For all the talk of digital transformation in recent years, prior to the pandemic, many retailers continued to rely heavily on physical stores. In 2019, less than a third of U.S. retailers had implemented a digital transformation strategy, and just 4% of the 500 largest retailers offered online ordering with curbside pickup.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the American retail landscape transformed overnight. Major brands shuttered storefronts and dove headfirst into a variety of omnichannel experiments, including services like curbside pickup; same-day home delivery; and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). By the end of last summer, the share of retailers offering curbside pickup jumped to 44%. Brands that had long avoided prioritizing ecommerce, such as Costco and TJ Maxx, scrambled to set up online stores. Walmart launched two-hour home delivery in April of 2020, and Walgreens pharmacies implemented a BOPIS option in May.
Now, as lockdowns come to an end and the economy thaws out, many retailers are wondering whether these changes will stick around post-pandemic. Over the past year, 40% of Americans tried a new shopping method, and nearly three-quarters of people who have tried curbside pickup, BOPIS, or delivery want to continue using these services after the pandemic ends — presenting a challenge for businesses that had envisioned the shift to omnichannel retailing as a stopgap measure to be used only until customers could return to stores. Many retailers rely on in-store traffic to drive sales, since getting a customer in the store both reduces the chances they will opt for a competitor and increases the chances they will make spur of the moment purchases.
Read the full article online at Harvard Business Review.