Will COVID-19 Be an Accelerator for Retail’s Transformation?

Post by
Jamie O'Brien
Will COVID-19 Be an Accelerator for Retail’s Transformation?
Retail’s digital shift has accelerated

Covid-19 has presented both an economic and social crisis for retailers. The financial impact of COVID-19 has been huge for retailers, with sales dropping by as much as 70%. This has left almost all brick-and-mortar retailers looking at negative cash flow as a result of closed stores. Even when retailers reopen, they will be reopening to decreased consumer confidence and lower footfall.

This is forcing brands to find new ways to engage with their customers and serve their needs and adapt their stores to deal with retailers of a socially distanced society.

The trend of people relying on and embracing digital channels during this crisis could not be truer in the retail industry. Since becoming the only sales channel available in many categories, eCommerce has soared during the pandemic, with increases of 25-80% depending on the country and industry.

Physical stores in a digital world

This shift presents some challenges for brick-mortar stores. Even though most brands have seen a spike in online sales, but their stores will still remain the backbone of their business. Reduced footfall and increased competition from online stores will need to adapt to stay competitive.

Now more than ever the blurring of the line between offline and online should be a priority for retailers. If online is to be the first port of call, even momentarily; retailers should leverage their stores and existing infrastructure (including security cameras) as a means of bridging the gap between online and offline. This includes measures such as using live occupancy data to inform a shopper's decision on when to visit a store and curbside pickups where customers order online and then wait outside of stores for associates to bring their items.

Technologies like Computer Vision and advanced analytics modules are driving this digital transformation. Retailers coming out of the other side are likely to be more resilient in the long term, as well as more accessible and seamless for customers across channels.

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