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COVID-19 and the Month of Innovative Retail

It is said that innovation is rarely business as usual.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the way consumers live, work and shop, many retailers have been stepping up their game and implementing innovative strategies to get their products out to the public.

DSW, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Best Buy set up logistics to handle curbside while, in addition to curbside, arts and crafts retailer Michaels rolled out a nationwide Same-Day Delivery option at select U.S. stores.

Curbside pickup surged a whopping 208% between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago in the U.S., according to Adobe Analytics.

Curbside pickup sales saw its best numbers during the 2019 holiday shopping season, yet questions remained whether the trend would carry on into the off-season.

Gautham Vadakkepatt, an assistant professor at George Mason University, told RETHINK Retail that conditions put in place by the pandemic will accelerate the “exponential growth” of curbside and contactless retail technologies.


Up until now, companies were not as willing to push new tech on consumers because of the resistance. But now, I suspect they’re going to be a little bit more proactive in educating the customers on some of the advantages and benefits of these new options – Gautham Vadakkepatt


A change in attitude

A study by global insights firm National Research Group revealed that 9 in 10 Americans have developed a ‘better appreciation’ for tech during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Research study surveyed U.S. consumers earlier this month to measure how values and opinions on tech have shifted during the outbreak.

The data is a reversal from a Gallup-Knight survey conducted just a month prior, which found that 60% of Americans believed major tech companies do more to “divide the country” than unite it.


On the horizon

In China, drone and driverless deliveries are already becoming standard practice while remaining largely underdeveloped in the western world.

That, however, may soon change.

In the United States, UPS and CVS have announced plans to launch a drone-delivered prescriptions service in Florida early next month.

The service will use Matternet’s M2 drone system and will supply residents of The Villages, the largest retirement community in the U.S., with medications from their local CVS pharmacy.

UPS and CVS announced plans to explore the use of drone delivery last year before successfully completing their first drone deliveries of medical prescriptions from a CVS pharmacy in Cary, N.C. in November 2019.

“Our new drone delivery service will help CVS provide safe and efficient deliveries of medicines to this large retirement community, enabling residents to receive medications without leaving their homes,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer.


CVS Drone Delivery lifts off | Photo courtesy of UPS


“Now more than ever, it’s important that our customers have access to their prescriptions,” said Jon Roberts, executive vice president and chief operating officer of CVS Health. “In addition to our in-store pickup, free delivery services and drive-through pickup, this drone delivery service provides an innovative method to reach some of our customers.”

FedEx, Walgreens and drone manufacturer Wing tested a similar service in Virginia last October, marking America’s first residential drone delivery of commercial products.

Although drone delivery within the United States has seemed like a distant endeavor due to government restrictions and logical challenges, CVS’ drone delivery service may be the precursor to more innovative delivery options to come.

Until then, get ready to see more cars in the pickup lane—curbside pickup is here to stay.