3 COVID-induced retail transformations that will live on post-pandemic

man wearing face mask in mall looking at his smart phone
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Even before COVID-19 forced retailers to embrace a “new normal,” the retail landscape was changing.

Retailers were already evolving to better understand their customers’ preferred ways of shopping — the pandemic just encouraged them to move more quickly and to embrace alternate channels of commerce.

Here are a few ways retailers originally introduced to keep customers coming, but are likely to continue because of their benefits.

Transforming stores from customer-side to supply-side

Female Inventory Manager Shows Digital Tablet Information to a Worker Holding Cardboard Box, They Talk and Do Work. In the Background Stock of Parcels with Products Ready for Shipment.

Early on in the pandemic, retail was hit with a lockdown that effectively closed storefronts.

Innovative brick and mortars transformed from being customer touchpoint locations to becoming crucial nodes in the supply system.

Temporarily closed sites became mini warehouses that could deliver products ordered online or offering click-and-collect services.

Others tested automated fulfillment centers at the back of existing stores. That flexibility made store space more productive, something retailers continue to assess.

Accelerated ecommerce growth

male bike/sport shop at laptop working on ecommerce accelerated by covid related retail transformation

With mandated store closings of physical locations, retailers focused on their ecommerce channels.

For example, fewer than one in five Western European consumers had purchased groceries online before the pandemic.

Although grocery stores were considered essential businesses and allowed to remain open during lockdown, hours of operation were reduced due primarily to low staffing, and customers felt safer ordering online and either picking up in person or having packages delivered.

For Western Europe, the impact was dramatic: According to the consultancy Alix Partners, the pandemic may have advanced those countries four to five years into the future.

A significant number of those customers who had never bought food or groceries online are likely to continue doing so, which in turn led retailers to implement digital payment methods.

Contactless payments

person pays for coffee with card app on phone | covid related retail transformation
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

In the past 15 months, the use of cash declined, due to concerns it was a means of spreading COVID-19 and other germs.

The surge in the demand for contactless payment led to outstanding performances for major companies. The offering is shifting from being “nice-to-have” to being essential.

During the past few years, U.S. shoppers have gradually decreased their use of cash.

In 2019, Experian reported that 1-in-10 millennials used their digital wallet for every purchase.

There has already been a notable decrease in cash usage over the past few years.

And nearly a third of U.S. adults said they typically make no purchase using cash during a week, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

The Forrester/NRF State of Retail Payments study, released last August, found 67 percent of retailers surveyed now accept some type of no-touch payment.

That figure includes 58 percent accepting contactless cards that can be waved past a card reader or tapped on the reader, up from 40 percent in 2019.

In addition, 56 percent take digital wallet payments on mobile phones, an increase from 44 percent.

The corona virus caused unprecedented disruption, innovative and flexible retailers created ways to continue to provide customers the products and services they needed in ways that were accessible.

They learned how to successfully navigate through difficult circumstances while still accommodating customer requests.

Those types of actions build trust, which is an essential part of getting through any crisis.

2 Retail Uses of Artificial Intelligence in a Post-COVID World

woman and man at advanced artificial intelligence screen, woman pointing something out to man who's holding up a laptop

The amount of information collected from an in-store POS is vast. Coupled with e-commerce data gathered from online transactions, retailers can glean a pretty accurate picture of who their customers really are: their tastes, sizes, socio-economic status and demographics. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to correlate all of that information to provide an efficient, personalized experience that caters to shoppers’ preferences. 

Numerous companies are investing significantly in the technology; Meticulous Research predicts the global AI in retail market will grow 35.9% between 2019 and 2025, reaching $15.3 billion.

AI can help discern the patterns in consumer behavior that can answer the questions on every retailer’s mind: how do we keep shoppers coming back?

AI for shopper convenience

woman smiling down at her phone, illustration of brain with points connected to different technological, artificial intelligence symbols in circles around it

Using AI to make sense of customer information can help retailers create efficient shopping experiences, whether that’s at a physical retail location or online. 

