The retail landscape is facing perhaps its greatest challenge yet, with COVID-19 accelerating changes in consumer behaviour and causing retailers to pivot business models to cater for new demands. Research in this space will have a huge part to play in helping businesses identify threats and opportunities. With this in mind, we spoke to Alliance MBS’ Professor and Chair of Marketing, Heiner Evanschitzky to discuss challenges facing the retail sector in the months ahead.
Previously Professor of Marketing at Aston University and the University of Strathclyde, Heiner’s research focuses primarily on challenges facing the retail sector, customer behaviour, store atmospherics, relationship marketing and profit-chain models. His international experience is extensive, having received his PhD from the University of Muenster, Germany, and spent time as visiting professor at University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Curtin Business School, Australia, and Florida Atlantic University in the US.
Heiner also serves as associate editor for the British Journal of Management. His work has been published in marketing, retail and business journals such as the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Management and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science:
“Since the start of lockdown, we’ve seen a fundamental shift in shopper habits, with mindsets focused on shopping local. High streets will have a huge part to play in re-connecting communities and this presents a huge opportunity for them. They’ll need to think carefully about how they adapt to the new normal – high streets are no longer just a place for shopping and eating out, and with people likely to look to areas outside of the city centre to congregate, there’ll be expectations that their high street provides green spaces, retail spaces, but also a whole host of other activities they might have originally sought out elsewhere.
“The retail sector also has a part to play in our economic recovery. This again presents an opportunity for individual outlets but will determine who thrives and who ultimately falls behind. We’ve seen large swathes of retailers adapt their business models to cater for audiences online and we’ve seen businesses pivot to meet the needs of wider audiences to maintain healthy balance books and to latch onto new trends. This has been particularly apparent in the current climate in the food and drink space with delivery services and partnerships with well-known digital apps.
“What will be interesting to see, particularly in the lead up to Christmas, is how purchase intentions change in this ‘new normal’ we’re experiencing. Will consumers spend less money on experiences, one of the top gifts in previous years? Will spending habits look as they have done in previous years?
“In these unprecedented times, it goes without saying that the lay of the land is uncertain. What is certain is that the sector has an extraordinary role to play and we could see the biggest shift in customer behaviour we’ll see in our lifetime.”