The pandemic-fueled retail trends that are here to stay

It’s no secret that COVID has permanently altered the retail landscape. Drastic changes in consumer behavior have changed the game in a matter of months, with some estimates of compressing a decade’s worth of technological innovation into a month. Retailers know that they have to adapt and adapt quickly or get tossed onto the pile of retailers that ceased operations in 2020. These abrupt changes in consumer behavior brought about the latest trends in retailing. But which of these are the trends that have lasting power and will be with us when the pandemic is nothing more than a distant memory?

The retail industry has optimistically handled the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Foot traffic may be down, but many retailers have seen a surge in activity in their online channels. A few have even managed to experience growth in 2020 over the previous year.

Most retailers plan on sticking with the tactics that worked for them in 2020. However, as we inch toward economic recovery in the latter half of 2021, the last part of the year was more of an unknown. So what are the trends that have staying power?


What had been seen as a niche offering prior to the pandemic turned into a necessity once the realities of shopping for essentials became quite the challenge. Once customers wrapped their heads around the process, this feature will most likely be used long into the future. The trend combines the convenience of shopping online without the need to wait for purchases to be shipped. Orders can be picked up the same day at the store. One disadvantage to retailers is that customers don’t make unplanned additional purchases while browsing in the store. However, this option is a lifeline for retailers that experience limitations brought about by lockdown restrictions. BOPIS allows a retailer to continue to have a revenue stream, even if their physical store location is temporarily closed. 

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The health and wellness industry had a surge in popularity even before the pandemic hit. Lockdowns and social distancing highlighted the need for personal wellness and exercise to maintain a healthy body and spirit. COVID underscored that we needed to look for alternatives to the gym when it became impossible to venture out in public. It seems as if taking care of the body and mind at home will continue even as the pandemic subsides.


This trend has seen significant growth in APAC, where sophisticated product drops are broadcast to eager shoppers. One particular influencer in China managed to move over $70M worth of revenue during Singles Day. Many retailers would welcome that type of success, but it requires a great deal of planning through marketing initiatives to achieve that success level. But as North American consumers begin to warm up to the concept of live streaming, the trend should be here to stay.

Increased change

Another effect of the pandemic has been the rapid acceleration of technology. It has been estimated that a decade’s worth of innovation has been compressed into a couple of months. Retailers that had previously been notoriously slow to adapt to change were suddenly scrambling to innovate. After all, their survival depended on it. The pandemic has brought about an opportunity for retailers to renovate their stores. Others have taken the opportunity to rethink their physical footprint and close unprofitable shops that had been dragging along for several years. 


Many retailers understand that order distribution has had its challenges throughout the pandemic, leaving retailers to build their very own imaginative remedies to numerous concerns. With delivery limits and overloaded carriers disrupting items’ circulation, stores still deal with uncertainties around distribution times and dependable delivery. A couple of stores have increased their shipment network to flight delays, usually discovering more reputable solutions with smaller-sized service providers or different choices like Instacart. With fewer products moving between stores, one retailer has also repurposed their delivery van to bring deliveries straight to the carrier’s centers to lower time and expenses.


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Agent Provocateur and Chief Creative Officer at Hone Ventures and Un_Standard. We create strategies for businesses of all sizes that improve customer relationships and help businesses grow. In his spare time, he loves experimenting in the kitchen and chasing after his three cats, Hallie Tosis, Lester Een, and Jim G. Vitis.

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