Post COVID Retail Trends

After all of the crazy has subsided, what will be forever changed, different or new? I think we are all asking ourselves this question on a daily basis. What will be the new “normal”? Will handshakes be replaced with a bow? Will hand sanitizer be strategically placed outside of every building to cleanse before and after you touch that dreaded door handle? What about small children who have been conditioned to stay 6ft away from the bulk of the human race?

When addressing post COVID retail shopping, will we continue to make fewer trips to the store except for essentials? Will online ordering and curbside pickup be the new normal? In a webinar presentation recently given by Leon Nicholas, VP of Retail Insights and Solutions at WestRock he provided some insight into the shopper trends that will drive retail choices.

Shoppers are constantly making choices using their value funnel which consists of country, community, family, and self.  How does your product inspire a shopper by connecting to one or more of these four values? There are three categories in which brand owners should consider when determining which products to offer, and the most effective way to market and package them. 1) THE INTEGRITY OF THE PRODUCT AND MESSAGING 2) EFFICIENT RETAIL SHOPPING, and 3) ENGAGEMENT WITH SHOPPERS.

THE INTEGRITY OF THE PRODUCT AND MESSAGING

Health and hygiene continue to be of upmost importance for purchases. 83% of shoppers desire packaging that protects the product from tampering and contamination. 78% of shoppers expect high quality materials and ingredients and 77% expect brand transparency on packaging labels regarding product ingredients and potential dangers.  (2020 Westrock Packaging Matters Study-US results). Other trends related to maintaining health and hygiene and the decline in retail are that shoppers are minimizing trips, stocking up, or utilizing curbside pickup options as well as online shopping. (Kantar & Nielson)

Demanding quality ingredients. Shoppers want brand owners and retailers to help them make a smart choice to educate and show them what quality ingredients to look for.  

Reliability of product availability. After the hoarding disaster that caused out-of-stock and fulfillment failures, shoppers are concerned about having the quality products they desire, when they desire them. Shoppers will place a premium on fulfillment expectations. If they can’t rely on a product to be available, they will find one that is.

EFFICIENT RETAIL SHOPPING

What products we need vs. what we want. How does a brand owner position their product so the consumer/shopper connects with it in such a way that they feel they need to purchase it?

Functionality. Does this product actually work? What do the online reviews or the claims on the packaging state? Instead of impulse purchasing, more consumers will do brief research on the product and reach for proven brands that they trust. They will even pay a premium to ensure the product functions in the manner that is claims.

Self-Efficacy-reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment. As a response to resilience in the face of adversity as well as an attempt to control our environment that seems largely out of our control, more people are apt to do DIY home projects and even cut their own hair (thank you YouTube!). 54% more people are now cooking than before COVID. (Food Navigator-usa.com)

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Trip Optimization. Shoppers don’t want to go to the store more than they have to. Retail trends include bulk pack and buy 2 get 1 free. Selling around solutions can also be experienced in a store near you. An example of this trend is an end cap that contains all supplies for smores, for housekeeping, or to wash your car. The goal is to capture all cross-category needs in one place. Multi-purpose stores are also gaining in popularity so shoppers can make one trip for all purchases.

Online Fulfillment.  Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), Curbside pickup, lockers- These options have been life-savers during the COVID quarantine and stay and home orders. Because reliability of product availability is so important at the present time, subscription services are also gaining in popularity. We never want to run out of products again (i.e. Toilet Paper). “Thousands of eligible items means you’ll always have what you need.” AND “Never run out of the things that run out.” -Target

ENGAGEMENT WITH SHOPPERS

Accelerated E-Commerce elevates the need for an online presence. 60% of shoppers used home delivery, 42% curbside pickup and 39% In-store pickup for the first time over the last few months. (Kantar & AC Nielson) If folks aren’t going to the store to pick your product off the shelf, how can you be sure they will choose it online?

E-Packaging is a real trend. Shipping product in the original packaging is beginning to become more common place. The goal- no more re-boxing into another corrugated box, just slap a label on it and off it goes. Pro- Helps to achieve sustainability goals with less packaging and less handling. Con- the whole world can see what you ordered from Amazon, including the person who likes to steal from your stoop.

Mobile Mediated Engagement– Pre-trip planning such as InstaCart and Curbside options are a form of mobile engagement before someone visits the store, but what about once the shopper enters the store. A relatively new cool and creepy phenomenon is technology called store beaconing. “Beacons are Bluetooth enabled devices that connect to mobile phones within the building, allowing retailers to send messages in real time based on where a shopper is in the store. For example, if you’re in the maternity section of a department store and have downloaded that store’s app, you might receive a message about a sale the store is having on infant clothing. A beacon shares information with the retailer about customers’ shopping habits and movements through a store. What the retailer does with that information is where the marketing strategies come into play.” (bindopos.com) Shoppers are increasingly using their mobile devices when they are in the store to help them navigate the store. Interacting with the packaging by using a QR code is another way to share information and market products. I personally would like to see a store develop a shopping list ap, where as you add items to your list it will add the aisle for which you can find your items. This supports the Trip Optimization trend. Is anyone doing that yet? If not, you’re welcome for the a million $ idea.

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Sustainability is becoming increasingly important. 44% of shoppers learn about the brand or products sustainability message from the outer packaging. 46% of shoppers will not purchase and item if it is over-packaged such as using excessive or unnecessary packaging. 34% of shoppers will not purchase a package if it is not recyclable. WOW! High-five for paperboard! (Westrock packaging matters studies)

Practical Fun vs. Frivolous Fun. Practical fun includes activities and we can do while still respecting the COVID restrictions.  Board games with family, camping gear, BBQ, corn hole boards and PlayStations are all great options for practical fun. Frivolous fun such as Disneyland and the water park are no longer either an option or a priority. Aren’t we all having fun saving money on vacations?!  Leon cautions that while marketing the practical items, it is important that the tone is not celebratory, as it is not time to celebrate, yet. An ad that depicts a big raging party, won’t go over well in times like these.