What Social Distancing Means for Retailers

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As the disruption caused by the Coronavirus progresses and social distancing becomes the norm, industry observers and analysts expect more shoppers to spend less time in stores and more time buying items online even after this time of crisis.  This shift in consumer behavior will further strain the retail supply chain, especially the last mile.

The effect of social distancing on consumer habits

While shopping for clothes and electronics has been a staple in modern life for some time now, to most customers, grocery shopping in stores is their bread and butter. However, with shoppers socially distancing themselves and staying at home, online grocery shopping has exploded. Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and Shipt have been setting records for downloads of their mobile apps with surges of 218%, 160%, and 124%, respectively.

With this surge in online grocery downloads, more shoppers are trying these services for the first time. Some sources online are giving tips on how to grocery shop safely during a pandemic. This shift in consumer behavior during a time of disaster teaches people new skills and gets them accustomed to the ease of use of such services. The convenience of shopping online along with the wide range of options across multiple stores online reinforces this new practice in social distancing that may continue even after things go back to normal.

Grocers have already been building mini-warehouses in their stores and using grocery pick-up services. Yet the spike in demand for contactless pickups has become overwhelming causing long waits and cancellations. Grocers are scrambling to adjust and are hiring thousands of employees to try and keep up, while other industries are laying off employees just to stay afloat.

Planning for new retail trends

Now, more than ever, organizations need state-of-the-art demand sensing. As a solution provider, Vanguard Software thrives in these challenging demand situations, which propel us to improve our tool to make sure businesses are best equipped.

Consumers adopting online grocery shopping may reshape the retail industry and drive growth for new customers to big name supermarket stores. Coronavirus may hasten the shift to online delivery and pickup, and bring long-term challenges for smaller chains earlier than expected.

While you can plan for trends in supply and demand, sudden shifts in demand are harder to predict unless you are leveraging demand sensing applications such as Vanguard Software. The best strategy is to have tools and strategies in place that prepare your company to be flexible and adaptive. Once the smoke clears, Vanguard Predictive Planning is a great tool to help plan as business shifts and look at the aftermath to make more informed decisions.