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COVID-19 vs. The World of Retail

Updated: Mar 19



Where are we now?


COVID-19 has generated a great deal of uncertainty for global retailers in the first few months of the new decade and non-essential retailers are being ordered to close their doors to the public in an attempt to slow the spread of this virus. We have already seen a dramatic impact on the leisure and retail sectors and we expect to see many retailers and brands struggling to keep afloat during the height of this crisis.


But retailers will also need to keep an eye on the future, simultaneously adopting strategies which will help them weather the storm, but also preparing them for the future; A brave new world where reacting to changing shopper behaviours will become the new frontier of success in retail.


The impact so far:

Pi Insight conducted more than 1000 quantitative interviews between 20th and 24th February. The focus of the study is on the Asia Pacific region, although interviews were also collect among British and American travellers to provide a “western” perspective.


Although this data is specific to travel retail it gives a clear indication of how domestic markets will also be affected, now that the pandemic has spread beyond our transport hubs.


What is certain, is that shopper behavioural norms are being re-established as a result of the preventative measures taken to maintain personal safety at this time; a divergence away from crowds, personal contact, trials and even the physical store environment itself.


However, if brands can be reactive to this pandemic by quickly adopting digital solutions to help their customers, they will be able to retain brand loyalty and emerge from this disruption with a new outlook on consumer engagement. Ready to face further uncertainty in the future and maintain a strong customer focussed digital strategy.


So how can our retailers and brands bounce back?


Amid the COVID-19 concerns, the primary focus must be on precautionary measures to safeguard shopper’s health and reduce further spread of the virus, according to local government sanctions. Our thoughts and efforts are with those communities who have been the worst hit and individuals who are most vulnerable at this time of global crisis.


But at the same time, brands should be hurriedly investing in developing digital solutions that enable shoppers to continue consuming their products by focusing on product discovery and education, reserve and collect functionality and brand awareness tools, such as augmented reality. By incorporating these solutions within their omnichannel strategies (with particular focus on in-store mobile experiences), it will begin to facilitate a reduction in the amount of physical and human interactions within stores, responding to consumer’s emerging needs and behaviours.



What can Play do to help:


We are already working with our clients to develop unique and innovative digital retail solutions in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. However, our range of digital 'off the shelf' solutions, which we can deploy fast, can help brands to react to the current situation and prepare for the changing face of retail.


  • Click and collect: hygienic collection points and options for delivery, helping brands to minimise human interaction.

  • Product discovery and brand awareness: AR and VR tools helping brands to connect with customers – both at home and in-store without the need for direct contact between the customer, staff, and store.

  • Education and support digital tools: Allowing consumers to self-educate at home and interact directly on a personal level with your instore specialists via live chat and video.


All digital tools are available for mobile and instore release and can be rolled out within 2-4 weeks.


If you would like to find out more please contact anna@play-retail.com to discuss which of our solutions would be the best fit for your business.



Need some inspiration?


Example 1. Apple's - Quick Look


Quick Look is Apple’s take at offering augmented reality to its users.

Different retailers can upload stickers or 3D models of the products they offer, which can then be accessed by consumers and superimposed onto the camera image on iPhones or iPads, giving them an accurate preview of how the item would look like in the comfort of their own homes.


Apple have also streamlined the purchasing service to allow shoppers to buy using the app, without having to return to the retailer's website.


Example 2. Dior x RIMOWA Collaboration



Using Snapchat’s Face Lens, World Lens and Marker Tech, Dior has created a number of filters and 3D designs that bring the house’s aesthetic produced by Kim Jones into reality.



  • Face Lens utilises the Dior oblique motif and overlays this pattern, alongside the brand’s moniker and a cloudy sky, on top of the users’ face as a new beauty filter.

  • World Lens features a DMC DeLorean as if it has been crafted by Daniel Arsham and allows users to explore the digital car in order to find the Dior x Rimowa personal clutch bag as seen from their campaign video.

  • Marker Tech offers the ability to experience the clutch in real-life surroundings.


Example 3. Amazon Go


Amazon hopes to transform another sector of the British retail market by bringing a checkout-free food store to London. Later this year, the US retailer is expected to open an Amazon Go site in the west London enclave of Notting Hill, more than two years after its first automated outlet opened in Seattle, Washington.


At Amazon Go in the US, shoppers gain access by scanning their phone, with the Amazon Go app open, at the store’s entry gate. A series of cameras and sensors automatically log anything picked up in-store to a shoppers’ Amazon online basket. Customers’ Amazon accounts are then billed when they leave the shop.


A shopping experience like this could be increasingly valued whilst attitudes change post-COVID-19. The process of shopping will be quicker and would minimise contact with other people due to the removal of queuing and checkouts.