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In recent years the narrative around online shopping has tended to focus on the importance of brick-and-mortar stores keeping up with e-commerce competition. The surge in online sales brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the businesses that were able to adapt and those that weren’t.
Andrew Cox says moving forward the challenge for businesses will be excelling at e-commerce or adapting to omnichannel. On this episode of Point of Sale, he and Forrester Research Retail Analyst Sucharita Kodali discuss what this will mean for retailers.
“The pandemic was a kick in the pants for anyone who was a late mover in the space to embrace digital,” said Kodali. A lot of discount retailers have been slow to embrace e-commerce, but Kodali said that is OK due to the unique nature of discounter merchandise.
According to Kodali, it would take an extreme amount of tech advancement for discount retailers to make it on the omnichannel marketplace; stores would need to apply RFID capabilities to make on-rack merchandise available for online purchase.
Of all the major retailers that made the shift to omnichannel in 2020, Kodali said Target was the one that impressed her the most. She cited the quick adaptation of zero-minimum curbside pickups and a willingness to lean into the changing marketplace as key factors in Target’s pandemic-era success.
However, omnichannel does come with operational challenges, which Kodali blamed for the slow implementation of universal omnichannel practices. One of those challenges is the ability to accurately account for items in the store and for the items’ location.
Kodali believes the majority of shoppers will have the option of omnichannel within the next few years, but shoppers will still hesitate to buy online due to the desire to “touch and feel” items before purchase. She thinks more retailers will jump into the e-commerce space, but problems will remain.