Retail reopening events continued to draw light foot traffic on Monday, as Florida joined Texas in allowing non-essential stores to reopen. Meanwhile the digital shift momentum continues to draw new infrastructure.
Florida granted permission for stores to reopen Monday (May 4), the first phase of a return from the coronavirus lockdown. A report from Tampa, among others, showed that few of the outlet stores took advantage. At Tampa Premium Outlets — just 13 of the 110 stores reopened and foot traffic was minimal.
“Inside the mall, patrons walked past dark and shuttered storefronts,” reported The Tampa Bay Times. “Some wore masks. Many did not. Bright pink signs with white arrows encouraged patrons to walk in the same direction and stay six feet apart. Sparse foot traffic began to pick up a bit as the noon hour approached.”
The lack of consumer interest comes as no surprise to many observers and is reinforced by the latest edition of the PYMNTS COVID-19 tracker. It showed that consumers are in no hurry to go back to physical shopping, a trend that is accelerating. In just eight weeks, the ongoing research project measured six times more consumers working from home, four times more consumers buying groceries online instead of going into the grocery store, four times more consumers ordering takeout from aggregators or their favorite restaurants and three times more consumers shopping online for things other than groceries. Now, 39.2 percent of consumers shop for retail goods online more often than they did on March 6, the first day of our study, and that continues to climb — up 10.5 percent from 35.5 percent in just the last two weeks.
Infrastructure providers are hustling to keep up with the digital shift. For example shipping specialist Optoro announced a strategic partnership this morning with Returnly, which focuses on digital return experiences and post-purchase payments. Optoro will integrate Returnly’s eCommerce returns technology into its platform to now offer an end-to-end returns solution for retailers and brands, to boost revenue and cut costs. “This new bundled returns solution directly addresses the need for better online consumer returns experiences and more efficient returns management in response to the shift to ecommerce during COVID-19 store closures,” said a statement from the two companies.
If China and Southeast Asia’s recovery are any indication, expect eCommerce to double by the end of the year from its current 12 to 14 percent of total sales.
“This direct-to-consumer shift is huge,” said Arun Verma, who is leading Shopify’s growth in Southeast Asia and China, said in WIT. “People used to characterize South-east Asia like China 10 years ago, but I think of it as unique on its own level. Essentially merchants are operating in South-east Asia on a number of channels — retail, marketplaces, DTC websites. In all these cases, merchants are going to have a multi-channel strategy. The new reality is, online presence is now critical and merchants are starting to spend efforts building DTC businesses. We have platforms like Instagram which are becoming more important in the discovery stage and so, we are seeing this big shift in e-commerce. It started three to four years ago, but it is becoming real now and South-east Asia is primed,” he said.
“The retail industry is at a critical juncture. Stores must do their best to provide a positive customer experience amid the COVID-19 crisis. This includes properly managing out-of-stocks and delivery delays, as well as using more personal shoppers through companies like Instacart,” says the Retail Customer Experience blog. “It’s important for retailers to revisit, revise and integrate their digital strategy across the enterprise and to have a unified data platform that allows them to adjust as consumer expectations shift week-to-week, and even day-to-day. Mastering their business-critical information in a master data management solution will help retailers advance their digital capabilities in an increasingly digital retail landscape, which, in turn, will help better serve today’s shoppers.”