Friday Five, July 17: A Quick Summary Of The Top Articles From This Week

07.17.2020 Articles

In 2020, you can’t properly discuss the retail industry without mentioning COVID-19. As the ongoing pandemic continues to surge across the United States, many retailers have been forced to adjust re-opening plans, adopt stricter cleaning protocols, and brainstorm technology solutions like traffic counting equipment, temperature tracking systems, and contactless payment options to keep shoppers safe as they return to retail and a “New Normal.”

In this week’s “Friday Five” blog, we explore topics such as occupancy compliance, Walmart’s success in the midst of chaos, the increasing demand for contactless technology, the future of shopping malls in America, and back-to-school shopping. Although we’re still living in uncertain times, one thing’s for certain – the retail industry continues to innovate every day. Read below for top stories from Forbes, Retail Dive, Glossy, USA Today, and Chain Store Age.

1. The New Science Of Counting Shoppers: The Tech Tracking Customers In The Age Of Coronavirus

Forbes – June 28, 2020

Traffic counting technologies have been used by retailers for decades to estimate things like employee labor scheduling and customer conversion rates. Now, in the wake of COVID-19, that technology is being deployed to measure occupancy compliance, temperature monitoring, and other health and safety precautions. And, it doesn’t end there. According to Forbes, retailers are also exploring COVID-19 traffic monitoring solutions such as mobile apps that conduct health screenings and that let pre-approved visitors open doors or activate elevators. As innovations develop every day, the future of retail could very well include mobile apps that open mall doors, enable touch-less payment, or even alert you when the store you are in has become too crowded for your social distancing comfort.

2. Is Walmart Getting The Customer It Always Wanted?

Retail Dive – July 15, 2020

According to Retail Dive, Walmart has risen above its rivals during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, especially at its peak “panic buying” stage, the wealthy demographic of shoppers who normally shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s instead turned to Walmart to find necessary supplies like toilet paper and cleaning products. Additionally, “thanks to its many stores – the company says that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of one – and its advanced in-store pickup services, Walmart was able to overshadow Amazon early in the quarter as the pandemic scrambled both supply and demand.” Although it’s uncertain whether Walmart’s popularity will continue after the pandemic’s end, the store is set to emerge even stronger than before, according to several analysts.

3. With Retail Reopening, Demand For Contactless Technology Is On The Rise

Glossy – July 14, 2020

Contactless payments and curbside pick-up have been a part of the retail landscape for years, but COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for contactless technology as retailers continue to re-open. To make shoppers feel comfortable and confident, retailers are vying to develop or acquire technologies that remove the need to physically interact with products before purchase. According to Glossy, “Showfields has spent the last four months developing an app in-house called Magic Wand, that lets customers interact with nearly every part of the store without touching anything.” And Ronen Luzon, CEO of MySizeID – a company that provides tech for contactless digital body measurements – said that COVID-19 woke retailers up to finally understanding the importance of digital technology inside physical stores.

4. Can Shopping Malls Survive The Coronavirus Pandemic And A New Slate Of Permanent Store Closings?

USA Today – July 14, 2020

Thanks to temporarily shutdowns, analysts are projecting that anywhere from 1 in 4 malls to 1 in 2 could go out of business altogether. According to USA Today, “while some retailers have flourished during the pandemic, nearly all of them – such as Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Home Depot – offered essential services of some kind, including groceries and home improvement goods. Few are typically located in malls.” However, it’s important to remember that many retailers that have recently filed for bankruptcy were experiencing challenges even before COVID-19 hit. That said, Michael Brown, an industry expert on the future of retail, said the popular experiential mall model that includes things like gyms, movie theaters, and restaurants remains compelling in the long run.

5. At-Home Learning Could Drive Back-To-School Spending To Record $101.6 Billion

Chain Store Age – July 15, 2020

According to Chain Store Age, at-home learning is driving online shopping, and consumers plan to spend a record $101.6 billion “to prepare students for school and college this year as they buy more laptops and computer accessories in anticipation that at least some classes will take place online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” However, the intent to spend at physical stores is down across all categories. Although there has been no official state- or nation-wide mandate regarding students returning to physical classrooms and learning environments in the fall, 55% of surveyed consumers said they expect to take “at least some” classes at home, and 88% agree that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their back-to-school shopping in some way.

That’s it for this week, folks! What do you think about the future of contactless technology? Or how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect back-to-school shopping? Let us know in the comments below, or on any of the BDS social media channels. We love to hear feedback from our industry peers!

That’s a wrap! What’s your big insight from this week? Let us know on Instagram or Twitter @BDSmktg. Have a phenomenal weekend! ✌