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CSA Exclusive: Verizon says COVID-19 changes will continue into 2021

According to Verizon Media, omnichannel fulfillment and augmented reality are two retail trends from 2020 that should accelerate in the new year.

Iván Markman, chief business officer of Verizon Media, recently shared insight with Chain Store Age on how shifts in the retail environment prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic are going to remain as major industry factors during 2021. Verizon Media is the digital content division of Verizon.

“2020 was a year like no other, and 2021 will very likely be a strong contender in its uniqueness,” said Markman. “So many forces will be in play, including fear and strife, optimism, and re-starts. While we may be leaving a year of ‘the new normal,’ a new, new normal awaits us.”

One COVID-19-driven trend which Markman expects to continue having a major impact into 2021 is ramped-up consumer interest in seamless shopping offerings.

“With 80% of shoppers expecting to increase buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup over the next six months, and 90% preferring home delivery over an in-store visit, retailers must position themselves to flexibly serve these needs, especially when it comes to e-commerce experiences,” advised Markman. “All successful online shopping campaigns must feature omnichannel fulfillment options to meet consumer demand for safety and convenience.” 

Markman also expects the e-commerce experience to become much more multiformat and tailored, with a seismic shift in shopping content. 

“For example, we’re likely to begin seeing more AR-enabled commerce, as well as richer forms of interactive video, including the ability to not only watch shoppable programming, but to do so with your friends,” said Markman. “I also anticipate the launch of dynamically-generated online storefronts personalized for the user to remove friction, guarantee the best price, and offer a delightful buying experience. These types of innovations, particularly on the video side, will be powered by the shift from the cloud to content delivery network (CDN) edge en masse.”

Markham observed the pandemic is also creating new e-commerce opportunities for a host of traditionally brick-and-mortar-focused verticals. In March 2020, for example, grocery e-commerce soared after shoppers turned online to find the goods that they needed, but weren’t available at their local grocery stores. 

“Walmart has been a true leader here,” stated Markham. “While online grocery demand has dipped from that incredible peak, the behavior has now become mainstream and will likely continue to scale in 2021. Other categories, such as medical, health and wellness, toys and games, and home and garden, are also seeing online sales interest surge.”

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