Underpinning our ‘retail recovery’ we are all experiencing some pretty severe changes to the way we shop, and these behavior changes will continue as our expectations mirror what our health and safety concerns are over the fast approaching summer season and well into 2021.
By ShopAbility Director Peter Huskins.
As I write this article in mid-October, the trading situation with Covid across the various states is still more than a little chaotic with Victorians praying for a slow release to the trading shackles providing the detection of new cases in that state continues to decline, Queensland is reliant on an upcoming election to provide any trading relief to the currently closed borders, and for the rest of the states it is pretty well trading as normal within clear and sensitive boundaries. Sort of.
Sure, online has grown exponentially as we all (yes, even your trusty scribe) use the online channel to satisfy our retail grazing and purchase requirements. Penetration has exploded across most categories and segments, and those retailers that have not invested in implementing or updating their e-commerce capability – well, don't complain if your business slowly declines in the face of competitors that have grasped the future and smartly integrated it to mirror their bricks and mortar capability and create a seamless shopping experience.
Such moves to building online channel retail capability are going to be the driving force for a successful Black Friday sale due to be held on Friday, November 27, and it is already being tipped as being the biggest ever by a substantial margin, kick-starting what is set to be a huge online surge to Christmas 2020. Also, Black Friday will definitely pull forward many Christmas related sales across a vast range of categories and segments. What used to be two weeks of vaguely controlled chaos in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas is now at risk of being significantly flattened as more convenient and "safer" forms of making purchases becomes the norm for many people.
The Black Friday effect may well result in a flatter Christmas in bricks and mortar stores and shopping centers as fewer people need to visit those places to make their purchases. Our purchase frequency has already dropped across most retail categories as people go online, click and collect or even defer making purchase decisions until they feel safer or it is more convenient.
Exploring the physical theater of Christmas, soaking up the sights and sounds as you walk through a shopping center or a retailer that is all geared up for Christmas trading can never be completely replaced by a virtual experience, and many shoppers will still visit these locations and do what they have traditionally done, enjoy themselves. However, if I have made many of my Christmas and gift related purchases using the online channel and / or Black Friday, my purchases for the Christmas season will be more of a top up shop by nature rather than big basket purchases.
Certain categories such as food will still be chaotic as freshness, range and availability underpinned by personal selection will create foot traffic and a frantic couple of weeks pre-Christmas. Expect long queues and wider trading hours, it will be business as usual.
One interesting thought to consider is vending machines – those funny boxes that we seem to associate with drinks and snacking at train stations, shopping centers and movie theaters. They offer a touch-free, and therefore "safe", shopping experience and could soon become a more vital part of the retail mix. Expanding the use of vending into a virtual environment could open up another previously unviable purchase alternative as a new retail offering in different locations, particularly as more people start to use digital payment apps and the role and functionality of products offered in vending machines is challenged by astute marketers.
Just a thought.