Covid-19 : Why bricks and mortar retail needs to wake up

The global pandemic known as the corona virus or Covid-19 has taken the business world and the global economy by storm. As online businesses around the world are picking up their pace, traditional bricks and mortar retail is seeing a continuous decline. Although this retail segment was already losing popularity each year, however, the pandemic has  significantly accelerated this process.

With countries taking steps to avoid the spread of the virus, bricks and mortar stores are ordered to shut down. With the problems being faced by traditional retail businesses, experts are calling for digitalisation and innovative approaches to reach the customers.

Historically, traditional retailers have not taken this need for digitalisation seriously which is why they were caught badly unprepared to combat the current crisis. It is the perfect time for these retailers to wake up or most of them will not survive.

The Need for Omnichannel

Impacts on retail stores

Covid-19 has impacted deeply on how traditional retail stores do their business. With fixed costs proving too much to the disruptions in the supply chain, problems are continuing to mount. According to a report, 82% of SMEs in the UK are experiencing supply chain issues. Most of these companies relied on big manufacturers in China for their supply. As China shut down, these companies were left exposed. The pressure also started to increase as staff and customers became more dissatisfied.

Footfall in the UK went down by more than 31% amid stay at home orders. Even after the UK government promising a £400 billion relief to these retailers, things can never go back to how they were before the pandemic.

Some solutions

There is still a reason for hope as small retailers as well as national brands are creating innovative ways to cope. Everything, regardless of the type of product, is being sold through home delivery. However, this alone is not enough.

Globally, the e-commerce platform has seen a heightened interest from previously bricks and mortar retailers. The world’s market leader in this industry, Amazon, is looking to hire an additional 100,000 employees to keep up with the rising demand.

Changing consumer behaviour

Before, we look at post Covid-19, let’s take a look at the current consumer buying behaviour. These days, more and more customers are buying products online. Many of these transactions are taking place via smartphones. 

Around 90% of Gen Z and 75% of baby boomers surveyed in the UK are found to be rapidly changing their lifestyle to adapt to the new normal. After the outbreak, around 45% of UK customers stated that they would buy online to avoid the panic caused by the outbreak. A report by Nielsen predicts that after the lengthy quarantine, e-commerce will be permanently embedded into our buying behaviour and our view on retail will change forever.

Almost all consumers these days research stores online before visiting the actual shop. This behaviour known as webrooming has become more prevalent than the opposite behaviour of showrooming. All these factors combined have made millennials agree that a hybrid of an online store and a physical store (known as an Omnichannel) is the ideal retailing combination for the future.


The shifting consumer behavior to online shopping will only be reinforced as the Covid-19 crisis continues and will not be dependent on age. Every age group has become more accustomed to making their purchases online. It will not only be the big sharks such as Amazon that will rule during this changing retail landscape.

Retailers who were in the middle of going digital or those that were offering home delivery and local pickup, will see an immediate impact on their business. This impact might be slow at first but will become much more significant as we go through the worst part of the crisis. Post Covid-19 retail landscape will need a new normal to operate efficiently. The key to this new normal is Omnichannel, which means having a holistic approach to reaching customers. An Omnichannel business is capable of reaching customers whenever they want, wherever they want and in whichever channel is the most convenient for them.

For more information, you can also read how Covid-19 has impacted the e-commerce industry

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