These types of retailer-directed experiences are particularly appealing to millennials, the first digitally native generation.

In general, the fact that millennials gravitate toward digital-first approaches puts retailers and brands under pressure to continually innovate; businesses are striving not only to know what the customers want before they reach the store, but also to have it readily available. 

Retailers that create an atmosphere of convenience and ease are generally rewarded with repeat business. 

That was perhaps most evident at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when customers turned to e-commerce because of the ease of filling their shopping needs, from clothing to groceries to cleaning supplies. For 15 months, online ordering surged. 

In response, brick and mortar retailers expanded their channels, and many that once eschewed online orders quickly found significant revenue gains by allowing customers to place orders online and collect them curbside. 

Now, as retailers emerge from the past year with new methods of meeting customer needs, they also have found themselves possessing significantly more shopper data. 

Personalized promotions

cityscape with Artificial Intelligence screen overlayed

Retailers can use AI to build effective marketing campaigns that can not only help shoppers find the products they are looking for, but also to discover others they didn’t even know they wanted. 

Product intelligence plus customer data combined with AI can produce targeted marketing and promotions that can encourage loyalty, increase return visits, and increase conversion rates. 

Online, AI can help decrease bounce rates and improve engagement on the website by using personalized recommendations and banners. 

AI can help retailers provide the personalized experience customers receive online when they are shopping in stores. 

For example, AI cameras and sensors can record when an item is placed back after a customer selects it. 

If that action is a trend, the manager can decide if the item should be displayed elsewhere, in an effort to provide it more visibility. 

Better forecasting

woman looking down with Artificial Intelligence computer glass screen in front

AI-driven tools analyzing Retail Pro POS data help retailers understand who their consumers are, which allows them to provide personalized offers and deals. 

Business analytics provide valuable insight into customer demographics, peak operation hours, buying trends and inventory. 

Retailers can examine purchasing history from POS transactions to determine what influences customers’ buying habits. 

By integrating automation from AI-driven POS systems in multiple sales channels — online, in-store, apps, etc. — retailers can more clearly understand their customers’ experiences and continue to refine them to better suit their needs. 

DTC brands have a big impact on traditional retail

modcloth, bonobos and jet logos in a walmart shopping cart, harry's, casper, and care/of in target shopping cart. DTC brands impact traditional retail

Direct to consumer (DTC) products have been wildly popular in the past few years, and as they slowly infiltrate big box retailers’ shelves, brands such as Casper, Harry’s and Bonobos are gaining more attention and getting an even bigger sales boost.

But traditional retailers are learning from them as well.

For the biggest retailers, partnering with DTC has been mutually beneficial. Walmart bought men’s fashion retailer Bonobos in 2017 for $310 million. Target is partnering with Harry’s to sell the well-made, discount-priced razors in stores, as well as Casper mattresses — which can also be found in top-tier stores such as Nordstrom’s.

Mutual gains

two businessmen shaking hands - DTC brands impact traditional retail and it's mutually beneficial

Part of the draw of those and many other DTC brands is their popularity: They will drive customers into stores and online. Forging partnerships with newer, more sought-after brands helps retailers attract and create relationships with a new segment of shoppers who may not have otherwise shopped with them.

In addition, what big retailers such as Walmart, Target and Nordstrom’s can gain from well-established DTC brands is digital expertise. These products have successfully launched and sold products online with no physical stores. They are marketing powerhouses, and big box stores are learning from their strategies, particularly for their own private-label merchandise. For example, Target’s partnership with Harry’s spurred it to step up its men’s grooming selection by expanding its own Goodfellow & Co’s offering to more than 30 products. (Target is clearly focusing on the segment and rounding out its offerings by also incorporating Ulta Beauty shops this year into 100 locations this year.)

