Updated Retail Outlook: 10 New Predictions for 2020

From increased contactless delivery to changing fulfillment models

Coronavirus has altered expectations for the retail industry this year.
Photo Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Source: Getty Images

Key insights:

When 2019 ended, we asked retail industry experts for their 2020 predictions. At the time, they cited innovations like retailer media networks, voice shopping and data portability.

No one foresaw the global pandemic that has upended consumers and brands alike, so just about one-third of the way through the year, those predictions are already (arguably) outdated. That’s why we went back and asked: Knowing what you know now, what do you think is in store for retail in 2020?

Here’s what they said:

Expect to see more contactless transactions.

It’s probably music to Jeff Bezos’ ears as he attempts to sell Go technology elsewhere: Anindya Ghose, professor of business at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said cashless transactions are going to get a boost now.

“Because of the pandemic, retailers will quickly adopt mobile payments and other forms of electronic payments,” he said. “Contactless payments will now be the norm for retailers in many countries around the world.”

In addition, Michael Mothner, CEO of digital marketing agency Wpromote, said new retail models like Trunk Club will surge because it’s personalized contactless shopping in which subscribers receive orders at home and return what they don’t want.

The total addressable ecommerce market will grow.

Pointing to China, Ghose said data shows the number of consumers who shop online will remain inflated even after the crisis as more people are exposed to the ease and fun of online shopping.

Mothner agreed, noting the households that previously took weekly trips to the store have been forced to try new things, and those habits will remain even after the pandemic subsides.

Fulfillment models will change.

As foot traffic at brick-and-mortar locations falls and retailers seek to maximize online purchase options, Ghose said they may have to adjust their order fulfillment models.

“The logistics involved in delivering goods and services could prove overwhelming for many retailers,” he said. “They may have to … [increase] the workforce in charge of ecommerce operations. They need to meet unpredictable surges in demand.”

Promotions and experiences will abound.

Mitchell Yoo, global chief client officer at digital marketing agency iCrossing, on the other hand, anticipates what he calls a “retail resurgence” when stir-crazy consumers can finally leave their homes and stores lure them in with “a variety of offers and sales when they are safe to open their doors.”

“Because entire populations are sharing in these desires to connect, to gather, to return to old rituals, businesses may find the market quite crowded with promotions,” he said. “Further, many people will find a simple walk in the park or visiting a loved one to be novel and exciting, so brands will have to try new and creative ways to capture their attention. One thing is for certain: This period of retail resurgence will bring with it an overload of experiences.”

(Mothner said malls “are even more dead than before,” but agreed shopping experiences will thrive.)

Online pickup, particularly grocery, will be light-years (OK … five) ahead of where it would have been otherwise.

According to figures from Jeff Malmad, executive director of media agency Mindshare’s data-focused unit Shop+, online grocery saw five years of trial and adoption in four weeks.

“The retail shopping experience based on the area of the country you live in can be surreal, so the adoption and deployment of what grocery retailers are doing now with online pickup and delivery is critical not just for the consumer experience, but how well those brands will be perceived when we come out of this pandemic,” he said. “Moving forward, this is a retail category that in many ways has changed for the long term.

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