COVID-19 accelerates retail innovation

Crate and Barrel, Gap and Lowe’s are among companies that have reimagined the customer experience

COVID-19 has accelerated trends we’ve seen over the past few years as retailers reimagine the customer experience, blending online and offline channels. And spending more time at home has encouraged more consumers to embrace offerings like curbside pickup and have increased their adoption.

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“We’ve done things in weeks that would have taken years to do in normal circumstances,” says Mike George, president and CEO of Qurate Retail, Inc. and chairman of the NRF Board of Directors. Here are some other examples of retailers fast-tracking new and previously laid plans:

  • Tractor Supply Company rolled out curbside pickup in a matter of days, and same-day/next-day delivery in a couple of weeks to all stores nationwide. The company has also launched its website on a new platform and its first mobile app since the pandemic started.
  • Crate and Barrel developed and deployed more processes and standard operating procedures in the first two months of the pandemic than it has in the past two years — including contactless curbside pickup, social distancing and mask-wearing.
  • The pace of change at Ahold Delhaize has grown exponentially faster. “The time horizon in which we make decisions, act, take risks and launch products to market has shrunk from months to weeks now,” said Chief Digital Officer Farhan Siddiqi.
  • Lowe’s introduced curbside pickup during the pandemic — previously on its project roadmap for 2021.
  • Target promised in 2017 to raise its hourly wage to $15 by the end of 2020. In July, Target increased its starting wage to $15 per hour, putting the wage hike five months ahead of schedule.
  • Sam’s Club developed and deployed a concierge app, providing quick and contactless shopping for consumers who need to buy essential goods in bulk.
  • Gap Inc. opened a new state-of-the-art distribution center two months ahead of schedule. It is Gap’s highest-capacity fulfillment center with integrated automation and robotic capabilities to process 1 million units per day.

Learn more about how retailers are innovating in NRF’s Retail Leadership Series.

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