Consumer Behavior

Will Consumers Go Back to Stores? Is that the End of Retailing as We Know? Will all Brick&Mortar close?


murat ulker


Since March 2020, when the global Covid19 epidemic began, consumer behavior all over the world, changed rapidly from the stores to online stores, from going out to restaurants to ordering home online, from sitting at cafes to online ordering to “curbside pick up and delivery”. However, this trend had actually started years before. Brick&Mortar had already been giving way to online retail. This was inevitable. In China, where capitalism and free enterprise have only just developed compared to the western world, e-commerce was a salvaging solution due to the infrastructure and capital insufficiency of Brick&Mortar and logistics problems. When we asked the colleques working in our own offices, none of them had gone shopping in the last two years, they were doing all their shopping online. In addition, B2B distribution in the entire Chinese country was carried out through e-commerce. For this, the effects of the epidemic were more easily overcome in China, because the retail revolution had already happened. In our Godiva chocolate boutiques there, normalized rapidly after the pandemic. Consumers filled our shops again. Their association with our brands and products covered their TikTok and Instagram feeds.

In the USA, on the other hand, branches of department stores have been closing for the last five years, and there has been a talk that other shopping malls will inevitably close as well except for luxury ones. The only transaction that was unusual during this trend was Amazon’s acquisition of Wholefoods. When I asked them on my visit to Amazon, they said that J. Bezos has something on his mind. I think the goal was to have a tool to observe shopper behavior in Brick&Mortar like Ali Baba and to explore new types of conventional retail outlets.

I think the situation is similar in our country and neighbouring countries. Because during the pandemic, all fast moving consumer goods expenditures increased by double digits in retail and maybe three digits in e-commerce, while our traditional channel sales remained low. To see this change and its consequences, let’s first see the results from some other countries:

While 81% of consumers did not shop online for groceries before the pandemic in the USA, 79% of them began to order online after the pandemic. While online grocery shopping was $1.2 million in August 2019, it increased to $7.2 billion in June 2020. The number of online shoppers increased from 16.1 million to 45.6 million. The personalized sales period has increased by means of artificial intelligence from mobile apps. Targeted marketing has increased. Frequently purchased products started sending reminders so as not to be forgotten (1).

When restaurants were closed, the shopping basket size increased as well as the amount of cooking at home. People started going to the stores less frequently and spending more. Products that could be stocked at home and have a longer shelf life were preferred to be purchased. Home cooking has become healthier. The focus was on speed of delivery, convenience and confidence. The period of walking comfortably and enjoying the market visit is over. Famous/iconic brands started to be preferred instead of market brands. The search for new products has decreased. Stores began to allocate more space for the products they sell most. The number of people visiting the store with a shopping list increased. Stores have also began to invest in contactless and self check-out systems. In fact, almost all retail chains have adopted to sales and delivery online, in denial of their existence. Changing consumer habits have made innovation mandatory. (1)

Starbucks announced that it will close 100 stores in USA and 100 stores in Canada in 2021. In 2020, they closed 400 stores in USA and 200 stores in Canada and it was announced that they will open a new type “take-away” store (2).

Walmart began redesigning its stores so that their customers can shop quicker. Target started implementing the “curbside delivery” system. This curbside delivery has become available in all shopping mall stores (3). Shopping itself was no longer a priority; in terms of clothing, even more casual, and comfortable clothes were being sold. 11,000 retail clothing stores closed in USA in 2020. In 2019, this number was 9300 for all categories. 100,000 retail stores are expected to close in US by 2021. The number of stores expected to be closed in shopping malls is 25,000 (4). In my opinion, only the top class shopping malls will survive.

Another very interesting change:, the housing rental e-commerce company that shook the world hotel industry with its entrance to the market in 2008 began to have big problems when, their consumers started to return back to hotels due to their concerns about hygiene and distance (5).

Coming to England, 3000 retail street stores belonging to 32 brands have been transferred to the crisis management and 45,000 store personnel are about to lose their jobs (6).

In Turkey, without having such exact figures of consumption behavior, research shows that consumer behavior in Turkey is in line with other countries. We see similar troubles in, Brick&Mortar and shopping centers. Additionally, consumption behaviours vary according to socio-economic status differences (7). According to the research report from The Turkey Economic Policies Research Foundation (TEPAV), the Interbank Card Center (ICC) datas reveal that, total card payments amount in the first 9 months of 2020 increased to 819.6 billion TL by 15% compared to the same period last year. By the end of September 2020, the share of contactless credit cards in total credit cards reached 58 percent. In the first 9 months of 2020, the number of contactless payments increased 3.5 times last year to 1.1 billion, while the share of card payments made online was 21 percent in total card payments (8). All of these are proof of the increase in online shopping and contactless shopping in the pandemic. I wonder if in the future, we will give up on the things that make our shopping so easy?

