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Retail Industry Updates

How COVID-19 Has Spurred Retail Innovation

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People talk about disruption in the retail industry. Products disrupt (consider the iPhone) and companies disrupt (consider Amazon) — and so do pandemics (COVID-19, of course).

According to a new global survey from Accenture, the pandemic has changed the way people live, work and socialize. The pandemic has accelerated demand for innovation, as retailers, consumer goods and travel companies shift from reacting to the crisis to reinventing products and services, according to Accenture, a New York-based global professional services company that specializes in digital, cloud and security.

After a year of lockdowns, 95% of survey respondents — which included more than 9,650 people in 19 countries, including the U.S. — said they made at least one change to their lifestyle that they expect will be permanent. These include shopping habits.

The latest research supports Accenture’s previously released findings that the dramatic rise in e-commerce is likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance, the proportion of online purchases for products such as food, home décor, fashion and luxury goods by previously infrequent e-commerce users — defined as those who used online channels for less than 25% of purchases prior to the outbreak — has increased 343% since the outbreak.

“Leading retailers were quick to adapt to the surge in e-commerce and are using technology to serve customers in new ways,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s global retail industry group said. “Many adopted disruptive technologies such as augmented reality to recreate the physical store experience and help shoppers better visualize a room of furniture or an outfit, while others repurposed closed stores into local fulfillment centers with picking and packing technology. Even in a post-pandemic world, companies will need to satisfy consumers’ appetite for online shopping with fast delivery and get more intentional about the investments they will make in their people, supply chains, physical stores and digital channels to be well-positioned to drive growth.”

Oliver Wright, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s global consumer goods industry group, said the ripple effects of the pandemic will be felt for some time and serve as a powerful illustration of the need for consumer-facing companies to be agile, resilient and responsive to change.

“Born out of disaster and necessity comes opportunity; the pandemic has sparked a new wave of innovation,” he added. “As companies fundamentally rethink ways of doing business that deliver growth, many are using advanced analytical capabilities to spot, respond and target changing consumption trends. For instance, British beer company, Brewdog, responded with agility and creativity throughout the crisis — shifting to produce hand sanitizer, creating virtual bars, setting up the Brewdog Drive-Thru and repurposing physical locations to create co-working space with Desk Dog.”

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