COVID-19 : A Catalyst for Omnichannel Acceleration
By : Donald Felbaum , Aptos
COVID-19 will serve as a catalyst for change in retail . Retailers have the opportunity to cater to the new shopping behaviors that are emerging through the use of innovative omnichannel strategies and technology .
For Filipinos , malls are not only a shopping destination , they are part of our lifestyle . These venues are where we go to meet friends , have a drink , attend events , and access utilities and services . Now , due to the pandemic and shopping shifting to online , retailers need to establish digital journeys that are as enjoyable and fulfilling as in-store experiences .
While eCommerce penetration is still low compared to other countries such as the United States or China , and some important challenges remain ( such as the majority of consumers preferring to pay in cash ), the Philippines is poised to undergo tremendous growth in eCommerce over the next few years .
As a result , there is tremendous omnichannel sales potential on the horizon , but retailers need to act fast and strategically to capitalize on it .
According to McKinsey , “ Fully 75 % of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to ‘ normal .’ Companies will need to ensure that their digital channels are on par with or better than those of their competition to succeed in this new environment .”
Now is the time for retailers to invest in their digital and omnichannel strategies to reach shoppers on their evolving purchase journeys .
First , build robust digital capabilities
While most retailers agree that omnichannel is the future of commerce , many still struggle to connect the dots when it comes to building a solid omnichannel strategy . The first step to omnichannel excellence is to identify which channel will resonate the most with your shoppers and focus investments in that area . While stores will certainly stay relevant – particularly those stores that continue to evolve their roles and experiences – retailers also need to accelerate their ability to connect with consumers via the web , apps and social accounts .
For companies that have traditionally relied on physical retailing , digital maturity is essential for gaining higher business resilience . Regardless of the customer journey ( customers might browse retailers ’ digital channels to get information , compare prices or to make a purchase ), the process must be seamless and thoroughly tested .
Product videos , high-quality / 3D images and product reviews can boost confidence in buying online for those customers who are newer to eCommerce .
For retailers who have long relied on foot traffic , creative media assets and digital initiatives such as livestreaming are key in order to inspire customers and reproduce the intimate and engaging experience they can find in stores .
Then ( and just then ) tighten the links between digital and physical
Once an eCommerce offering is robust and digital communication is mastered , retailers should take the next step to integrate the online and physical realm .
This can include offering services such as buy online and pick up / return in store , the ability to order items in-store that may not currently be stocked , and the option to reserve an item online and pay upon collection .
A true omnichannel approach breaks down barriers for customers so they enjoy a seamless experience no matter how they prefer to shop . As the lines between physical and digital continue to blur , more retailers will leverage their stores as fulfillment centers for online orders .
Online transparency into in-store inventory will also be crucial for retailers to deliver meaningful , positive omnichannel experiences for their customers .
Apply technology built for the omnichannel world
Omnichannel success requires unprecedented precision in the way retailers manage products and inventories . As customers react differently to the pandemic and historical data can be unreliable , investing in forecasting and replenishment applications should be a priority for retailers .
The New Normal
Data-driven technologies that can help simulate different scenarios , plan across channels and reforecast promptly as conditions change are critical to providing the flexibility businesses require . More sophisticated and scalable supply chain and order management capabilities can also help retailers ensure that the right inventory is available to promise and that those promises are kept , whether the order is being shipped from a distribution center , picked up in store or shipped to the home .
Recovering from the COVID-19 crisis will look different for every retailer . For some retailers , new strategies may include tapping into selling features on social networks to better engage their customers . For other retailers , it could include accelerating the implementation of omnichannel fulfillment options so that customers can make and receive purchases on their own terms .
Regardless of the omnichannel path chosen , there is no “ going back to normal .” There is only the new normal ahead . Retailers need to adapt their business models in line with anticipated changes in their customers ’ behavior with the help of modern technologies that were built for the omnichannel era .