The role of the physical store has forever shifted and store-level omnichannel capabilities have quickly taken on new importance. Greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers were forced to quickly pivot in numerous ways, both strategically and operationally, to respond to shifting customer shopping expectations.
But this progress into true omnichannel models has been coming for quite some time. Your store footprint, associate interactions, and in-store experience used to be a competitive advantage over the “pure-plays” like Amazon. But with heightened customer expectations for omnichannel order fulfillment, coupled with a competing assortment of quickly available products from Amazon and other leading retailers, the instant gratification gap has been closed.
When the series of 2020 disruptions reached breaking points, North America and certain types of businesses were forced to shut down either completely, or establish a “revised” set of operating procedures. Consumers had to shift solely to online channels to continue to purchase many desired products; for retailers with omnichannel capabilities already in place, this shift was nearly seamless. However, for many retailers, with less robust omnichannel capabilities, inventory was likely locked up in stores and service levels were significantly impacted by reduced capacities in distribution centers.
As businesses and consumers began to emerge from disruption and shelter in place mandates, also emerging was a much higher acceptance and comfort level with online shopping, direct-to-consumer fulfillment, and curbside pickup. Customers have gotten used to not going into stores, and they demand even more convenient options.