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Challenges And Opportunities Of Retail Shopping In The Post-Pandemic Era

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At the same time last year, many experts in the economy and consuming fields had predicted that once the spreading of COVID slows down and the lockdown releases, the in-store retail shopping will recover and the sale volumes will increase to the next level. But did things go the way they expected in this year’s holiday shopping?

Recently, Adobe Analytics did research on the shopping data online and in-store of the just past Black Friday by tracking sales data from the top 100 online retailers and 50 traditional top brick and mortar stores for three years in the U.S. The data shows that in online shopping, consumers’ spending has reached a peak of $9.12 billion and broke the record of an increase of about 2.3% in this year’s Black Friday sale. 

According to the chief financial expert Natalie Warb from CouponBirds, an online coupon-providing site, the traffic and sales are very active during the holidays and are much higher than predicted. “Due to the impacts of inflation and the pandemic, the numbers of visitors to the website should be lower than in previous years. However, to our surprise, in the Black Friday sales, user visits to CouponBirds have not dropped significantly, and it has an unexpected increase in per customer transaction. I don’t know if this is a positive sign that people’s purchasing power is recovering.” Natalie said.

As for in-store shopping in department stores, however, although the traffic volume of consumers has increased, it is still lower than what it used to be before the pandemic. There are some reports that the number of people who went to brick-and-mortar stores is much less than before, with almost empty parking lots and “sparsely populated aisles” in giant stores like Walmart and Target.

Why did people’s love for brick-and-mortar stores fade away? We have taken some reports as references as well as interviewed some consumers. As they said, although the restrictions and lockdown policies have cooled down, they don’t think that COVID-19 has gone since then and have some concerns about the spreading virus. “It is more convenient and also safer buying things at home.” a consumer said. 

Besides, according to the report of Adobe Analytics, when facing a higher inflation rate and tougher economic conditions than before, the “buy now pay later” policy of online shopping becomes greatly attractive to them, which makes it more flexible to decide what to buy and how to buy. As Adobe Analytics showed, from Nov 19 to Nov 25, the orders paid in “buy now pay later” had increased 78% compared to the same period last year, which shows it has become an increasingly popular and mainstream way of consumers shopping.

What’s more, as the negative impact of the pandemic on people’s lives diminishes, the return policies of online stores become looser and more flexible, which creates a more relaxing atmosphere for consumers. The average return rate of online shopping has increased to 20%-30% according to the data of Rich Panel. People are getting more cautious when choosing a product. Due to the winter approaching and the temperature declining nationwide, it is tougher to return and exchange products becomes a considerable barrier when consumers consider shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Besides, more Americans chose to buy bulk merchandise such as exercise equipment, furniture, and electronic appliances. “Home delivery services” provided by online shopping are also an important factor why people tend to shop online, for it makes it easier and more convenient. 

It is obvious that things won’t be exactly the same as what used to be before the pandemic, whether we want it or not, the impacts may last for a really long time. The new post-pandemic era brings both opportunities and challenges to retailers, as well as consumers. Good thing is that the negativity for in-store consumption won’t last forever, as long as they are willing to make a change with the times, as the giant brands of brick-and-mortar stores are starting to do so. 

Last Updated: December 13, 2022

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