It is a wide known fact that the global market environment has been drastically changed due to the COVID19 pandemic. And the sector that bore the brunt of this impact is the retail sector, which is highly dependent on human interaction. Many brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to survive in a socially distanced environment with little to no offline interaction. Looking back, we can clearly see that retailers were unprepared for the pandemic. In fact, most of them initially wrote the pandemic off as a temporary inconvenience or a supply chain challenge. So, many of them spent 2020 scrambling to find alternatives to help their business survive the challenges brought by the pandemic.
After experiencing a year with the pandemic, it is evident that the changes in the retail industry is not temporary. Retailers have to stop expecting the market to go back to ‘normal’ and make permanent changes to combat the challenges and survive in the post-pandemic era.
The following are some of the major challenges faced by retailers in the post-pandemic era
E-Commerce – Even before the pandemic, retailers have been competing with e-commerce companies like Amazon. After the pandemic, e-commerce has grown exponentially as more and more consumers prefer e-commerce channels.
Health & Safety – The pandemic has shifted the focus to health & safety initiatives. So, easing customers’ safety concerns is probably one of the biggest challenges for all industries in today’s market environment.
Supply & Distribution – The pandemic has resulted in a global lockdown with several trade and transit restrictions. This has impacted the supply chain and distribution network of retailers around the world.
Warehouse & Stock Management – With low in-store footfalls and constant change in consumer demand, retailers are in a constant flux on how to manage warehouse inventory and stocks.
Digital Experience – After the pandemic, a growing number of consumers are moving towards convenient digital solutions. Since digital tools have not been a priority of many retailers, this becomes a challenge for retailers across the globe.
Way forward for Retailers
So, what are the changes that can help retailers combat these challenges and survive this post-pandemic market?
Hygienic & Safe Shopping
Hygiene is one of the main concerns in this post-pandemic era. Therefore, retailers need to show customers that they are compliant to health and safety regulations to attract customers. This includes mandatory masks/gloves, regular sanitization, social distance measures, etc. Retailers need to install touch-based kiosks and POS (Point of Sales) tools that can help consumers order their favorite products with little to no human interaction.
Multichannel Order Management
In today’s market, consumers are using various channels to conveniently shop their products. So, retailer need to use all available online and offline channels for their sales and marketing efforts. By using a multichannel order management (MoM) system, retailers can easily track and trace orders from all the channels efficiently. The MoM system also helps retailers maintain consistency across all sales points.
For a brick-and-mortar retailer, digital transformation is a high-risk task. This is because most of their framework is based on offline sales and marketing. Therefore, they should be smart in using digital tools. Online-to-Offline (O2O) is a strategy that will help brick-and-mortar retailers to use WhatsApp, mail, social media and other digital tools to nudge online consumers to make offline sales.
Smart Stock Management
Stock management during the pandemic period is a tough task as retailer cannot properly gauge product demand and customer behavior. If retail chains do not have proper product data, they can end up stocking products that don’t sell or run out of stock of in-demand products. Therefore, retailers need a smart stock management system. One option is using a PIMS (Product Information Management System) to collate product purchase and sales information into a single screen. This will help predict product demand and automate product purchases. PIMS also manages stocks smartly across multiple sources efficiently.
Intelligent Logistics & Fulfilment
Due to transit and logistical restrictions, supply chain and distribution has become a major challenge for retailers. Moreover, the demand for direct-to-consumer sales methods like drop shipping has completely changed retail distribution. First and foremost, retailers need to concentrate on local suppliers to have better control over their product lines. In addition, they should also shift to a connected supply chain that uses IoT and AI systems to track, forecast and ship products in a fast and efficient manner.
The above-mentioned steps will help retailers navigate the tough post-pandemic market efficiently. Small and medium retailers who are new to these processes can also partner with experienced platform provider like Invenzo Labs to improve their competitive positioning and expand sales. Invenzo Labs can help retailers create customized and smart sales, marketing, logistics and warehouse management strategies using the latest tools in the field.