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5 small business trends & practices that are here to stay post-pandemic: retail industry

Editorial Team

5 min read
Woman looking at tea cup

Restrictions have certainly relaxed in Canada, still, many of us are wondering what the near future may hold. Most of us are looking forward to getting back to the day-to-day activities we used to enjoy; things like indoor dining, social gatherings, movie theatres, attending live events, and perusing our favourite shops. We are on the road to recovery, but things won’t be exactly as they were pre-pandemic.

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The retail sector had to innovate quickly to serve customers throughout the pandemic, and some of these newly adopted practices have permanently raised the bar when it comes to convenience and customer service.  Business trends such as contactless payments have become an expectation rather than exception, and many other practices that were adopted to capitalize on new opportunities or revenue streams are here to stay.

Here are some of the changes customers will continue to expect while shopping in the future. 

In-person & digital customized shopping experiences

At first, making an appointment to visit a store in person was for safety reasons and to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Now, customers are making appointments to take advantage of a personalized, in-store concierge experience. What started as a safety measure has turned into a powerful marketing opportunity. 

However, this trend has implications for how you train your staff and implement technology. “The role of a retail employee has drastically changed, prompting associates to adapt skills to move seamlessly between the in-store and online experiences,” wrote Ad Age

High-end retailers like Dolce & Gabbana and Holt Renfrew are blending digital and in-person shopping experiences by allowing customers to book virtual shopping appointments online. Employees then either meet the customer online or in-person to give them a tour of the store, help them select and try on items, and complete the purchase. The entire experience is facilitated with technology that makes the shopping experience feel unique, personal, and tailored to the individual. 

Subscription services for everyday needs

The subscription e-commerce market has increased in popularity since its inception in 2010 —and accelerated even more during the pandemic. More than half of Canadians say they’ve purchased a subscription box for themselves or as a gift for someone else.  Subscription bundles have made many customers’ lives easier for consumable products, such as styling products from salons or pantry staples from grocery stores. The convenience of subscription bundles is likely to make this trend a permanent fixture for many shoppers returning to “normal.” 

Retail has seen the largest growth in subscriptions since the start of the pandemic. Canada Post reported that 22% of companies have experienced an increase in subscriptions since the onset of restrictions and lockdowns. A subscription option for your business can be a great way to make your revenue more predictable, smooth out peaks and dips from seasonal sales, and excite your loyal customers. 

Curbside pickup and direct shipping

Customers have gained the ability to “buy on their own terms,” wrote Ad Age, and they won’t want to go back to the way things were. Research from Shopify shows that the same percentage of customers who used curbside pickup throughout the pandemic expect to continue using it going forward.

Curbside pickup and/or direct shipping have become a new standard, with implications for both your in-store experience and business operations. First, customers will have different expectations when visiting a store in person. 

“We will see the change in the role of the store not just about ‘Come in and buy from me’ today but it will be ‘Come in, have a brand experience, build your shopping list, let’s connect that on your cell phone so we can directly market to you,” Michael Brown, a partner in the consumer practice of Kearney, a strategy and management consulting firm, told Ad Age

Secondly, customers will expect great communication throughout the curbside pickup and shipping process. Timely text and email updates, efficient delivery, and easy returns are features that your business will need to be equipped to provide. 

Quicker checkouts with contactless payments

Contactless payment—increasingly adopted due to early concerns about high transmission risk from credit cards and cash—accounted for 52.5% of all debit and credit transactions in the second quarter  of 2020. Today, Mastercard estimates that nearly 80% of consumers worldwide are using some method of contactless payment. 

The convenience that makes curbside pickup so popular is also driving the demand for contactless payments. Contactless payment offers customers a quicker, more flexible, and more convenient checkout. Customers can pay for their items using tap-and-go cards, digital wallets, or even online prepay. And, once a customer has started using contactless payment, they’re likely to keep using it. 

Supporting Small Business

Finally, some good news for small businesses: consumers expect to continue frequenting local establishments long after the pandemic is over. 

COVID-19 disrupted global supply chains, preventing many big-box retailers from offering the convenience of fast shipping from overseas providers. In response, many consumers turned to their local merchants to get their supplies safely and quickly. And, many consumers learned that small businesses right in their neighborhood were as good, if not better, than big retailers. An Interac Corp. survey found that  75% of Canadians say the pandemic has made supporting local businesses more important to them, and 50% say they’re willing to pay up to 5 dollars more for the same product.

“While spending is still down overall and the impact of the pandemic to small businesses is still being felt across the country, Canadians are telling us that when they do spend, they want their dollars to support small business recovery post-pandemic,” said William Keliehor, Chief Commercial Officer, Interac Corp. 

We hope that, as interactions become safer and easier, your business can grow and expand! Keeping these tips in mind might help.  To learn more about Clover’s POS and payment solutions, speak with a Clover Specialist today.

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