Fluid shopping

dark skinned woman with big short curls wearing orange shirt shopping on laptop on couch, DTC brands impact traditional retail - teaching big box stores about online marketing

What these relationships mean for consumers is that brands and retailers are becoming more attuned to the future of shopping. Customers are fluid in how they want to shop: One day they may opt for a personal, immersive experience at Sephora and the next they’ll order lipstick online. Convenience is a driving force, but it doesn’t always mean ecommerce. Sometimes, convenience is the ease of being able to go to a physical location and try on, inspect, and ask questions.

Successful retail has always meant providing what customers want, when they want it. Today’s technology merely widens the possibilities, and requires retailers to be intuitive and flexible.

Seeking to be more inclusive, retailers increase adaptive clothing offerings

Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, more than one in four adults are living with “some type of disability.” That is a huge opportunity for today’s retailers to meet the needs of a significant market segment.

Retail responds for accessibility needs

For some time, retailers have adapted their online presence as well as their physical stores to meet the needs of people with physical challenges.

Online websites, for example, must ensure the proper use of HTML, so assistive technology can accurately interpret the page content. In addition, the tab key should be able to navigate through all an ecommerce site’s web pages and access all interactive features.

But while retailers are making their websites more accessible, the items they sell do not always meet everyone’s needs. Gradually, clothing retailers have started to recognize the segment of people with disabilities by offering adaptive clothing, i.e., apparel that helps people with disabilities to get dressed or to simply live life. The segment includes people with specific physical impairments, the elderly and people who have recently had surgery.

Adapted for style & function

Photo by Cliff Booth from Pexels

Tommy Hilfiger drew on its athletic wear experience, which focuses on movement, performance and functionality, to create its Tommy Adaptive collection.

Hallmarks of these pieces include easy closures, ease of movement, seated wear, easy open necklines, magnetic buttons, hook and loop closures, internal pull-up hoops, low front and high back, part openings, and side seam openings. The designer was inspired to create a line of adaptive clothing when he saw the dressing challenges faced by his autistic daughter and son.

Hilfiger is not alone. Ugg’s iconic shearling lined boots are now available with side zippers for easy access and pull tabs on the back to help secure the shoe. Aerie has partnered with Abilitee Adaptive Wear to offer adaptive accessories, such as fabric belts to hold insulin pumps and water-resistant ostomy bag covers.

But the big brand names are also facing competition from startups who saw an opportunity to serve people’s needs and jumped on it.

For example, Careandwear realized cancer patients have unique clothing needs during treatment. In response, it developed and sells a Chest Port Hoodie, which provides wearer easy access to a chemo port. And Alter Ur Ego makes comfortable and adaptive jeans that feature accessible pockets, elastic waistbands, and straps for easy dressing.

Today, brands are reaching out to the disabled community, confronting social-emotional, environmental, and physical barriers and exceeding those customers’ expectations.

Slowly but surely, retailers are providing products for the one-quarter of the population that identifies as having a disability.

Specialty brands partner with big box retail to boost foot traffic—and sales

It’s a retail conundrum: Foot traffic in malls is decreasing, and brick and mortar stores are losing ground to ecommerce – yet shoppers still want to visit stores to touch and try out products before buying.

To capture more sales and remain relevant to shoppers, big box stores are thinking out of the box and partnering with popular name-brand product manufacturers.

Bringing Apple to you at Target

rendering of mini apple store in all white target store with light wood kiosk  and shelves. Featuring black male worker behind the kiosk in red shirt wearing a mask greeting a white lady customer wearing a mask approaching
Image from Target

Target recently announced it will double the size of Apple’s footprint in 17 locations, expanding offerings in stores and online. In addition, Target team members will receive specialized training from Apple.

The retail behemoth has also partnered with Ulta Beauty to open 1,000-square-foot beauty shops, which will be staffed with Target employees who have been trained by the beauty retailer.

Notably, Ulta also provides customers with many services such as in-store hair salons, which drive considerable foot traffic: Salon customers reportedly make twice as many trips to an Ulta Beauty store as those who do not use those services.