According to a survey conducted with 487 people between November 25th and December 15th, 2020, it was determined that the rate of shopping on new-generation shopping platforms (Istegelsin, Banabi, Getir, Migros Hemen applications) during the pandemic period increased by 18% compared to the previous period. The consumer group, who previously had awareness of new generation shopping platforms and used them infrequently, started to shop from these places more frequently and intensively. In the study, it was determined that “perceived risk” is the most important reason that changes behavior. Participants mostly voiced thanks to the use of new generation shopping platforms in getting rid of the crowds of people. It has been found that participants who connect to digital media for more than 3 hours a day have higher interest and motivation moving towards new generation shopping platforms (9).

There still isn’t any data available yet in Turkey, as to how many street shops, shops in malls and restaurants have closed in 2020. However, for example, the data of Turkey Private Schools Association can give you an idea; 300,000 students canceled their enrollment, 636 private schools were closed (10).

As you can understand, these changes experienced even in education are in many sectors that do business with traditional retail points; a tremendous change is taking place due to the risk perception based on escape from crowd and all employers and employees are indirectly affected by this change and this will continue for a while. Even if there is normalization at the end, only those who can achieve this change from the retail and the sectors that serve retail will survive.

To understand this change and foresee how long it will take, we first need to look at some basic consumer behavior concepts. Until this time, in the introductory books on consumer behavior, under the heading of “perceived risk”, 1-2 pages summarized that the risks perceived by the consumer about the product and the brand before buying affect the purchasing decision process. The 6 main risks were (11):

Performance risk: What if it doesn’t turn out as expected?

Financial risk: What if I lose money?

Physical (security risk): What if the product or service hurts me?

Social risk: What if it hurts my reputation in society?

Psychological risk: What if it doesn’t suit me?

Time risk: What if I can’t change it right away?

So now did people move to online shopping because they felt these risks? What was the risk? What if I get Covid19? What if I and my family get hurt? Which of the above risks match these questions? Doesn’t it look like the physical risk? Yes, the physical risk in the books which were taught to us in classes was related to the use of products/services. In other words, there was no risk of “getting hurt from the place of purchase or the channel” in marketing and consumer behavior books. Marketing books also seem to have forgotten the Spanish flu epidemic of 100 years ago. The current risk is as follows: What if I get a virus from someone in a store, restaurant, cafe, or a shopping mall?

So the billion-dollar question is, will people go back to the stores when physical shopping opportunities are reborn? To answer this question, it is necessary to return to a concept we read in undergraduate, Rogers’s theory of the diffusion of innovations:

To ensure the rapid adoption of an innovation, for example, the new sales channel by customers in the market, innovation must have some characteristics (12):

·     It should be perceived as a way of meeting the relevant need better than what it replaces (channel). That is, it should have a relative advantage.

·     It must be compatible with current practices and does not require customer learning or training.

·     It should be easy to understand and user-friendly So, perceived complexity should be kept to a minimum

·     It should be highly testable; the product can be tried before committing, eg. Shipping is free on the first order.

·     Results and outputs must have high observability

The reality is that all product categories and markets are always in a process of evolution. This is because they are affected by the changing conditions of customers. The economy changes, laws change, the weather changes, and new technology changes many aspects of life, including businesses. The effects of these changes are seen over time in the overall sales patterns of existing products and services. This sales pattern, over time, can be likened to a person’s life: birth, growth, maturity, and regression. This gave birth to the product category life stage concept. The key is when a product or service category declines, by which category it is replaced. Because the need is not over. Ultimately, people have to eat and drink, shop for it and bring it to their homes or have it brought. The family needs to be fed, new channels are needed to stay healthy. When I look at the numbers I’ve listed above, it seems that new channels have been discovered and they are being seen every day.

A product’s category life cycle provides a framework for life-stage cycle marketing aiding managers in understanding what might happen in their market and make marketing decisions about the products they are responsible for. We realized in this pandemic that the product category channel also had a life curve. Actually, we were feeling this. We were witnessing the transformation in retail very intimately. Channel transformation was evolving with,, and our Inside Dubail Mall in Dubai, there is a much-loved bookstore called Kinokuniya. In 2019, I bought a book called “The Future of Shopping”. Look at what Snoeck & Neerman wrote in that book: “Retail, as we’ve known for centuries, is dead. Economic, technological and demographic changes killed him. Or made it insignificant ”(13). This is the take-away. The epidemic has brought about the death of retail points we know of, in most categories, to five years earlier. It used to be a choice for me to buy books from the bookstore. Now because of the epidemic, I’m forced to buy online. I’ve got used to it easily. I was carrying unnecessary weight, wasting time. Will I go back to doing it that way? See the theory of diffusion of innovations; Does the new one meet his needs better? Yes. Then why should I return back to that way?

