5 Ways the COVID-19 Crisis Will Change Retail Forever

June 7, 2020 - 11 minutes read

How the coronavirus is shifting the landscape and ways you can respond.


The COVID-19 crisis has changed the world as we know it. Thurst into a state of isolation, we’ve all had to change the way we work and live. As the pandemic rages on across the globe, a return to ‘normality’ doesn’t seem feasible yet.

As people change the way they shop and consume, many retail brands have responded with innovative measures to meet the needs of their customers.

This level of innovation, coupled with the sheer will to offer direct value to people in need, has changed the retail space as we know it. As the crisis endures, one thing is clear to us:  COVID-19 has or will change the industry forever.

While this may seem like an alarming message, with change comes opportunity. With the right response, you will be able to thrive once the pandemic tapers down.


1. Consumer shopping habits

The socially distant nature of the pandemic has forced many consumers to think more about how they shop and what they buy.

A recent luxury retail study discovered that 72% of customers would pay more for high-quality clothing items based on their ‘ability to endure.’ The majority of the shoppers surveyed plan to pass these garments onto their children in the future.

The same study also found shoppers were ready to pay full price for brands that are linked to a noble cause. In fact, retailer Moda (the brand responsible for the report) confirmed that 34% of its charity-driven shoppers were either new customers or account holders who had been dormant for over a year.

While the consumer world is still alive and well, it appears the pandemic has altered the average shopper’s philosophy. People are looking for items they know will last the distance and will buy from brands that are known to be doing good.


To maintain customer loyalty and make new consumer connections post-pandemic, it’s essential that you offer goods or services that offer direct, longlasting value to your audience.

Explore your consumer data over recent months to paint a panoramic picture of your customers’ habits during the crisis and develop campaigns that highlight the enduring quality of what you have to offer.

Look at your supply chain and make sure that you work with partners that share your brand values and collaborate with charities relevant to your niche or industry. Donating some of your profits to a meaningful cause or helping with fundraising campaigns will help you boost brand awareness in a way that resonates with new consumer outlooks post-COVID-19.


2. Online competition

eCommerce shopping has risen by 30% in the US since March 2020. In recent months, there has been a notable shift towards entertainment products such as books, games, and movie subscription passes as people are looking to fill their time during the quarantine.

What’s interesting is that the ‘silent generation’ (those aged over 70) are migrating towards a more online existence, largely through necessity.

As those who once shopped solely in-person become accustomed to online shopping and basic digital technologies, there will be an influx of online shoppers. The digital retail space is likely to become more saturated—demand will increase, but the competition will be fierce.


As the world of online shopping continues to explode, the best way to push yourself ahead of the pack is to create more focused digital marketing campaigns aimed at specific segments of your audience or shopping generations.

By investing in messaging and focusing on services and products that meet the needs of specific audiences, you stand to grow your audience over time as the pandemic slows. Also, narrower, more value-driven campaigns are likely to increase customer loyalty.

Here are two resources that will steer you in the right direction:





In the digital age, setting up a professional web presence is easier and more achievable than you might think—especially if you work with the right eCommerce tools.


3. Physical retail

At the moment, it’s not possible to waltz over to your nearest shopping mall and browse the aisles of your favorite shops on a weekend.

Many brands and businesses are thinking outside the box to stay afloat during the pandemic, and some have moved into the online space. As the pandemic slows, many brick and mortar stores may not return in their previous form.

By transforming digitally, businesses stand to reduce their physical overheads while maintaining some form of physical presence. There will likely be a wave of pop-up shops and curbside pickup points or drive-thru collection stations.

These invaluable solutions exist to solve social distancing issues during the COVID-19 crisis, but the swift, convenient nature of these collection models is likely to stick around.


Whether you’re a mainly physical retailer with some online presence or an almost solely digital business, exploring pop-up shop and semi-permanent order collection options will widen your commercial scope in the new consumer age.

Rather than pay high rent for a permanent retail space, for instance, you might acquire a pop-up space for a month and use digital marketing mediums to entice your customers in-store. Also, having branded pickup or collection points in high traffic areas will allow you to extend your marketing efforts by connecting with consumers directly and cost-effectively.


4. Community support

Although there aren’t a lot of positives associated with COVID-19, the emphasis on community inspired by the pandemic is prominent.

After being forced into lockdown, more consumers have been using the services of local stores, brands, and suppliers. This shift towards the community has also allowed local businesses to focus more on their local communities than the wider world.

Daily Harvest, for instance, has donated thousands or frozen meals to frontline medical workers in its local area, and sustainable H2O brand Pathwater has increased its production to provide refreshments to food banks across California’s Bay Area.


As consumers are beginning to understand the value of buying into their communities, you should place an increased focus on your local marketing initiatives. 

Don’t stop appealing to the wider world (that is the power of eCommerce, after all). However, an investment in community activities and local marketing campaigns will help you thrive in the future.

Here are some ideas to help you kickstart your local marketing strategies:

  • Invest in location marketing data analytics to understand the preferences and behaviors of people in your locale.
  • Create content that is based on your locale. Off-the-beaten-track guides, community news updates, and local success stories are all excellent local marketing strategies.
  • Collaborate with other businesses or charities in your area to enrich the lives of people in your locale while enjoying the benefits of cross-promotion (two brands working together often create more impact than one). 
  • Host experiential events, both physically and online. Zoom-based community get-togethers or intimate in-person events (held in groups of ten or fewer) are likely to work well. 


5. Emphasis on innovation


“The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.”—Arthur C. Clarke


As you can see from all of the trends and examples discussed here, things have had to change drastically, and retail business across niches have risen to the occasion.

If the pandemic has taught us anything business-wise, it’s that coasting is not an option if you want to succeed longterm. Innovation should be at the heart of almost everything you do as a retailer.


Innovation comes in many forms. While there’s no one set way to ‘innovate,’ as we move into this new consumer age, you must make time to keep up with the latest trends and continue to adjust your business model according to the ever-changing needs of your consumers.

You must embrace emerging technologies and commercial touchpoints (like TikTok), bridge the gap between the digital and physical world, and listen to the needs or wants of your consumers in a world after COVID-19.

We wish you the best of luck, and while you’re putting your plans together, here is a guide to keeping connected to your customers during the COVID-19 crisis.