And Target isn’t the only big box store looking to pretty itself up: Kohl’s will open 200 “Sephora at Kohl’s” locations this fall, with at least 850 locations planned by 2023. The cosmetics retailer will launch on Kohl’s website in 2022, offering more than 100 beauty brands, some of which are exclusive to Sephora.

Products across price points

smiling blonde salesgirl in all black holding product up for a customer

The beauty segment is notable because America’s department store makeup counters have historically been the place to purchase upper-end cosmetics.

The American beauty counter is iconic.

However, they’ve gradually been losing popularity as shoppers prefer to visit specialized retailers – such as Ulta and Sephora – which can provide a more extensive variety of products at different price points.

However, by collaborating with those same cosmetics retailers as well as be increasing their in-store footprint, department stores could win back many of those customers.

Department stores are using the popularity of brands such as Apple, Sephora and Ulta to lure customers back into their stores.

Once inside, the customers can be tempted to continue shopping for other products.

In a way, department stores function like mini-malls: From motor oil to bikinis to wrapping paper, these stores have it all.

The tough part today is getting the shoppers to come into the store.

The addition of top brand names will help provide the visibility needed to get shoppers in the automatic door.

Unify commerce & streamline operations with Retail Pro

Ecommerce helped retailers get through a rough 2020. But sudden growth in digital operations also exacerbated the resource costs and inefficiencies of working with unintegrated inventory and customer data.

Retailers will need to evaluate their needs and gaps to determine the best way to unify data & operations across their organization.

Named top POS for mid-market retail by IHL Group, Retail Pro is the proven, globally localized platform to build omnichannel operations for today’s tough retail market.

Didn’t get to meet with us at #NRF2021? Request your consultation now >

POS and retail management platform

Connect all data in Retail Pro Prism for omnichannel visibility & total control over inventory, customers, orders, pricing, promotions, back office, & store operations.

  • Cut resource cost of manual data exchange with seamless integration
  • Connect all points of purchase for efficient order management & fulfillment
  • Spot trends & opportunities with the whole data picture: 1 unified view
  • Simplify path to purchase across channels for better CX

Deep reporting

Maximize your data’s value with operational reports, dimensional analytics, & KPI dashboards.

Powerful RFID

Increase stock accuracy to 98%+ & finish physical inventory in minutes with affordable RFID.

Business intelligence and visual analytics

Unify social media, sales, merchandise, & other data sources into 1 holistic view for intelligent insight.

AI-driven loyalty and personalized marketing

Leverage AI in marketing campaigns to understand & trigger your customers’ buying behavior.

Ready to unify commerce? Let’s start the conversation.

2020 Retail Pro Business Partner Awards

Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.   

Khalil Gibran

2020, though challenging worldwide, has one key benefit: progress.

For retailers who had been working toward omnichannel operations, progress meant an accelerated leap into unified commerce.

For our partnership, progress is the result of the drive for honing efficiency and the expansive pull of innovation, new learning curves and systemization.

Progress with Retail Pro Prism too has brought with it the flux and learning curves of new vision, new strategies — and along with this, new outcomes.

Together we entered the year – with all its challenges – in the strength of progress in our partnership.

Global Acclaim

Your consistent commitment and quality as Retail Pro advisors, providers, and supporters earned recognition for Retail Pro technology as the top POS for midmarket retail from industry minds and brands of high reputation alike.

Market Dominance

Your tireless, creative drive to conquer and nurture every brand and every relevant vertical has won more retailers’ mindshare worldwide than any other POS provider in our highly competitive market, and has kept up the momentum during COVID-19.


Your self-giving diligence to facilitate retailers’ pursuit of optimized efficiency and unparalleled experiences promotes progress in retail and benefit to all who partake of retail’s goods and services.

We congratulate those Business Partners whose skill and striving has excelled beyond their peers in the term leading up to 2020.

