Retailers, delivery services adapt to altered landscape

Photo from NRF


When the COVID-19 pandemic began about a year ago, one of its first noticeable economic effects on retail was vastly accelerated growth in ecommerce. People couldn’t go out to shop, so they did their shopping at home. NRF’s figures show that ecommerce, which was about 11 percent of total U.S. retail sales in 2019, rocketed to 21.9 percent in 2020.

Along the way, ecommerce came to include categories like groceries that had largely or entirely been confined to in-store sales or informal, irregular home delivery. Groceries require particularly careful product picking and — given the nature of perishables — fast and accurate delivery. Although some larger chains handle some of their own delivery, the majority of grocers do not: Rather than build the needed communications infrastructure, vehicle fleet and staff, they outsource to delivery services.

Those delivery services are themselves dealing with new challenges, both in terms of increased volume and evolved customer expectations. A lot of people don’t want strangers to come into their homes during a pandemic; they also don’t want their groceries stolen off the front porch. Secure noncontact delivery, therefore, has become a thing.

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