Experiential Retail Ready for Post-COVID

April 7, 2021

Experiential retail is likely to deal a blow to e-commerce sales as the pandemic wanes, according to a recent analysis from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Digital sales, which spiked 33.6% in 2020, are expected to grow to $908.7 billion this year, a 13.7% year-over-year increase, according to eMarketer data cited in the report. But as vaccine rollouts gain speed and shutdown orders are lifted, retailers are hard at work on strategies to lure customers back to physical brick-and-mortar retail spaces.

“E-commerce has been moderating for a couple quarters now; we think that continues more drastically as the vaccine is distributed and the pandemic gradually fades,” Garrett Nelson, senior equity research analyst at CFRA, told S&P in an interview. “It’s going to be more balanced between physical store sales and e-commerce.”

The S&P report notes that almost half of all consumers surveyed by 451 Research earlier this year say they’ll “immediately” start shopping in person once shutdown orders are lifted.  And to meet that demand, retailers are increasingly turning to experiences designed to keep consumers shopping in-store longer. DICK’s Sporting Goods will invite shoppers to scale their rock-climbing wall, for example, while Sephora will again offer makeup consultations by appointment. And Nordstrom’s recent partnership with Tonal will also allow shoppers to test-drive the latter’s full-body exercise equipment before committing to a purchase.

Sheryl Kingstone, head of Customer Experience & Commerce at 451, told S&P Global that retailers are likely to use the post-COVID period to trial new experiential concepts with shoppers.

“They are making the necessary changes in store over the long haul,” Kingstone told S&P. “I do think that retail is going to be completely reimagined in the future to be much more experiential than it ever was in the past.”

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