Partner of the Year

We honor Pinnaca Retail Solutions for the spirit and zeal of a true Partner, both to see and work toward mutual success. The team at Pinnaca always takes the initiative to adopt and apply their expertise toward new Retail Pro technology with an eye focused on improving retailer experience

Jonathan Scutt Memorial Technical Excellence Award

The Computing Solutions team lives and breathes Retail Pro. They are passionate, solution-focused, and dedicated to excellence in every deployment and beyond, with ongoing service excellence. 

Asia Pacific Awards

Europe Awards

Latin America Awards

Middle East | Africa Awards

North America Awards

5 ways to drive better results with promotions using Retail Pro

Most retailers may actually be wasting money on poorly targeted promotions, according to research by Nielsen.

The study found that while only 33% of consumer product goods (CPG) manufacturers consider their investments in promotions to be wasteful, 67% of trade promotions (amounting to more than $400B) either broke even or were wasted.

In large part, those companies were ignoring analytics that would have helped them understand the impact and effectiveness of promotions, from timing to audience targeting.

Here are 5 ways retailers can use POS data to drive better results with their promotions strategy.

1: Shape promo pricing strategies with insights from past outcomes

In addition, POS data can help with pricing strategy by identifying the correct discount depth.

Sales reports can identify exactly which products or suppliers are driving revenue so stock orders can be placed accordingly.

Return on Investment can be tracked and plans for future promotions will be more successful with insights gained from on past outcomes.

Retail Pro promotions come with 8 base types of promotions which can be used on their own or in any combination of promotions:

  1. BOGO
  2. Coupon
  3. Item
  4. Pack
  5. Quantity
  6. Rolling
  7. Tiered
  8. Transaction

Retailers can create and test as many diverse and complex promotions as their marketing team can come up with.

2: Pair fast sellers with complimentary items

Using POS data can help retailers understand customer tastes and recommend complementary products, which can increase incremental sales.

POS solutions have reporting features that can identify important metrics such as profit margins, basket sizes, customer counts, sales trends, and more.

By promoting products complimentary to the most popular goods, inventory will turn more quickly, making room for more on-trend merchandise and keeping customer traffic lively across channels.

3: Keep tabs on stock count for just-in-time replenishment

Sometimes, promotions are so successful that inventory runs out.

Those missed sales opportunities can hurt.

By using real-time retail promotions analytics, retailers can identify exactly when inventory is low and can restock in time to not miss a sale: There’s no such thing as a too successful promotion.

Conversely, POS data can also unearth slow-moving inventory, which can be cleared out with a specific marketing campaign.

Analytics can help retailers focus on products that boost revenue and drop those that are dead weight.

4: Plan for sufficient staffing during promotional periods

The same store data that pinpoints hot products can also be analyzed to enhance staffing during promotional periods.

Promotions that aren’t well-supported on the sales floor risk alienating customers, who can become frustrated if they feel neglected or overwhelmed by throngs of shoppers.

POS data can provide guidance regarding staffing and store hours, which is especially important for planning for promotions as well as for seasonal fluctuations in sales.

5: Personalize promotions based on individual customer behavior

When retailers know more about customers’ spending habits, they can go one step further to build a relationship with them.

Finely tuned promotions help customers feel recognized and valued by retailers, rather than like anonymous, unappreciated wallets.

AppCard for Retail Pro uses Artificial Intelligence to analyze retailers’ customer data and send promotions based on their individual shopping behavior – or lack thereof.

A break in shopping rhythm could indicate the customer has gone to other retailers to fill those shopping needs.

The AI watches as well for shoppers who break their normal shopping rhythm and sends a promotion to get them back to your stores.

Data can make a substantial impact on sales promotions.

Building relevant promotions targeted at select customers requires data collection and analysis and will improve the return on trade promotion spend.

7 Data insights to shape your retail decisions post COVID-19

Finding opportunities in your business data with Retail Pro Decisions

Save your spot for the webinar time that’s most convenient for you!

