Now that we’re (hopefully) in the end stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are assessing a changed retail landscape.
According to a McKinsey report, nearly 40% of shoppers have switched brands during the pandemic, and 80% have new shopping behaviors. For instance, more than half who used the “buy online, pickup in store” option during the pandemic said they’ll continue to do so afterward.
But consumers are looking for more than convenience. In this study of 999 U.S. consumers, more than half of Gen Z, millennial, and Black consumers said they believe companies should support Black-owned businesses.
“One thing is clear: shoppers aren’t just browsing—they’re taking sides,” reads the report.
Among the enlightened retailers the report cites are Target, which has transformed its stores into supply chain nodes to serve online and in-store customers. Apple also gets a shout out for making specialist advisers available online, on the phone and in stores.
The role of retailers is akin to fulfillment centers, especially since self-checkout has become so common at brick-and-mortar stores, according to the study. In addition, the report credits Amazon for raising consumer expectations for delivery times -- from eight days in the early 2000s to two days and even same-day in some locations.
The report stresses that the racial makeup of retail staffs should mirror the U.S. population, which is 18.5% Hispanic, 12.2% Black and 5.6 percent Asian, according to 2019 studies. The report suggests improving the number of Black-owned brands in a store’s merchandising mix as well, and setting key performance indicators for getting there to measure progress.
Many shoppers want to treat the retail store as a warehouse to pick up their orders without interference, but those who want staff interaction expect the very best. Apple is held up as an example. “Staff are trained to advise customers on multiple elements of the purchasing process, including product selection, carrier plans, and financing options,” McKinsey states.
In other words, after the pandemic, consumers want more from retailers. Consumers expect to pick up orders with minimal staff interference -- or they may want a staffer to offer informed advice on buying options. They also want to see a more diverse staff.
This is the challenge to retailers after the pandemic. They would be wise to pay attention.