Silver Lining at the end of a dark cloud?

Covid-19 Crisis and Retail Landscape

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Many say that the coronavirus crisis is like fighting a war. However, the truth is we can win the war but when we are fighting against something like Covid-19, then the goal is not about winning but to adapt. That is how we are going to win in the long-run. It is not just about the survival of fittest but more about being the swift adaptable. Now with a few months into the crisis, we are thinking about what the world will look like once the crisis ends or what would be the next normal. The retail industry is heavily affected by Covid-19 and there are few measures that need to be taken care of to deal with during and after the crisis.

Below are some key points for retailers that could make them ready and capable for the next normal of Covid-19 and any future crisis:

Digital Transformation: Those retailers who have been delaying the digital transformation should now accelerate it. The customers who enjoyed shopping in stores are now very much inclined to shop online, or at least buy online and pick at the store. The retailers who already have an online presence have an advantage over pure physical retailers, as online retailers can still reach their customers when the stores are closed for an indefinite time. Therefore, it is high time for retailers to adopt digitalization of their physical channel and provide a seamless experience to their customers regardless of the external situations (weather, pandemics, war, political upheaval, etc.)., an online platform launched by the Austrian Post saw the number of visitors to their site almost quadrupled since the coronavirus measures were put in action. Both customers and retailers are equally showing interest in the online marketplace. This platform received requests from hundreds of dealers to join the same.

Invest in your people: Empathize with your customers, and invest in your employees to safeguard their health. Thermal screening at the entrance of the store, sanitizer and wipes to clean carts, etc. will make shoppers and employees feel safe and taken care of. The retailers should be more prompt in understanding the situation, so extensively communicate about the measures you are taking that may not be easily visible to customers (such as back office, production, or storage site safety and hygiene). Many businesses put people ahead of their profits during a crisis. Now, the retailers need to understand that it will be about how they serve people differently, with a snugger connection between human needs and economic growth, and between environmental needs and economic affluence.

Little steps can take a long way: It is not always about doing huge investment in terms of technology or training workforce but it is about tweaking the business model or the way business is done to promptly fulfill the arisen need. It is not always about expensive technology but most of the time it is about the business model.

A restaurant in a town in Sweden started sending lunch packets to school kids who are staying at home. As they have fewer visitors at the restaurant so, they have staff free to do the home delivery, easing the life of parents who are working full time from home, and at the same time improving their customer base and profits.

Invest in technology: Contactless methods for payment as well as delivery (digital payment and click and collect) and drive-through facilities, which have been a nice add-on feature earlier, have become a necessity now. Sweden is not locked down, the grocery stores are running as usual. The major grocery retail chains such as Ica, Coop, and Willys, etc. had self-check-out kiosks and handheld scanners for long. Most people use these scanners in the store thus limiting the queues at checkout counters without Covid-19 or with Covid-19 situation. The investment in such technology is crucial.

Continuity Plan: Technology has flattened the world in terms of reach, global supply chain and operations have become the norm. World today is not just interconnected but it is interdependent and in many ways even joined. This has driven a lot of economic progress but it has also meant that when things go bad in one place, the trouble can be transmitted farther and faster than ever. Retailers need to have a relationship with not only global suppliers but also with local suppliers, who can keep the supply chain running even at the time of global crisis.

Crisis Management Plan: Preparing for a pandemic or crisis is an essential component of a business plan. Pandemics or crises can not only interrupt an organization’s operations and compromise the long-term viability of an organization but also disrupt the establishment of critical functions. Businesses that have crisis plans can significantly reduce harmful impacts; it can play a key role in protecting employees’ and customers’ health and safety and limit the negative impact of a pandemic on the community and economy. Therefore, firms need to pay attention to developing and preparing a team and plan that can help minimize the crisis effect.

Special thanks to Anita Mirijamdotter, Diana Chroneer, and John Jeansson.

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Special thanks to Anita Mirijamdotter, Diana Chroneer, and John Jeansson.