The Pandemic of 2020 has changed the dynamics as it relates to interaction between consumers and retailers. Today, people are living and buying differently than they ever have before.

Developments in e-commerce, customer service, inventory control, marketing, and more, that were anticipated to occur over a period of years have now occurred in a matter of months. Both retailers and consumers have been forced to make life-changing behaviors in the blink of an eye, many of which will remain permanent.

Over the past year, we’ve witnessed a 71% growth in digital sales, along with a 14% drop in walk-in foot traffic. Those retailers that were planning to get into the online world have been forced to dive into e-commerce.

Customer service has been altered drastically, especially with how businesses manage returns and exchanges, delivery of products, product knowledge, and easy accessibility of websites and digital channels.

Inventory control has impacted retailers on what to purchase at market. The pandemic has caused some markets to close this year, forcing owners to order directly from manufacturers.

The clothing industry has transformed from a business/formal niche into a more casual offering as many consumers are working from home. There is less need for formal wear with no proms, weddings, or formal events.

What was anticipated to sell in the second quarter changed overnight to be non-essential or out of demand. Strategies for offloading unneeded and excessive inventory without experiencing drastic losses are challenging but necessary.

Marketing and advertising have experienced significant change. As traditional marketing dollars used to promote items through print and media have decreased, digital marketing through social and streaming channels such as Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube has grown exponentially. Understanding your client base and having a digital marketing plan is essential.

The silver lining is that businesses who were able to pivot and had enough reserves to survive will be in great shape post pandemic. The holiday season is rapidly approaching. We need to have the tools in place to maximize the fourth quarter. Good news is that based on surveys, consumers appreciate and are more willing to support small businesses during these challenging times.

Keep evolving, stay focused and be strategic. We will get through this stronger and wiser as we continue to adapt to this changing landscape.

Ray Mattes, President/CEO Retail Alliance