, as per the reports by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even as economic activity picks up, traumatized people are shunning human contact and placing most of their orders online, which is again creating problems for stores. Clearly, retail businesses are likely to face further risks on their path to recovery.
Consumers may be suffering from germaphobia even after infection rates go down, due to the advent of a vaccine, or because of achieving the ‘herd immunity’ that everyone’s talking about. However, the fear of touch will be there for some time, which may affect retail activities like in-store food sampling, salad counters, etc.
What to do – The retailers should maintain no-touch policies or showcase extreme efforts to clean and sanitize stores for as long as the fear doesn’t go from the consumers’ minds, This seems set to become a key feature of each store.
Many companies will permanently shift to working from their homes, people may leave their Starbucks habit for good, and some others will prefer to cook their food at home in a post-COVID world. With such shifts in the regular habits of the people, the demand for goods will also change. Retailers will need to change the goods they carry and improve the quality of their delivery services to ensure maximum satisfaction.
What to do – Hire experienced delivery personnel, who can meet the expectations of your customers. You should also provide health and other perks to these workers to make them love their jobs and give their best, even while delivering. You should also think outside the box to develop ideas that match the current and upcoming trends in consumer lifestyles. Offer customers bonuses, promotions, seasonal offers, surprise gifts, etc. to make them stay loyal to your store, even if it is only for deliveries.
Sounds weird, right? What have retail stores to do with car accidents? Well, when you increase your door-to-door delivery services and make it a regular thing, it’s obvious that cars will be needed to make it more effective, which will also increase the chances of accidents and add to your expenses in the form of liabilities, if not the medical expenses of your employees. Well, if you’re thinking that you may not get into the whole delivery thing, then your business may suffer. This is another new kind of risk that the retailers need to manage.
What to do – Well, you should get commercial auto insurance for each of your vehicles and make sure your delivery executives are properly licensed and trained in driving them. It will not only help you cover the costs of the damaged vehicles but also settle third-party demands for medical or other expenses if any.
The demand for digital services will increase by leaps and bounds even after COVID dies out. Consumers have gotten into the habit of ordering everything online. They may also be shaken by the COVID situation and reluctant to leave the safety of their homes. Retailers should take advantage of this situation, but the problem lies in expenses. Many brick and mortar stores have realized the increase in expenses in maintaining an eCommerce store lately. This apart, security is also a big question when it comes to digital stores, where payment transactions take place by using customer data, which is stored in the servers.
What to do – If you’re planning to go online, you should first opt for a Cyber Security Insurance coverage to help keep all the customers’ data safe. You should also consider getting professional liability insurance, which will protect you from the liabilities of your products causing unintentional harm or injury.
Every business owner has learned by now how important it’s to keep their employees safe. In the post-COVID world, this will be the primary requirement for people wanting to work with you. When you go for hiring, you will need to assure them that their health will be a priority, or else they won’t join you.
What to do – Make sure you opt for a concrete Worker’s Compensation Insurance cover that will ensure maximum protection to your employees and also cover their medical and other expenses, in case of an injury, or even worse, death.
As the challenges increase, new channels will also open up to help you progress. In the post-COVID world, many things will be different. Businesses will need to make some big changes in their policies, environment, and expenditure if they want to ride out the storm. That may be one of the lasting legacies of the COVID days.