Retail, Digital Transformation and COVID-19


To understand how retail, delivery and brick-and-mortar may respond to COVID-19 and its physical and economic constraints.

Early Findings

  • Some early trends are an increase in mobile wallet payments, while of course anything to do with remote working or video conferencing has risen dramatically since the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Experts believe that the pandemic has effectively fast-tracked digital transformation in business.
  • Retail, of course, is a big part of this. They have had to move to digital tools to support marketing and the business. For example, fashion is now producing 360-degree lookbooks. Designers are using digital prototyping instead when their supply chain is unable to deliver materials for sampling.
  • With lockdowns affecting supply chains, digital tools become more important than ever, driving efficiency and collaboration. Furthermore, if one supplier is subject to lockdown, digital tools allow for sourcing new suppliers in unrestricted areas.
  • Experts predict "bottom of the market" retail brands will suffer most, as people will turn to more discerning purchasing patterns and "want something meaningful" when they do buy. This will signal an increasing adoption of made-to-order items, especially as digital tools increase their efficiency and lower their cost. One expert predicts that COVID-19 will spur 20-25% of overall production to be made-to-order pieces.
  • IDC predicts, "the ability to adapt responsively to product, workforce, partner, and operations needs will separate the winners and losers during the COVID-19 crisis."
  • For logistics, there is the possibility that COVID-19 could further open the door for driverless deliveries.
  • Air transport has suffered and could signal a trickle back to ocean-based shipments.

Proposed next steps:

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We propose expanding upon these Early Findings to research and discuss whether experts think physical retail will be able to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. This will look at things like what will brick-and-mortar look like in the post-coronavirus world, how retailers will adapt to people moving to digital en masse and what any new innovations in physical retail might look like.
Additionally, we can also look at logistics, supply chain and delivery. This will examine expert predictions on logistics/delivery/supply chains due to COVID-19, including how they may change or cope with people increasingly turning to online purchasing. We will also look at whether there are any predictions on whether this might increase innovation or disrupters in this space in post-coronavirus world.