COVID-19 has become a nightmare for all countries. Nobody in the business world saw it coming. Some cases were reported in late 2019 in a few countries but nobody knew it’d turn into a pandemic this soon and ruin every corner of the world. The hysteria continues and it’s impacting economics, businesses (especially retail businesses) and almost every aspect of our lives.
However, this is not the actual problem, the real problem is we don’t know when and how this pandemic is going to end, it is possible that this pandemic will never go and we might have to live with it.
The world is changing like a bat out of hell, don’t miss the irony here. The number of people deemed safe to gather in one place has decreased from thousands to hundreds, to ten. Restaurants, bars, movie theatres, and gyms in many big cities are shutting down and because of quarantine measures, a huge number of people have been forced to switch to WFH (work from home).
However, the one business which has been affected by Covid-19 the most is the retail business, without a doubt. As many major cities are going under lockdowns, retail stores that are not important are being ordered to close because the majority of people are generally avoiding public places. Limiting shopping for all but the necessary essentials are becoming a new normal. Brands are having to adapt and be flexible to meet changing needs.
More than 1200 retailers have now shut all their stores because of coronavirus. The retail stores are unfortunately in the endgame now. Apparently, the new convenient way to shop is online shopping, nobody knew this pandemic would give a great rise to ecommerce websites and a shift in consumer shopping habits. In this article, we are going to discuss how retail businesses can survive in this COVID-19 crisis.
A Wake Up Call For Brick-and-Mortar Stores
It is true that this pandemic has caught the global economy by surprise but what’s not a surprise is a constant decline from Brick-and-Mortar stores going into the digital world. Everyone knows that the retail industry stands to be one of the most profoundly impacted sectors of the economy but unfortunately, it’s been ordered to close every retail store (grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, branded outlets, and banks) to stop the spreading of the coronavirus. The problems faced by traditional retail are not new. Despite numerous industry professionals calling for going in the digital world, innovative business models and new approaches to selling goods to customers, many – if not most – retailers have been slow on the uptake. As a result, they are woefully unprepared to meet the current crisis head-on and there is a high chance that some retailers are not going to survive in this situation.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is quite simple. There are multiple new ways to transform your retail business to become digitally enabled and continue your business operations.
1) Focus On Online Sales
If you still have not decided to set up an ecommerce platform for your retail business or you are thinking of letting that part of your business skate for a while, now it is a good time to build up your online sales. According to Chain Store Age, becoming a digital retailer “quickly” is entirely possible. There are so many ways to make it happen.
What you need is an ecommerce website or a digital marketplace to sell your products. For that, you’d require a reliable digital transformation partner who could help you to come up with a strategy and enable your business to go online in just a couple of weeks.
2) Adopting an Omnichannel Business Model
Let us give you some basic knowledge about omnichannel and why omnichannel is taking over.
But first of all, look around wherever you are and count how many devices are connected to the internet in a room with you? Okay, now have a look at your phone and start counting how many Apps and social media accounts do you have on your phone?
As technology develops every day, our lives are becoming more and more mutually involved with the internet. Consequently, every customer expects to be able to buy what they want, how they want and when they want.
In short, the term “omnichannel” refers to an integrated approach that revolves around the customer and provides a single customer experience across your brand by unifying sales and marketing that accounts for the spillover between channels.
Consumers all around the world expect seamless, easy, consistent, personalized and quick shopping experiences. It doesn’t really matter if they are shopping online, in-store, through an App, or on social media.
So if you are thinking of providing an omnichannel experience for your consumers, you must provide the same or better experiences. Customer insights give you the ability to predict and personalize customer engagements. Accenture finds that if you fail to give customers the experience that was expected from you, they don’t actually think for even a single minute before switching allegiances.
Why You Need Omnichannel For Your Retail Business?
Before diving deep into this topic, take a look at the stats from a recent study into the traits of omnichannel campaigns:
- Omni-channel customers spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online than single-channel customers. For every additional channel they use, the customer spends more money. *Harvard Business Review
- 9 out of 10 consumers want an omnichannel experience with seamless service between communication methods. *UC Today
- 84% of customer-centric companies focus on the mobile customer experience. *Vision Critical
- 71% of consumers want a consistent experience across all channels, but only 29% say they actually get it. *Gladly
- Our consumer pulsing survey revealed that more than 80% of consumers would be willing to pay more if a brand raised its prices to be more environmentally and socially responsible or to pay higher wages to its employees. *Deloitte
Omnichannel is particularly important for making the customer experience better and better every day. New technologies like Chatbots and video live chat have made real-time marketing so much easier and a necessity for those who are providing customer support.
Chris Shaw, the Director of Product Marketing at Manhattan Associates, a supply chain and omnichannel commerce technology company, says,
“When the customer places that order [online] or calls the contact centre or walks into the store, we try to do everything we can to put the customer and the order back together again, because they don’t make any sense without the context of each other – [and] not just the transactions the customer has had at the particular store they may be in right now, but all the interactions they’ve had outside that store: the times they’ve interacted with the call centre when they’ve interacted via social when they’ve interacted via chat.”
To sum up, if you are a traditional retailer with a brick-and-mortar store facing the retail apocalypse in 2020, you can do better by not just going into the digital world and making an ecommerce platform but by synchronizing the physical and digital worlds to provide customers with a consistent, seamless and omnichannel experience that online pure plays simply cannot match.
Yes, everyone knows it is a tough time, probably the toughest time we’ve ever faced in our life but we’re all together in this time, we have to stay positive! We need something to feel good about, it can actually help us stay positive. Mary Liz Curtin, owner of Leon & Lulu home furnishings, gift, and fashion lifestyle store in Clawson, MI and Three Cats restaurant and café says, “The time now is not just for getting through this disaster. It’s for planning for recovery.”
So, make a plan to bring out necessary changes, it can be an update to the website or you might need an omnichannel business model. Whatever it is, just fix it before reopening and think of this time as an opportunity to grow your business.