The New Playbook for Retail Stores

Brick-and-mortar shopping has changed a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. As retailers look to the future, they should expect many of those changes will likely be permanent. See comments from John Rohland, VP at Cambridge Retail Advisors.

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Will battery power energize retailing performance?

I believe that battery power and 5G will finally deliver the promise of real-time retail. We have been mired in a 50-year-old paradigm where we are constantly looking at yesterday’s data. Inventory is through last night not now/today/this minute so we constantly disappoint our customers on their journey. We limit the creativity of our marketing so we communicate with them when they are not in the store rather than real time where we can make a difference. I’m sick of ridiculously long receipts that promise a discount or reward on my NEXT trip. With longer battery life and 5G we will be able to revolutionize the customer journey to be whatever we and our customers want. Whether it is social significance, sustainability, environmental impact or diversity of a customer’s journey we will be able to bring that journey to life by leveraging these enabling technologies.

Will Boomers and Gen X keep shopping online post-pandemic?

I don’t think we will see a return to pre-COVID-19 shopping habits. People are very concerned with staying healthy and don’t want to risk infection needlessly. We need to do a better job as retailers to improve the customer journey for delivery, BOPIS and BOPAC. We can’t be satisfied with the broken Instacart model and the gouging currently going on with the food delivery vendors eating all the profit from restaurant sales. We have a scorpion and frog parable going on in the space where the delivery companies are killing their partner by overcharging. Few of these businesses can sustain 30 percent delivery fees when their in-restaurant capacity is at 50 percent.

Has the pandemic changed shopping behaviors forever?

This is an interesting question and I believe it is and will be an age-specific response. Generally my thought is that the older population (those 40 years old and up) will have their purchasing behavior changed forever. Folks 16-39 years old will be less affected as they will exhibit behaviors that are similar to what they are now doing which seems to be more open to the heard immunity concept and in my opinion less likely to be affected forever. Younger children 1-15 years old will embrace the values of their parents and reflect a behavior that is changed forever. Retailers as indicated by Cambridge Retail Advisors COVID-19 Impact Study believe that retail and dining will be changed forever.

Will Wegmans need a post-pandemic makeover?

I believe Wegmans should trim assortments and switch some stores to a semi-dark model with robotic pick and pack capabilities for customer pickup. Micro-fulfillment in a store footprint is the model of the future. I believe the grocery store of the future will provide a combination of customer browsing for perishables like fruit, vegetables, meat, prepared foods and deli. While ambient, chilled and frozen product is picked electronically in a high density cube that picks in-store orders along with pick up and delivery. These solutions are available, affordable and amazing.