Returning to pre-pandemic operations may not be possible for businesses, as COVID-19 has driven a shift in consumer behaviour, which is expected to remain. One key driver of this change is the accelerated adoption of e-commerce.
Online shopping has become the norm, prompting businesses to pivot towards digital channels. For retail companies, decision-making can be difficult with regards to whether to prioritize their physical or online presence, or strive for a balance between the two. The answer to this question may differ for each retailer.
The current crisis has exposed similarities among businesses, highlighting the need for merchants to consider implementing the following three measures aimed at emerging stronger.
Build a Strong Omnichannel Integration between Offline and Online Channels
Post-pandemic, merchants should ponder over the reasons why customers would choose to revisit physical stores, despite having the convenience of online shopping. Although some may value the tactile experience of being able to touch, feel and test products, it may not be a major factor for all. Thus, merchants should contemplate the role their brick-and-mortar outlets will fulfil moving forward.
At the onset of the pandemic, contactless payment systems and curbside pickup were introduced by retail companies, offering customers a valuable service. However, with these features becoming ubiquitous, companies must go above and beyond to entice shoppers to revisit their physical stores. An effective strategy seems to be leveraging in-store omnichannel integration, to deliver an enhanced experience to customers.
Seamless customer experience can be achieved by integrating the digital and physical aspects of a business. While offering customers the option to collect online orders in-store is the most straightforward example, there are several other possibilities to explore.
Efforts to strengthen the digital shopping experience may involve suggesting products of interest during the purchasing journey, equipping our omnichannel staff to serve as customer touchpoints in our digital and physical stores, and leveraging online data to offer customized in-store shopping experiences. This could incorporate early trials of new products in-store for loyal customers or exclusive discounts reserved solely for in-store purchases.
Utilize Omnichannel Data to Adapt the Store Network
Incorporating an omnichannel approach can not only enable retailers to adapt to evolving customer preferences, but can also furnish valuable data that can aid in shaping their physical store strategy. This may include determining whether retaining a physical store is advantageous, whether downsizing to a smaller location is more viable, or whether constructing a new store to support online operations is necessary.
Following the pandemic, experts suggest that organizations consider operating a modest number of conventional retail outlets. However, each business should evaluate their data to determine the most suitable approach for their specific situation. For some, it may be economically feasible to maintain a single large facility in a prominent city, while others may gain from having several specialized retailers in a given locale, potentially increasing their market share overall.
Examining the data collected through an omnichannel approach is crucial for devising a successful path ahead. This data can offer valuable insights into which store is most popular for customers to make purchases, which store records the highest footfall, which stores are underperforming, and which areas hold potential for opening new stores.
Rethink Infrastructure and Personnel
Merchants will derive limited benefits from establishing a robust omnichannel approach and reorganizing their physical store network alone. To strike a balance between cost and the impact of evolving customer behaviour, a complete overhaul of their infrastructure is necessary. Additionally, adequate training for personnel is crucial to prepare for upcoming customer interactions.
Revamping infrastructure usually entails scrutinizing current procedures to pinpoint areas in need of enhancement in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This can be achieved by deploying automation technologies and digitizing processes. Self-service alternatives, such as self-checkout and contactless returns, are prime illustrations of this, while inventory levels can be monitored with the help of artificial intelligence algorithms.
For businesses to effectively handle the ‘new normal’, it is necessary to ensure that their staff are adequately equipped and able to navigate it seamlessly. This could involve imparting new skills, establishing fresh job positions, implementing flexible working hours, and devising new incentives to acquire the scarce ‘omnichannel-savvy’ talent.
For ideas on managing products in the present and the future, refer to our management of products blog post.
Speed Up Transformation of Your Retail Store
If you are affiliated with a retail establishment, the information shared here may be pertinent to you. Contactless payments and curbside pickup are now standard for most stores, and many have adopted automated solutions. Nevertheless, more restructuring is necessary to provide customers with an efficient service in the aftermath of the pandemic.
To align with the demands and expectations of contemporary customers, who can display unpredictable preferences, it is imperative to expedite your digital transformation. As such, it is advisable to examine all aspects of the adaptation process to spot chances for improvement. You may consider engaging a software development firm to automate your procedures, enroll in training services to promptly equip your staff with new skills, or even reassess your business focus to remain future-ready.
In light of the substantial changes witnessed in the retail sector after the pandemic, it is crucial to take action now to stay competitive. The present is the ideal moment to adapt and progress.