The current situation with the pandemic has had countless impacts across seemingly all aspects of life and business. Focusing in on just the retail space…the current climate we are in has forced many retailers to pivot or get put out of business. It’s been an arduous journey, and one that still continues to this day.
In the interest of trying to find the silver lining to all of this doom and gloom, it has allowed for businesses to become very lean and refocus in order to stay afloat.
Is this Temporary?
When all of this first began, it did appear that there was a chance this could be a temporary speed bump, and things would snap back to normal quickly. Unfortunately, that time has come and gone. It would seem that these changes are going to be around for quite some time if not permanent (in some ways). But is that all bad? No, not really. By adopting more contactless ways of doing business, businesses are able to innovate to offer a more expedient experience for their customers.
No one has a crystal ball of course…there is a chance that things will snap back to the way they were. In my opinion, the chances of that seem slim at best.
Accommodate Changing Requirements
Many of the changes that are being forced onto businesses are changing in what feels like an almost daily rhythm. As a result, keeping up with the changes is a daunting task for retail organizations to keep up with. There are some ways that businesses can better position themselves to pivot based on the ever-changing needs.
The days of being able to support old green screen Point of Sale (POS) systems is quickly becoming antiquated and moving into modernized systems is becoming the norm for companies that wish to roll with the punches. Adopting cloud-based architectures is the way many of these retailers are able to make that happen. By migrating their systems out to the cloud, the companies are able to react much quicker to client needs and offer a better experience overall.
It’s unfortunate how many retailers have outdated, hard to upgrade, non-scaling systems floating around in their organization that currently prevent them from being able to pivot to changing requirements and customer needs. All of those systems should be identified and put into a plan of action to keep them from becoming blockers for your success.
According to Rakuten, in 2019 online grocery sales in the United States were only accounting for 4% of overall sales. However, if we fast forward to 2020, online order volume for grocery sales has rose by over 200%.
Grocery retailers are not the only ones affected either. The same trend can be seen with many other retailers. App downloads and mobile site utilization for retailers has also increased in an exponential fashion. Companies that haven’t focused on either in the past are feeling the pressure to adopt those technologies quickly. And as a result, the business and the consumers suffer since they are rushing to get a product to market. Businesses now need to have mobile offerings for their consumers to use otherwise they will not be able to weather the storm.
Aside from app and mobile websites, retailers need to also evaluate other mediums to interact with consumers. Customer service phone lines have been flooded with calls from consumers wishing to engage with retailers, and many times those systems cannot accommodate, resulting in lost revenue from frustrated consumers. Offering innovative methods of contact such as video, chat, and SMS communication mediums speak to a wide variety of customers allowing them to continue to engage with businesses.
In addition to offering other methods of contact, retailers should consider offering booking or appointment-based systems, depending on the type of retail. In some cases, this can really streamline the customer experience as well which will result in a happier customer and increased revenue. Not all retail businesses are a good match for appointment-based shopping, but it would make sense to evaluate your business to see if it is something that could work for you.
Retailers have also begun experimenting with offering subscription-based service to their existing retail. New subscription-based offerings for various verticals are all over now, and they show no signs of slowing down. Often times the convenience factor of such a service outweighs cost savings to a consumer so your business won’t be in a position where it needs to always have the smallest margins too.
Innovative businesses are going to use the current climate in order to thrive. And they will be better for it when they come out on the other side. In the wake of their success, many retailers will have a much harder road. That is the upside & downside of capitalism though.
To ensure your business becomes one of the success stories, I’d urge you to consider adopting new and innovative ways to engage with your customers so that you can improve their shopping experience and increase sales as a result.
Changing the way things have been done is a scary thought. But change can be a good thing. And if you are concerned with which direction to go, please ensure you have the ability to take in customer feedback along the way. That will aid in your decision-making process so that you are always doing what is best for both the consumer and your business.
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