If we go back to our basic question, which has been the subject of our article, can the life of classic stores in retail be extended? Adapting from the product category life cycle model, conditions tend to be more suitable during the growth period for a channel to be profitable. When a downturn occurs, I think there are several possible ways to extend the “life” of the channel belonging to a particular product or the entire category. For this, let’s make use of a strategic marketing tool, namely the Ansoff Matrix from our old books (14):

When the Ansoff matrix is applied, I see that there are four options to follow for a company that does not want to lose channel-bound sales volume:

The first is the existing channel penetration where the company focuses on gaining market share from its competitors for its existing customers. In other words, in order to retain the existing customer in the existing channel, one can switch to e-commerce quickly; the needs of the customer are attempted to be met, in the new channel, without losing him to the competitor’s e-commerce. For those who still buy from the classic store, the offer is made more attractive and the security feeling is increased.

The second option is to develop a new product into an existing channel. The basic idea is to examine the needs of the company’s existing customers, asking the question, “Why can’t we supply this?”. The main purpose here is to make the customers happy in the e-commerce channel who have the potential to be lost and to make the shrinking, classic store market attractive.

The third option is to expand the market to find new customers for the firm’s existing products or services. For example, opening stores in places where the epidemic is less felt or carrying the e-commerce to the global arena.

The last option is to try to introduce new products or services to new customers. It’s like a grocery store adding, vegetable, and fruit aisle, and opening it up to e-commerce.

In fact, there is only one strategy for extending the lifespan of a channel: the Omni-channel strategy (15). Now all distribution and communication channels; have to offer the perfect customer experience in an integrated and uninterrupted manner by minimizing any risk perceived by the consumer! In other words, it is essential to bring together all channels profitably according to the purchasing route preferred by the consumer and to serve the consumer with a “single” channel spirit.

After all, if you are still wondering about this; So will all the shops close?

Of course not! This is just a change. Until now, e-commerce has been a low percentage of all purchases. But now with this forced rapid growth, these proportions are changing rapidly changing and irreversibly. Just as we seldom visit bank branches, we will visit retail points less frequently. Some retail locations will remain attractive. Which ones? The boutique spots that are attractive to you, that leave a trace in your memory with their product experiences and treats, or those where you are perceived as VIP, those where they have a buttler service, in short, whereever you can live a TikTok and Instagram experience with today’s understanding. These stores have already begun to be defined as “gold shops” in academic journals (16).

Note: This article, which is open source, can be cited by mentioning the author. Copyright not required.


(1)Morgan, Blake, ‘3 Lasting Changes To Grocery Shopping After Covid-19’,, Dec. 14, 2020, ; Koslow Lara, Lee, Jean, ‘Covid-19 Consumer Sentiment Snapshot No.8: A Glimpse of the Horizon’,, May 04, 2020,

(2)Salaky, Kristin, ‘Starbucks Will Close 100 Additional U.S. Locations As It Continues to Adapt to Changing Consumer Habits’, Delish, Nov. 2, 2020,

(3)Wilson, Mark, ‘Walmart’s new store design proves browsing is dead’, Fast Company, Sept. 30, 2020,

(4) Young, Vicki M., ‘Year in Review: More Than 11,000 Fashion-Related Doors Shutter in 2020, Sourcing, Dec. 31, 2020,

(5)Glusac, Elaine, ‘Hotel Versus AirBnb, Has Covid-19 Disrupted the Disruptor?’,, May, 14, 2020, Updated: Nov. 16, 2020,

(6)Baker, Hannah, Bristol Post Business Editor, Business-Live UK, Dec. 1, 2020, Updated: Dec. 7, 2020,

(7) Erdoğan B.Z. (2020). Yeni Normalde Tüketim ve Harcama Pratikleri, içinde: Küresel Salgının Anatomisi, İnsan ve Toplumun Geleceği (Editörler: Şeker, M. vd.), TÜBA Yayını, p.495.




(11) Hoyer,W.D. vd., Consumer Behavior, 7th ed., 2018, p.58-60.

(12) Rogers, E., Diffusion of Innovation, Simon and Schuster, 5th ed., 2003.

(13) Snoeck J. ve Neerman P., Future of Shopping, Lannoo Campus, 2019.

(14) Sharp, B., Marketing, Oxford University Press, 2017, pgs.310-311.


(16) John G., Scheer L. K., Commentary: Governing Technology-Enabled Omnichannel Transactions, Journal of Marketing, v 85 (1), 2021, pgs. 126-130.