Innovation in the Middle of Uncertainty: Where Are Retailers Really Heading?

The retail industry is unquestionably no stranger to rapid-fire change and the long shadow of uncertainty. From 9/11 and unprecedented natural disasters to the long slide into a tumultuous recession followed by an even slower recovery, retailers innovated new experiences, processes and technologies to survive historic disruptions. While there were industry casualties, surviving brands became more adaptable, resilient and attuned to emerging change — until now. No one could have guessed that an even bigger shock was looming ahead. But once the rise in coronavirus infections became a global public health crisis, retailers began to face an entirely new challenge in their relationship with innovation. No one ever wants to experience a significant global crisis. But for retailers, this latest pandemic has become an interesting study of evolving consumer behaviors and how in-store experiences can best serve them. RETHINKING RETAIL INNOVATION Take, for example, mandates for social isolation, remote working and employee furloughs. The longer consumers experience these restrictions, the more likely they will normalize the resulting impact on their psychological well-being and their finances — well beyond the moment the virus is 100 percent contained. Withstanding such a profound shift in consumer behavior requires retailers to innovate e-commerce and in-store experiences by viewing their

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