In light of the coronavirus pandemic’s stranglehold on the American economy, Ad Age gathered insight from chief marketing officers, agency heads and major players at the forefront of an ever-changing retail landscape at Ad Age Next: Retail, a one-day virtual event held July 8 for industry leaders to discuss the state—and the future—of their business.
Here are five of the most important takeaways from the event:
Curbside pickup is here to stay
When brick-and-mortar stores were ordered closed earlier this year to stem the spread of COVID-19, American retailers needed to tweak their operations to stay afloat financially. The solution for many: curbside pickup.
Typically complementing other out-of-store schemes such as home delivery, curbside pickup is viewed favorably by consumers and is permitted under most stay-at-home orders, making it a stalwart of U.S. retail over the past few months. While some companies were hyping their curbside capabilities pre-pandemic—such as Walmart, whose first-ever Super Bowl ad this February promoted its grocery pickup services—others have pivoted as a direct result of the outbreak.
“We certainly brought curbside to fruition in light of COVID,” says Krista Bourne, senior VP of sales and operations at Verizon, adding that for the company, implementing curbside fulfillment was “not on the roadmap” prior to the outbreak.
Likewise, Dick’s Sporting Goods launched curbside pickup nationwide earlier this year, rapidly accelerating it from the development stage back burner. “The conversations about it kind of started on a Friday, and it was live by a Sunday,” Dick’s VP of E-Commerce Experience Miche Dwenger says of curbside. “It’s really been a game-changer for us.”
Brands’ secondary tech investments have been highlighted
As consumers are forced to stay home, customer-facing tech has taken the brunt of shifting shopping habits, facilitating everything from online ordering to sampling products.
To deliver a standout consumer experience that retailers can no longer provide in-store, many brands are making investments in slick technology to appease shoppers.
At Dick’s Sporting Goods, a new e-commerce tool that notifies users when an item is out of stock has been rolled out. Walgreens, meanwhile, revamped its app and data-backed loyalty program. And at Ulta Beauty, the brand has boosted emphasis on its GlamLab AR, a software program that allows consumers to virtually try on makeup products; once a little-advertised feature of Ulta’s app, GlamLab is now front-and-center in stores to replace testing samples.