Once upon a time, I hated going to the mall.
My disdain was based less on the actual shopping experience and more on the scads of interactions that accompanied it: salespeople clamoring to sell you something, survey-takers seeking your opinion on everything, and much more. “Smell this! Try that! Sign up for our promotional card and get 10% off at checkout!” Don’t get me started on other shoppers’ children.
By early 2020, I had pretty much become an online-only shopper. During the 2019 holiday season, I purchased absolutely everything under our tree from Amazon.
When COVID-19’s spread accelerated in 2020, “potentially dangerous” joined my long list of pet peeves regarding malls and department stores. Yet, as the pandemic endured, a strange sensation settled in: I genuinely missed walking into a physical store.
I wasn’t alone. Recent Incisiv.com survey research finds that 91% of consumers miss shopping in stores. The survey also finds that only 5% plan to try a product in-store in the next six months and only 28% plan to increase in-store shopping once COVID-related restrictions have lifted. But they’ll be back, and probably in far greater numbers than those figures suggest.
After all, humans are social animals who like to see, and be seen by, other people. For many, shopping is a group activity and entertainment in the same experience. In fact, prior to the pandemic, more stores were evolving into showrooms where shoppers could touch a product, try it on and then return to the comfort of their home to purchase the item online. The evolution of merchandising from a sales activity to a showcasing activity has been converting products into art pieces while transforming stores into interactive museums.
You can learn more about this and other trends, cultural shifts and technological advances reshaping consumer retail in the Vision2021 Report sponsored by Vertex.
While shopping in-person likely will not be exactly the same as it was pre-pandemic, our masks will eventually come off and stores and restaurants will soon be bustling. I expect that hand sanitizer, six-foot spacing stickers and curbside pick-up will remain fixtures well into the future.
When the threat of the pandemic subsides, I look forward to returning to the mall. Perhaps I’ll grab lunch with friends, see a movie and even visit one of those fancy clothing museums … when other shoppers’ kids are in school.
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