In the span of a few short weeks, the coronavirus pandemic completely reshaped shopping and left many retailers struggling to survive. Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, J. Crew, and other popular chains filed for bankruptcy. According to a report from Yelp, 60 percent of listed businesses that shut their doors during the pandemic have closed for good, including 48 percent of retail stores.
At the same time, the crisis is opening up opportunities for retail to evolve. It has disrupted when, where, and how people shop, creating space to rebuild and reimagine relationships with customers. Three-quarters of consumers have tried a new shopping brand or method since the pandemic started, and most plan to continue it going forward.
As companies try to navigate this new landscape, many business leaders are placing their hope in online shopping to help them reach customers in the era of social distancing. But is e-commerce enough to rescue retail? My years of research on shopping and customer experience suggest that digital technologies alone are not the savior of retail some have made them out to be. Companies must integrate the digital, physical, and social aspects of shopping to satisfy the majority of their customers.
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This article was produced by Footnote in partnership with Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business.