A Peek Into the New Normal for the Retail Sector
As we slowly transit into the post-COVID markets, we’re curious, anxious, indeed not excited, but immersed in the anticipations of the “new normal”.
Of all the top industries, especially, in the B2C model, retail is expected to see a massive turn of events…By now, we all know and accept this. We’re also trying to imagine how the new normal looks like, particularly, for the retail industry.
Several researches were conducted over the past three months to gauge the impact of COVID shutdowns and possibilities for growth in the Sector. By virtue of being an active contributor in two of these researches recently, I got one with some insights and trends that may keep some of us on the edge of our seats.
A small grocery or apparel store owner, or the manager of a huge shopping mart in the same city – none of them would have ever looked at their sales strategies and roadmaps through this lens earlier- the way they’re doing it now. For instance, WhatsApp for business or Instagram didn’t make as much sense to them before COVID. Several Brick and Mortar businesses are taking a leap to build web presence and leverage social media to boost sales.
Covid-19 brought social distancing. However, this act was capitalized by Social Media apps way ahead –they enabled you to socialize while being at a distance.
However, they find a far better acceptance and traction in the Post-COVID markets. When the in-store presence of customers are thinning, retailers are now trying to reach virtual places where the customers spend their maximum time – so, it is about a virtual walkin and hence, online purchase.
For the medium to large enterprises, meanwhile, a foolproof and effective CX continuity strategy can result from leaders and strategists in respective organizations as they sit down to quickly accept their previous or current misalignment with consumer expectations, and act proactively in the aftermath of the COVID crisis.
Content Marketing remains the key cannon for businesses of all scale. It is picking up a greater pace as businesses need to demonstrate their excellence and reconnect with consumers. For instance, at Domino’s we took the lead to leverage Push Notifications – reminding our customers not to go out, stay safe at home, and enjoy contactless delivery of their favourite Pizzas. Similarly, at the evening hours we thanked them for staying at home. We leveraged videos and creatives to let them know about the high degree of safety compliances being followed by our workforce currently.
See, how a Mall is adapting “New Normal”
The Road to Recovery and Challenges
Tapping on to the sudden, unprecedented shifts or the constant evolution in consumer preferences has always been a top challenge before the retail industry. Besides that, beating the competitors by designing and delivering better customer experiences hasn’t been less of a priority or trial for the merchants either. However, the terrain is far tougher now.
The industry needs a transition from the traditional models of revenue and growth, besides thinking about their competitors or new potential markets. The existing customer base is being as unpredictable and out of control, as well. For instance, now on, the only brick and mortar or the only online shops will have to move together towards creating omni-channel experiences for their existing and new customers. In the initial few months, however, the emphasis shall remain on the digital channels of sales alone.
Shifting to Digital Channels. How?
Selling online isn’t just confined to receiving and processing the orders through the digital channels. It is a whole knit process of order management — entailing a tedious last mile delivery as well as returns. This shift in gears will likely create hiccups for traditional operators. Any reluctance in embracing the changes may reflect strongly in their survival in the post -COVID market.
More so, for small to medium enterprise sellers in the retail segment, rising above their geographical boundaries will also be a need. They would need this not just for leveraging the online stores better but also for boosting the bottom line for survival.
Moving to digital also brings the need for creating custom offers and faster conversion-oriented products. For an authentic workable strategy like this, we would need to consult or hire experts – something none of the existing merchants in smaller markets would have even thought about earlier.
“Start with small steps. Try and explore all available digital partnerships. These lot of tech companies will be coming out with more than enough tools promising to support and grow your business. We need to be cautions and calculative before we jump. No one knows what new normal will be and what is going to help but we can be ready to adapt before we are seen missing the bus. Explore all but invest in the one that gives tangible returns”.
Utilization of Talent for Innovation
It is perhaps time for more experimentation and testing out the most unconventional ideas. The young blood in every industry including retail have mostly been facing contentions from the seasoned strategists for the unpredictability in their ideas. Since the entire industry is forcibly revisiting its existing models of success and decentralizing or reforming, it is time they listen to the young blood and lead innovation.
This doesn’t indicate that we corner the opinions of the experienced people or we jump into the well blindfolded by novel ideas. Rather, we need to first encourage innovation – where we think out of the box ideas, then we evaluate them on basis of viability tests and expert analysis and we stick to them until the created value gets captured well by the consumers.
Thinking Beyond COVID: Future Planning for Customers and Employees
An employee first approach will likely turn promising for businesses and organizations in restoring their customer engagement. The fears and uncertainties are hitting all humans – employees and customers in a similar manner.
When employees will feel safe and taken care of, they will be able to size up their efforts in restoring the faith among the customers. The HR and Leadership teams have a vital role to play here. They need to measure the stress and anxieties in the workforce and guide the teams to prevent and manage burnout.
Summing Up: Being More Agile to Face the VUCA World
Disruptions aren’t an unknown thing to us. Even in the pre-COVID market, we were sailing on different sides of disruptions – either leading them or preparing to survive them. In that sense, COVID has been nothing different from being one “giant” disruption. It has jolted the industry beyond our capacities hence, pumped up the intensity of the VUCA world where we have Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
This intensification calls for a much more agile and innovative and flexible approach for businesses, especially, in the retail industry to catch the path to a distinguished recovery. In addition, this Agility must be complemented with trials, AB-Testing and experimentation.
We need to be far more flexible, open-minded and innovative while we walk ahead together as teams. It is time we say goodbye to conventional approaches.
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