Since Covid-19 forced non-essential bricks-and-mortar businesses to close their doors, the retail sector has been dramatically impacted both in the UK and around the world.

The way people live, including how they buy, has shifted overnight. Digital is the new norm.

But what can past trends reveal to help retailers survive and thrive – today and tomorrow?

Based on the shopping activity of more than one billion consumers globally, the Salesforce Shopping Index reveals the current trends.

Since Covid-19 started to spread, the report revealed a dramatic shift from physical to digital buying. People are living, working and shopping from home, on computers, laptops, tablets and phones.

In March, digital spending on essential goods such as food and personal care items surged by a massive 200% in the UK

In March, digital spending on essential goods, such as food and personal care items, surged by a massive 200% in the UK – a prime example of increased contact-free consumption.

Global figures are just as striking. The second half of March saw a 41% spike in digital revenue across the world.

How past consumer trends secure the future

In times of change, people try out new behaviours. Some of them stick.

But how can we confidently predict this when the future remains uncertain?

The answer lies in the data – and the trends are indisputable.

For example, during every holiday shopping season, consumers adopt new behaviours that often become the new normal. Data from recent holiday seasons has revealed the following about the way people shop in 2020:

  • More net new shoppers use digital channels to complete purchases
  • Mobile and social buying is increasing significantly
  • New omnichannel services such as click and collect are becoming popular

Unlike a holiday season, the pandemic’s duration is uncertain. But what’s clear is that recovery will be gradual as society adjusts and digital buying will continue long after the immediate crisis.

In 2019, 80% of revenue came from physical locations. Although digital channels are unlikely to offset the massive loss from bricks-and-mortar retail sales, they are helping to cushion the blow.

Recovery will be gradual as society adjusts and digital buying will continue long after the immediate crisis

Businesses are learning new ways to connect with customers. From on-demand home workouts and online classes to cooking kits, innovative brands were quick to invent new ways to engage with consumers.

In this new normal, brands that remain close to their customers while maintaining crucial cash flow will rise to the top.

Get more insights into how to better manage your business throughout the crisis by checking our new ebook Leading through Change in Retail: Adapting to a new normal

Michael Green Salesforce

Michael Green is senior area vice-president and head of retail and TTH (travel, transport, hospitality) at Salesforce.

Michael brings more than 15 years of experience in driving growth, developing and nurturing some of Europe’s top brands to innovation and success for their customers.

Currently, he leads the retail and TTH sales cluster, managing industry-focused teams to deliver results and bottom-line impact across sales, service, operations and marketing for businesses.

Working with global customers, Michael has a true passion for technology transformation and operational excellence. Prior to joining Salesforce, Michael worked in technology and helped IBM build trusted relationships and grow its European partnerships with leading businesses.