New Formats for a New Normal

Exploring Recent Retail Innovations in a Post-Pandemic World

As we get closer to a post-pandemic world, many businesses and consumers alike are figuring out yet another “new normal.” While e-commerce shopping channels increased significantly during the pandemic, the sales in these channels are leveling off for the first time in months. Recent data from NPD shows brick and mortar stores not only recovered in the past few weeks, but they have “exceeded pre-pandemic levels.” In-store sales were $1.7 billion higher than this time last year, and $400 million above 2019.

With that in mind, there are two interesting things to take note of. First, the growth seen in the eCom space has not exactly replaced the demand for in-store shopping. Second, there is tremendous growth potential for businesses to offer new and exciting experiences across both the online and in-store channels. Many of the major retail and grocery players already have new game plans in the works. There seems to be three main ways companies are looking to capture greater market share during this transition to “the new normal.”

1. Engaging Consumers with New Technology

Just Walk Out Shopping at Amazon Fresh

On June 17, 2021, Amazon opened the doors to its first new Amazon Fresh grocery store. The giant e-tailer has been experimenting in the grocery space for several years now. However, this new location offers something new—an option to completely skip the checkout process. Utilizing new technology, Amazon has created a way for consumers to check in using a variety of methods, get what they want, and walk out of the store. That’s it.

According to the company’s announcement, “Just Walk Out technology is made possible by a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, and adds convenience to customers’ grocery shopping experience by giving them the option to come in, pick up what they want, and skip the checkout when they’re done.” For now, customers can still use traditional grocery checkout lanes if they prefer, and there are still employees standing by to help and answer questions. However, this is the first time a store has been able to use “just walk out” technology, and it raises the stakes for other businesses in similar spaces.

24 Hour Shopping in Small-Town Stores

Amazon isn’t the only business experimenting with new checkout technology. A small-town grocery store in Minnesota has introduced a membership option which offers 24-7 access to the community. Shoppers can choose to pay $75 a year and have the option to come in and shop at any time. Shoppers use their cellphones to scan items as they add them to their carts and pay for their basket when they are ready to leave. Each membership comes with a unique code, so the store owners know everyone coming and going. They have also increased certain security measures to ensure theft isn’t a concern.

Delivery Subscriptions through Pet Supplies Plus

Pet Supplies Plus recently launched its new subscription delivery service called Autoship. The new program offers some steep discounts on first time orders, as well as on continued subscriptions. The goal of this program is to make it easier and more convenient for pet parents to restock on the essential items like food, kitty litter, and other replenishable items. To enroll in this new delivery program, shoppers just need to select the option when checking out online. This hybrid option of using physical stores to fulfill and distribute online subscription orders can be a very rewarding opportunity for the pet retailer. It also seamlessly combines bricks and clicks for the customer.

2. Meeting Diverse Needs with New Brick and Mortar Layouts

Shop in Shop at Target

Target performed exceptionally well during the pandemic, but they aren’t stopping. The retailer announced plans for major store “glow-ups” in the coming months. Aside from giving the stores a facelift, Target plans to update the curbside and pick up areas to make them even more convenient for shoppers. Perhaps the biggest difference is what Target calls its “shop in shop” experience. Brands like Ulta Beauty, Apple and Disney will have their own areas in select stores. While this department store approach is nothing new in retail, it is something new for Target who traditionally competed directly with other department stores. This new approach is part of Target’s plan to find new ways to engage and delight its customers.

Supermarket Approach for Meijer

Normally, Meijer is known for its one-stop shopping approach to retail. However, they are currently planning to open a much smaller store which will primarily stock grocery items. The store would be about half the size of their normal locations and offers a completely different array of categories. Meijer has already opened some other urban grocery stores under different names. This suggests that Meijer is really looking to diversify their existing portfolio and focus more heavily on grocery in the future.

3. Reaching New Audiences with Product and Brand Extensions

Outdoor Living from Best Buy

Another way a businesscan expand its reach is by extending product offerings. Best Buy shared plans to launch two product categories: outdoor living, and travel gear. These categories, which include grills, outdoor ovens, and suitcases, are wildly different from anything the electronics retailer has stocked in the past. Best Buy is betting that the trend toward home improvement projects will continue, with more of a focus on decks and patios in the coming months.

Lululemon and Mirror Focus on Fitness

While Lululemon is an athletic apparel company, they seem to be making more steps toward technological innovation. They acquired Mirror about a year ago, which is an at-home fitness interactive gym. Since then, the company has had an increased focus on technology and how it relates to the fitness industry specifically. Lululemon has also filed a patent for a new type of workout mat that offers three-dimensional surface texture. While this is only the beginning, it does seem that the company will continue to have an increased focus in fitness technology for its customers.

Be Innovative

If your business is looking to expand, refocus supply chains, regain revenue, revive the customer experience, and refine inventory strategies, you must be innovative. However, you can’t forget about the fundamentals. Innovation is great and now is a great time for businesses to experiment and try new approaches. Regardless, you should ensure your new products are always in-stock,regardless of the fulfillment location or method.

Make sure you have a strong demand planning, assortment planning, and replenishment solution in place so that you can continue to focus on new ideas. With 4R’s solutions, you more easily manage your supply chain, improve your in-stock percentage, and delight your customers with the products they really care about. Contact us today to learn more!