By Kabir Mudgil
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only dominated global news headlines, but also dictated how businesses must pivot their strategy.
This year has been a point where addressing social, attitudinal, and habitual tendencies of consumers is a top priority for all brands to navigate through the economic turmoil and stay relevant and profitable. At the same time, worker health and safety across industries has become an important issue during the pandemic.
While healthcare workers, first responders, and others are on the frontlines battling the disease, staff in many retail operations are continuously working amidst the fear of contraction and lack of certainty. While social distancing and sanitization protocols have kept retail operations alive, the fact both asymptomatic consumers and staff members can have COVID-19 has created friction in the day-to-day environment. The uncertainty of others’ infection status has led to customers’ hesitation in visiting brick-and-mortar stores.
At the same time, this has also impacted the comfort level of retail workers while interacting with shoppers, thus affecting the quality of the customer experience—a critical factor brands cannot afford to ignore in a post-pandemic era.
The role of technology in health and wellness
A report by Deloitte stated approximately 12 per cent of consumers said they expect to shop in enclosed malls once a week after the pandemic, compared to the 22 per cent who shopped in malls once a week prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. On the other end, based on union statistics (May 2020) from several retail companies, at least 500 employees across Canada have tested positive and several have died from COVID-19. This has led to a surge in online shopping, an increase in attrition rate
of retail workers, and the inception of a new ‘stay-at-home’ lifestyle, pushing both consumers and employees to stay away from brick-and-mortar stores.