Retailers pivot with technology as they respond to COVID-19

Businesses are moving quickly and innovating to continue to serve their customers
April 1, 2020
Coronavirus Resources

NRF is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. For updated information and guidance for retailers, check out our resource page. 

Several states have mandated that “nonessential” retailers shut their doors in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In response, retailers are moving quickly and innovating to continue to serve their customers and keep their workers employed and their community safe.

Behind the front lines, the moment is quietly being defined by retailers testing and expanding digitally driven options that haven’t necessarily been on consumers’ radar until now. As Americans practice social distancing and are quarantined, here are a few highlights on how retail brands are leveraging technology to meet the moment.

Boosting partnerships with delivery service providers

The Target app has broken records for the number of daily downloads in recent days. A month ago, it saw an average of 25,000 downloads per day. Since Target made the decision to integrate Shipt’s grocery delivery service into its own offerings — and as people seek new ecommerce options — its daily downloads have more than doubled to 53,100 per day.

Papa John’s has expanded its digital ordering capabilities by launching Facebook Instant Ordering. It is also the foremost national restaurant chain to unveil a custom-ordering app for Apple TV, kick off a nationwide digital rewards program and surpass 60 percent of total U.S. sales via digital channels. Walgreens has expanded its partnership with Postmates to include deliveries of needed grocery items, personal care products, beverages or snacks, all while minimizing contact with the public.

Retailers take it to the curb

To keep consumers safe and support social distancing and other state mandates, retailers have turned to curbside pickup and home-delivery options to ensure citizens can access the things they need. These digital storefronts located on apps and websites are replacing bricks-and-mortar operations during the pandemic; many retailers have turned their properties into pick-up points for online orders brought to customers’ cars. DSW and Dick’s Sporting Goods have set up logistics to handle curbside contactless pickups. Best Buy’s curbside-only policy applies to more than orders made online: If a product is in stock in the store, employees can go into the store to claim the item for the customer and sell it to them curbside.

Expanded access to telemedicine

Lowe’s has taken the lead on being vocal on the benefits of telemedicine for employees — especially when access to a doctor is limited or high-risk. The home improvement retail chain has extended its telemedicine benefit through Teladoc to all associates and their families, regardless of whether they are enrolled in Lowe’s medical plan. CVS has been at the forefront during this pandemic, providing diagnostic testing and telemedicine visits with no out-of-pocket costs or cost sharing for Aetna members. Its MinuteClinic offers patients the opportunity to request a Video Visit in 40 states and Washington, D.C. Walgreens is also heavily promoting telehealth services for its customers via its app and website.

As this pandemic evolves, retail is entering a new digital era, experimenting and adapting with the help of tools that can both meet customers’ needs and keep communities safe.

NRF is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating with government agencies, health experts and retailers as the situation continues to evolve. For updated information and guidance for retailers, check out our resource page.

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