May 19, 2020

Why Omnichannel Retail Will Be More Important Than Ever in the Post-COVID Era


A company that sells in multiple online channels, such as a web store, marketplaces, and social media is called a multichannel retailer. Retailers that have both a digital and physical presence are called omnichannel retailers. These retailers are engaging consumers where they are shopping and connect the dots between physical stores, websites, and social media. Americans are still split on whether they prefer shopping at a store versus online, so businesses should not abandon brick and mortar. Customers want to move across all channels without limits, and this is why omnichannel retail will be more important than ever in the post-COVID era.

Over the next few months, the self-quarantining consumer continues to worry about going out in public places. This will provide multiple opportunities for omnichannel businesses to thrive. To circumvent physical shopping environments, consumers are increasingly turning to digital options, a change in behavior that may impact longer-term shopping habits. 

During the holiday season, consumers who purchased using eCommerce and mobile devices continued these behaviors into 2020, leading to an increase in the percentage of digital sales post-holiday. The post-COVID era will likely follow a similar pattern. Meal kit services and online grocery delivery are likely to demonstrate strong sales—after all, consumers require essentials even in quarantine.

Delivery is becoming the new normal

Those retailers who are able to provide the same-day or next-day delivery and pickup that consumers want are the most likely to win in the future by providing this level of service. Companies like Walmart, Amazon, Target, Kroger, Instacart, Grubhub, and DoorDash are attempting to rapidly hire hundreds to thousands of employees to meet the high volume and expectations of their customers.

But currently in some areas, grocery orders can take days to deliver, curbside pickup is rarely same-day, and shipments can take up to a week to arrive even with so-called two-day shipping. Physical retailers still hold an advantage for those who need essential goods now, though product availability and wait times will normalize post-COVID.

Current and future consumer trends display the enhanced importance of physical retailers, primarily those that implement digital tools and an omnichannel retail approach to provide immediate product availability. Eventually, stores will be more like localized distribution facilities that allow consumers to choose their own method to obtain the products they need. Whether it’s in-store shopping, pick up curbside, or home delivery, flexibility is the key to future success.

Where we go from here

May and June will likely be transitional months, as virus testing expands and people get back to work, carefully and tentatively. Celebrating the 4th of July 2020, big group celebrations, concerts, and events are likely to be cancelled or delayed until next year. The economy is not going to go back to the pre-holiday season overnight, so marketers need to adapt to that reality.

Even if consumers need to wear masks for protection and peace of mind, people will gradually feel more comfortable going back into retail locations to shop. Businesses will have to embrace the omnichannel retail method to continue to thrive.

The brands that best adapt to the future and have clear benefits for consumers and the retailers that deliver speed, value, and convenience along with multiple order fulfillment methods will continue to cement market share.

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