Thursday, June 4 at 11am ET (ES) — Register here

Tuesday, June 9 at 3pm GT (EN) — Register here

Thursday, June 11 at 11am PT (EN) — Register here

PS: Can’t make it to the webinar? Register now to get the recording sent straight to your inbox!

COVID-19 forced retailers worldwide to pivot fast to survive this unprecedented and wholly unexpected market downturn.

From shifting to ecommerce-only and fast fulfillment strategies, to staying connected with customers during lockdowns, your ability to adapt and take assertive action is crucial for your business to survive.

Now more than ever retailers must turn to their data to monitor KPIs and get insights that will help you combat the ongoing effects COVID-19 will have on consumer mindsets and economies.

Join us in this webinar to see 7 insights you need to search out now from your data to help you shape your retail decisions post COVID-19 and position you to make the most of the shopping season remaining in 2020. 

Save your spot for this Retail Pro International and PA Latinoamericana webinar to hear:

  • Smart ways retailers have adapted to stay connected with customers and maintain retail operations
  • Why every retailer should reevaluate the extent & sources of data that drive their strategy for customer engagement and inventory management
  • How to monitor every KPI with data from your POS, ERP, CRM, e-Commerce, and other critical applications integrated in Retail Pro Decisions visual analytics software
  • What insights you need to glean from your data now to shape your decisions as you reopen and reconnect with shoppers for the remainder of 2020

3 Technologies to blur the lines between life & shopping


Consumers love a seamless experience, and retailers are on task, moving ahead to meet those customer demands.

Meanwhile, more shoppers are using visual search, social shopping and augmented reality.

The ability for a shopper to take a photo of a dress seen on someone walking down the street and quickly identify and buy it, or the ability to click and purchase the sofa that a popular social media influencer is lounging on in her latest Instagram post — those capabilities are going to keep e-tail moving ahead in 2020.


1: Visual Search


Shoppers who are looking for an item but can’t describe it in words — but will know it when they see it — will flock to visual search technology.

Visual search will help find items that are similar to an uploaded photo.

Computers and smartphones have the ability to recognize and identify the most obscure as well as the most common items, from celebrities to logos to landmarks.

The technology isn’t new—Macy’s iOS app incorporates image recognition and visual search software, which lets consumers search through a plethora of inventory items just by using pictures snapped from their iPhone to find similar products.

The difference now is that other companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Visual search is particularly gaining momentum in the fashion and home decor sectors, including retailers such as Wayfair and ASOS.


2: Social Shopping


According to a GlobalWebIndex Trends Report “Social Commerce,” smartphone ownership has risen to 95% of the population.

Retailers are subsequently motivated to create ecommerce sites that are handheld device friendly.

The goal is to engage shoppers fully, so they complete the purchase journey while remaining within the ecosystem of these social platforms.

Direct-to-consumer companies, such as Warby Parker, Everlane and Casper, rely on social networks for customer acquisition, and have become a staple of the social commerce landscape.

They’ve been highly successful at not only marketing products through social networks, but also at closing the sale without leaving the platform.


3: Augmented Reality


AR can transform traditional retailers. It can show a customer how a product will look — whether that is furniture in a room or shoes on feet — without having to physically have the item.

Sephora’s Virtual Artist App with Modiface, for example, shows users via their smartphone camera how makeup products will look when applied.

For customers who are painting walls and not their faces, Home Depot’s Project Color app lets users view a paint color in a room.

The AR technology factors in lighting, objects, and shadows in the room, to help provide a realistic view of how the paint color will actually look.

Customers benefit from retailers’ investments in a variety of technologies when finding new brands, learning about products, and making transactions.

Weaving features such as visual search, social ecommerce and AR into their offerings provides an engaging shopping experience which consumers are starting to expect.

Those retailers that are willing to implement new technology and create better experiences will reap the benefits of listening to and anticipating the needs of their customers.