How Coronavirus is Impacting Retail
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted retailers, forcing many to leverage new strategies to survive. These shifts in approach have also affected the retail industry’s evolution, surfacing new trends with lasting impact.
There’s opportunity in using this time to pause and reflect on your brand and retail experience. As parts of the world reopen, many retailers are now asking:
- How do we decide where to focus for business growth?
- What lessons did we learn during the shutdowns of early 2020?
- How have we evolved to keep business intact and on track for future growth?
- How do we meet consumers’ expectations?
While the responses to these questions vary, we’re seeing several consumer-driven trends worth considering for the future.
Watch our COVID’s Impact on Retail’s Evolution to learn more about retail trends in the post-COVID-19 world
Adapting Quickly to Consumer Demands and Local Policy
Many retailers didn’t even have time to think before they had to react. Consumers became frantic for essentials while businesses were being forced to shut their doors. As a result, those retailers who were not ready with eCommerce, not optimized in inventory or warehousing, or couldn’t offer new services like curbside pickup were impacted the most. These types of retailers are likely still facing the same struggles that surfaced at the beginning of the pandemic.
But as we all know, offering a unified experience to customers is critical. Reports show consumers want communications on brand’s decisions about:
- The decision to stay open
- How employees are being treated
- Health and safety measures to keep customers safe
Other reports show consumers are switching brands due to item availability, ease of ecommerce use, brand communication and safety.
The proper investment in modern technology is key for any retailer to be able to easily pivot and adapt to make it through any crisis. It’s not critical for businesses to upgrade or enhance all business technologies at once. Take it one step at a time or focus on one department or business area to start. A phased approach to any enhancement—not just due to this pandemic—requires less disruption to business operations and staff, and allows for better visibility into the management of the entire project, including costs, obstacles and more.
And just like with other business decisions, team participation is key in these types of exercises. Many retailers formed COVID task force teams to manage the crisis immediately and keep track of updated information from local and federal health organizations.
Four Pillars of Crisis Planning
These four focus areas are important for retailers to consider when planning through a crisis to strategically withstand the impact of retail evolution.
Supply Chain Management
In order to continue to offer products and provide consumers with essential goods, retail supply chains are facing challenges that require extraordinary measures. For example, retailers are mitigating supply chain risks by:
- Creating new product assortments
- Making products easy to find online and categorized in relatable groups for search engine optimization
- Canceling seasonal or limited items
- Adding new in-demand items like masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies
- Getting creative with product offerings that appeal to people being at home and in front of computers
While mitigating your supply chain risk by assessing and adjusting your current or accessible inventory is a short-term tactic, broadening your supplier base to ensure consistent delivery of those items will also help. Ultimately, supply chain management aids in the end-to-end process of your business that supports all major activities.
As we’ve learned during the coronavirus pandemic, retailers must be able to be in front of their customers, on their preferred device, in their preferred platform, with relatable and relevant messaging at all times.
Not only is your website a valuable communication channel to inform customers, it also provides the opportunity to pivot to eCommerce as consumer behavior shifts. Walmart reported a 190% increase in use of their online application. And grocery stores such as Albertson’s reported a 243% increase in their eCommerce channel between March and April.
Your website is also an opportunity to obtain customer information even without a transaction or sale. For example, you can…
- Attract website visitors with an interesting article and prompt them to sign up for your eNewsletter
- Offer a coupon to customers who sign up for your eNewsletter
- Promote your offers and brands on social media channels
With social distancing top of mind, many are also relying on social media to stay in touch with friends, be entertained, and learn the latest news. That’s why social media is a key channel to keep customers informed and promote your products.
Believe it or not, social media channels often have influence on purchasing decisions. That’s why posting and promoting how-to videos or expert advice articles on your channels can help build your brand, customer loyalty, and increase sales.
Retailers need to be adaptive, flexible and creative through a changing environment, responding quickly to opportunities and threats.
Whether or not you had an existing eCommerce channel and in-store processes for online orders, the demand for this channel has increased during COVID-19. Retailers need to be able to shift staff to these crucial business areas to keep up with the demand and avoid the need to lay off or furlough employees. Some ways to leverage staff include:
- Reassign staff who typically service in-store customers to receiving and fulfilling online orders
- Add more employees to your call center
- Reutilize staff for dedicated scheduled cleaning
Communication during the COVID-19 crisis or any crisis is vital to letting customers know your processes and procedures, such as how you are keeping employees and customers safe, new hours, or curbside pickup protocol.
Prepare for the Future
Having a close eye on the indicators that drive your business performance is crucial to being able to quickly pivot and adopt to trends and respond to demands. No matter where you are in your retail technology journey, implementing new processes that limit expenditures and help you control costs is important.
To help further strategize historical and predictive views of business operations, a dashboard reporting tool like Microsoft Power BI can help you highlight various trends within your stores and predict upcoming demand.
At ArcherPoint, we’re committed to supporting you as we navigate the unprecedented changes and to help you stabilize as well as grow your business. Contact us or subscribe to our eNewsletter for information on products, services, and solutions for your business.