Retail Transformation: Is the Future of Shopping Online?

The retail market has been dramatically affected across the world as a result of coronavirus. Due to the closure of all non-essential businesses since late March, consumers have been forced to shift their purchasing habits overnight. Despite the devastating impact of the virus on the retail sector, the nationwide lockdown has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst which has encouraged consumers to adapt to digital and has introduced brand new trends at an accelerated rate. 

A research study conducted by Deloitte has revealed that as a result of staying at home due to coronavirus, 42% of respondents said that they checked their social media channels more frequently. In more recent years, social media platforms have not only been used to connect with friends and family, but also to discover new brands, with more recent features allowing people to purchase items via social media platforms in just a few clicks. 

A Shift in Digital Purchasing Behaviours

Back in May we saw the roll out of Facebook and Instagram’s new “Shops” feature, a mobile-first shopping experience which allows its users to browse and purchase products directly from a business’ Facebook or Instagram Page, for free. With these new and innovative integrations making it easier than ever for small businesses to build and operate an online storefront, this feature is bound to be a huge disruptor to the market.

With people unable to access the high street, it was inevitable that there would be a shift in the way people make purchases online; whether it be making a purchase online for the first ever time, or resorting to retail therapy with those added ‘doorstep deliveries’ throughout such a strange time. Within their study, Deloitte also found that during lockdown, 38% of respondents did more shopping online in comparison to pre-lockdown, and 19% of these respondents would maintain their new purchasing behaviours online even after lockdown. 

This subsequently has caused great fears for the highstreet that consumers shopping habits may never return to how they used to be. With the previous temporary lockdown having ‘shaken people’s reality’, there really is no definite answer as to if more consumers will revert to their old ways. 

Current Effect On the High Street 

It is estimated that the financial reckoning faced by the retail sector will result in 20,620 store closures this year – up from about 16,000 in 2019 –  and resulting in nearly 250,000 job losses, according to a new analysis by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) based on a three-month lockdown. This has no doubt had one of the most devastating and life-changing effects for all businesses involved and their staff members. For retailers without a credible online fulfilment option, they risk being caught in the middle behind sophisticated operators and emerging threats. 

Information from the Office of National Statistics showed that online sales now account for £3 of every £10 spent, that’s accelerating a change in habits which has grown gradually over years in a matter of months, to which businesses have had no choice but to adjust to. Likewise, a breakdown of the British Retail Consortium figures over June-August demonstrated that online sales were up by 44.2% from the previous period, while in-store sales were down by 17.8%.

The Future 

With the UK high streets slowly but surely reopening their shop doors, it has been a challenging time for all retailers. Consumer behaviour has been forced to change, and this will undoubtedly force older customers to embrace new technology. As we continue to see a phased reduction in lockdown controls, this could result in stores being open but without a large proportion of normal customers wanting or being able to return. The retail high street has always been evolving but its response to the pandemic will be more crucial than ever if it is to survive in any recognisable form.

The pandemic is changing how and where we work, as well as where people shop. Staying connected with consumers is a priority for any business, and in these uncertain times it is non-negotiable for retailers to quickly adjust their business models to adapt to rapidly changing consumer shopping habits. Luckily, with new online integrations becoming ever more prevalent, it’s never been easier for retailers to transform the way they operate. If you’d like to explore the potential business opportunities that online commerce holds, then the team at Colehouse are more than happy to help you set up shop. Get in touch for a free, no obligation chat where we can find out more about what you need and how we can help!