Responding to the moment, the need to innovate is greater than ever

COVID-19 Shoppers
By Ryan Feldman
As restaurants are allowing more dine-in customers, offices allow employees to return to work and retail stores are allowing customers to shop in stores again, complete sectors of business will need to be re-imagined to be able to regain consumer confidence and experience sustained performance going forward. 
I want to support my local businesses. For me, the difficulty lies when I go shopping. My first reaction isn’t, “Oh that’s a cool shirt, let me go try it on!,” instead I’m thinking “I wonder how many people have touched and tried that shirt on?” 
While e-commerce has seen very healthy YoY gains over the past 10 years, consumers more than ever have shifted to buying more online than ever before. The YoY growth in the U.S. and Canadian e-commerce orders on April 21st was up 129%.
Despite the popularity of online shopping, our economy is still boosted by small retail shops and malls across the country. 
Large shopping malls such Potomac Mills in Woodbridge only recently re-opened. Local economies thrive on the commerce that takes place at these destinations. That, combined with the experience of getting out  being connected with people socially is equally important.
The other big concern of course is as we race through summer ad with the holiday season fast approaching, will consumer confidence be to the point where people are not scared anymore, and will there still be occupancy restrictions?
Although many people want to write off traditional shopping as a thing in the past, it is still a necessary and vital part of our economy.
The need for innovation is critical
This is the new normal that society is going to have to live with, and living in such a germ-sensitive environment will only create the need for a more virtual buying experience.
Recent studies also back this hypothesis, with 54% of men and 65% of women would not feel comfortable trying on clothes in a dressing room, and even more would feel uncomfortable testing beauty products as 64% of men and 78% of women are not yet there. 
Shopping will never return like it used to be, and with that comes innovation.
SparkJam 2020 is being held for issues like the one retail is currently facing, to get the best and brightest minds in the state to figure out a way to innovate for the new future that we all currently have to face.
VCU’s daVinci Center for Innovation along with William & Mary, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, and Norfolk State will be on hand to help curate solutions to support businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic and provide a “spark” for the future.
Out of SparkJam, we’re hopeful to inspire new ways of thinking that will create a resilient Virginia business community for the future.
The SparkJam Innovation Challenge
It starts now with the SparkJam Innovation Challenge in partnership with the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation as well as Virginia Tech, William & Mary, and Old Dominion University. We’re asking small businesses through June 19 to submit their operating challenges by video. Virginia’s state university students are standing by to help and will be working on solutions during our live online event day and beyond.
SparkJam 2020 Live Event Day
Speaking of our event day slated for June 26,  we’re excited to share that our sessions are filling up fast and will be made up of a diverse group of people offering knowledge and know-how from across our state.
With the $2.8B credit shortfall and the need to innovate now upon us, our collective mission is clear: bring about positive, sustainable change to our state’s economy.
Business owners across our state are encouraged to submit their videos by June 19 and everyone is invited to attend our live online event June 26. 
Sponsorship opportunities exist for the event. Please contact Todd Feldman to learn more.