From our social lives to our work lives, COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our world. Despite the fact that the UK – like many other countries – is gradually reopening, there’s no predicting what the future will hold.

In fact, the ever-changing situation means that many of us are still cautious about going about our lives as we did pre-pandemic. That means we can only guess what our nation will look like in a few months’ time – particularly for those industries that rely on our footfall.

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COVID-19 and the world of retail

There’s no two ways about it: COVID-19 has caused a seismic shift in the world of retail.

The first immediate impact was felt on the high street. When national lockdowns forced those businesses deemed “non-essential” to temporarily close, it caused many already-struggling physical stores to enter into a difficult financial period – if not opt to close their doors for good.

Of course, our supermarkets have not only survived but thrived. The UK’s ‘Big Four’ supermarkets – that’s Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda – all saw double-digit sales growth during lockdown. Keeping the nation fed was an essential task during the pandemic, one that also proved hugely lucrative.

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But now, despite the eased lockdown in many parts of the world, our general shopping experience has vastly changed. Most UK shoppers now have to wear masks to go about their usual shopping – a change that isn’t necessarily conducive to a fun and pleasurable experience, particularly in the height of British summer. What’s more, the traditionally-attractive features of physical retail stores vs. e-Commerce – i.e. the ability to try on clothes and shoes, the opportunity to leisurely browse and window shop, and beauty and cosmetics demonstrations – have had to all but end.

Physical stores have long been a crucial opportunity for brands to shout about their products and grab the attention of potential customers. After all, successful merchandising is a sought-after skill that pays dividends. Who hasn’t been drawn to a striking product display, a free sample counter or an engaging salesperson? But with dwindling footfall, things look bleak for many physical retail outlets.

The rise of e-Commerce

So, how is e-Commerce faring as a result?

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) more than half (50.7%) of all retail sales took place online this year, up from 33.1% in 2019.

What’s more, non-food online sales grew by 48.2% in June, compared to the same time last year, driving 3.4% growth in total retail sales (Per the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for June 2020).

Whether online shoppers looked to fill the hours of a long lockdown or
opted to shop online rather than venture outdoors, it’s clear that
e-Commerce has crept towards first place as the nation’s favourite
shopping method.

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What does this mean for the future of brands?

So, what does this mean for the future of brands?

According to GLIMMA’s Creative and Brand Services Director, Ross Haxton, the pandemic has been a wake up call for many of those who work in retail. He suggests that now is the prime time to reposition your brand.

As governments assess the impact to GDP and the economy, many businesses face volatile markets and anticipate poor sales…

“Faced with continued uncertainty, now is the time to check the relevance of your existing business and brand strategy.

“Rebranding or creating a new brand goes way beyond visual identity, it can help your company to enhance your competitive edge and visibility, drive sales growth and increase your business value over the long term,” he says.

Brand relevance post COVID-19

So how can you keep your brand relevant in a post COVID-19 world? We have a few suggestions.

  1. Understand that consumer demands and priorities have shifted. As Tony Holdway says in Campaign Live, the pandemic has been a difficult time for a lot of people, both emotionally and financially. Now is the time to review your offering to customers and reconsider your pricing.
  2. Prioritise the customer. The retail winners of the future will be totally customer-focused. They will work to improve customer confidence to shop, whether it be online or in store, and they will aim to earn the spending power of their customers.
  3. Personalise the experience. A difficult retail landscape means that brands will all be competing for the attention of their potential customers. Now is the time to make sure you’re standing out