The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a major shift in the retail industry and a lot of retailers did not have a plan for something as unprecedently widespread as this pandemic proved to be. The UK national lockdown in March 2020 saw non-essential shops closed for two-and-a half months, which led to the volume of retail sales in April 2020 to decrease by a record 18.1%, following a strong monthly fall of 5.2% alone in March.
It is clear for retailers to admit that COVID-19 currently has a significant impact on their business. Social distancing has fundamentally changed shopping behaviours, meaning there are fewer customers passing through brick-and-mortar stores, and people overall are not as eager to spend money during a global health crisis. As for Christmas being around the corner, the most profitable time of the year hangs in the balance.
“Customers feel more anxiety, uncertainty and an increasing loss of control and that in turn fuels a reduction in purchases other than the essentials.”
Jonas Coliander, Assistant Professor at the Center for Retailing.
What’s next for retail? It is time to think through the long-term implications
The time has come where simple old ways of retailing do not work anymore and retailers without a reputation for online sales are likely to suffer more. These days, customers have access to both e-commerce and brick and mortar stores, and those who do want to make a purchase are increasingly opting for online shopping. In contrast to the record decrease in sales through UK stores, the proportion spent online soared to the highest on record in April at 30.7%, which compares with the 19.1% reported back in April 2019.
As the recent surge in digital and omnichannel adoption among new and infrequent users looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, retailers need to implement more technology and data-centric solutions to say ahead of the game as the pandemic will accelerate a likely shift toward e-commerce.
Following the extended stay-at-home and restrictions of tiers, omnichannel shopping is becoming further known as the new normal and the pandemic has dramatically elevated consumer’s use of online channels. Today, a festive online buying surge is taking place as 23 million Brits plan to do at least half of their Christmas shopping online according to new research from independent economics consultancy Retail Economics, in partnership with Klarna.
As for retailers who are scrambling to prepare for a digital Christmas, adopting omnichannel technology now & even post-pandemic will help retailers to unlock growth and sales through online stores, as we continue to see technology become more important to our day-to-day living in general.
Challenging times create opportunities for retailers that are forward-thinking, and it is important for retailers to be prepared for more unforeseen situations and evolving consumer habits. Fortunately, most retailers have naturally pivoted to their online channels to make up for the loss of in-store sales.
For further information on how retailers can adopt omnichannel technology to help shape the consumer experience, click here.
A Post-Covid Future in the Retail Sector is Omnichannel
If a global pandemic has made something clear to us, it is that confinement has changed consumer behaviour habits. Even with new measures of safety, hygiene, cleanliness and health taking place in every retail establishment, all of this, in turn has still led to an outbreak of resilience to adapt to a new lifestyle.
Without a doubt, for over half of the year, our day-to-day living has manipulated our way of purchasing and decision making. Not only do consumer’s buy more online, but they question their visit to stores unless they have a compulsory reason to do so, and many people prefer to buy online and receive orders at home.
Let’s not forget that purchasing online and receiving orders at home is increasingly being perceived as the easiest, and currently the safest, option. The more companies continue to work on a digital strategy and, in addition, re-think their business strategy and re-asses this based on consumer preferences, the more easily companies can meet the needs of their customers.
Although the user may go through different forms of communication (online, brick-and-mortar, email, etc), omnichannel is unavoidable and essential to offer the best experience and, right now, it is the safer option for customers.
Omnichannel approaches and technology enables organisations to optimise channels to the full potential and puts the customer at the centre of the strategy to drive growth.
At Data Clarity, we have developed ClarityOmnivue to specifically solve the challenges businesses face trying to mine multiple disparate data sources to deliver one 360-degree view of customers and business key performance indicators. ClarityOmnivue transforms disparate data into a unified data solution that enables more informed business decision. For more information on how ClarityOmnivue can be of benefit to your business, click here.
Businesses and companies that not only want to survive after the coronavirus pandemic but thrive, need to update their digital transformation strategy if not already done so, or perhaps need to offer more preferences to promote customer loyalty.
Here are some recommendations that will help you to either become stronger when engaging with your consumer base or will help you to adapt to omnichannel technology:
- Introduce a new concept for your store – The profile of the consumers has changed over the past months since COVID-19 has spread dramatically. This has resulted in the consumer becoming more reluctant to visit physical establishments. E-commerce, for this reason, has definitely helped retailers to drive business. However, it is still important to attract customers to the store and make their experience unique and exclusive. Advertising new products and offers only in stores will not only bring in new & frequent customers, but you will be able to form a stronger bond between you and your consumer, resulting for them to be less reluctant to re-visit.
- An omnichannel basis – Features that can be included on your online presence can include click & collect for those who want to avoid or minimize contact in order to stop the spread of new infections. Omnichannel communication and customer service are equally as important. Your team can interact and become of value to the customer at any point in their purchasing process, which can offer more personalised interactions and increase online sales in general.
- Self-Service Collection – Self Service is a concept that has been largely promoted by e-commerce. Although, a somewhat similar treatment can be achieved in brick-and-mortar stores. As previously mentioned, it is important to attract the consumer to physical stores to provide a unique and exclusive experience. Customers still need greater protection in stores or services that do not require contact when picking up their order. Implementing an alternative self-service collection point for the collection of orders made online and being able to adapt in order to minimise contact made during a natural purchasing process is key. Alongside this, offering a service that consumers can use to consult or check prices or to make a return all offer a more personalised experience that promotes customer loyalty.
The coronavirus pandemic has transformed consumer buying habits and has encouraged online purchasing. This means that the retail sector must start or continue the process of digital transformation and adaptation to the new normality that we are living in, focusing on an omnichannel strategy to be able to attract consumers and offer them the best shopping experience. This will be the key to success now and in the future.
To discover how you can do more as a business, contact us today.