March 2022 marked the first, year-over-year decline in e-commerce sales since 2013. As the surge of e-commerce eases following the pandemic, the appeal of the in-person retail experience is reemerging. One fact is certain: the pandemic has permanently reshaped what consumers expect when they return to brick-and-mortar retail.
Here are five considerations for retailers as they navigate the new landscape and welcome back post-pandemic consumers.
- Omnichannel Consumers are the New Normal. The post-pandemic consumer wants to navigate the retail landscape with ease. The quest for convenience may have retailers noting an increase in online orders and in-store pick up. Likewise, retailers may see an increase in hybrid or “omnichannel” shoppers – individuals who shop online one day, then make an in-store purchase the very same week. Flexibility is the name of the game for the consumer. In order to compete – and excel in the new landscape – retailers must remain mindful of this balance.
- Speed is Crucial. The pandemic has made the average consumer more impatient than ever. Consumers want speed: same-day delivery of groceries, drive-thrus, and advance purchase options. In returning to brick and mortar, retailers may opt to reduce indoor space or add drive-thru lanes. Alternatively, retailers might seek to bolster the connection between e-commerce and in-person shopping (i.e., offering online purchases for pick-up in store).
- Self-Service Options Matter. Tied to ease and convenience, the omnichannel consumer values self-service technology in stores. Self-service kiosks have become increasingly popular in grocery stores, gas stations and airports. The post-pandemic consumer likes efficiency and isn’t afraid to self-serve.
- Open-Air Facilities are Here to Stay. Following the pandemic, the growth of visits to open-air outlets has outpaced visits to their indoor counterparts. These outdoor centers became safer, more attractive options during the pandemic. Outdoor shopping and dining was seen in an entirely new light. Outdoor options are here to stay and retail developers will want to keep this in mind moving forward.
- Product Type Shapes the Retail Experience. The post-pandemic consumer does not treat all items equally. For example, clothing and sporting goods sales are growing at a faster rate than other retail items. As a result, retailers must pay particular attention to what the omnichannel consumer prefers to buy, rather than just where the omnichannel consumers chooses to buy.
With these concepts in mind, retailers will be better situated to navigate the “new normal” as it relates to the brick-and-mortar retail experience. For additional information on expanding your in-person retail facilities or returning to the in-person retail experience, contact a member of the Hirschler commercial real estate practice group.