The Five Key Capabilities Retailers Must Possess post COVID

Retailers around the globe are welcoming customers back as all stores are allowed to reopen after being shuttered for months.

Relief of returning customers is evident in all regions and segments. Chinese stores have already reported a bounceback from shoppers. American Eagle, after the initial reopening of half its stores, says demand is back to 95% of what it was before they closed. Luxury retailers are seeing a boom as consumers indulge in ‘revenge shopping’ (against the virus).

While customers are returning, it is far from “business as usual” for retail. The COVID pandemic has created new customer expectations for safety and convenience, several of which will remain even after the virus is under control.

Habits are changing again, as are customer expectations. And while bricks and mortar stores are going to have to change their layouts to ensure the safety of their associates and customers, there’s an even more pressing need retailers need to address to get their stores working to their maximum potential.

Here’s the five key capabilities retailers need in order to survive and thrive post-COVID-19:

1. Anticipate customer experience

Habits are changing again, as are customer expectations. And while bricks and mortar stores are going to have to change their layouts to ensure the safety of their associates and customers, there’s an even more pressing need retailers need to address to get their stores working to their maximum potential.

With ecommerce soaring in popularity, logistics and fulfillment are becoming crucial to meeting customer expectations. Find out more about how to adapt to new shopping behaviours in a post-COVID-19 world here.

2. Achieve Unified Commerce

It’s vital you put systems in place now to accelerate your journey towards unified commerce. Retailers who have implemented technologies to allow for inventory accuracy and visibility prior to COVID – with enhanced ship from store capability and supply chain visibility – have been able to perform better than those retailers who don’t have the same visibility.

With real-time access to the same product, stock, order and customer information everywhere, all stores and online sales channels are unified. Alongside, with the ability to sell and fulfil everything from anywhere, you’ll never miss a sale and you’ll be able to give your customers what they want, when they want it. Not only does this benefit the customer, it will increase your sales and help you make better decisions.

You need to provide customer convenience across stock, purchase, payment, delivery and return. And you should be able to use tech to provide a personalized CX, for example through levelling up your clienteling by integrating your POS with a CRM solution.

3. Flexible fulfilment

When many retailers went into lockdown, they didn’t know what stock they had in their lockdown stores and had no way to use their stores as distribution or fulfillment centres.

It led to long delays for customers receiving their goods, it meant stock was static, and retailers were faced with a scenario where products were ‘out of stock’ online yet they were ‘in stock’ in locked down stores (but retailers had no way of selling them).

This is why having the ability to ship from store, create micro fulfilment centres, and turn closed stores into dark stores is one of the most important things you can be doing right now – both to be ready for the ‘new normal’ and to safeguard your business in the event of further disruption to the status quo.

To meet your customers’ needs in a cost efficient way you need to, not only amplify your store fulfillment possibilities with Click-and-Collect (BOPIS), Click-and-Reserve (ROBIS), Endless Aisle and buy, reserve and pickup in other stores, you also have to turn your stores into fulfilment centers, meaning ecommerce orders can be shipped from your stores and that stores can ship orders placed in other stores. With ecommerce sales soaring it’s also important for the stores to handle returns of goods bought online (BORIS). It will keep the costs for returns down and also stimulates upsales.

Not only does turning your stores into fulfillment centres make you more efficient and result in a better service for customers, it’s also more sustainable as it cuts down on shipping from centralized distribution centres.

All retail stores (closed or open) should be able to be used as fulfillment centers. And all inventory should always be available to sell everywhere. But from the perspective of the COVID-19 crisis and the risk of a similar situation recurring in the future – you need to have the ability to easily turn a store you have to shut down (either temporarily or permanently) into a dark store. Meaning, you can use or sell the stock of the closed store and deliver from the store whether it’s open or not.

4. Strengthen the Store

At this moment in time, your customers are your most valuable asset and that means doing all you can to retain them, build loyalty, and give them what they want – which includes helping them feel safe when they’re in your stores.

You should empower your store associates with mobile points of sale and customers will expect contactless payment methods. With mobile devices your associates can also quickly adapt to the need for things like curbside pick-up (especially important in a world where social distancing is going to be commonplace for the foreseeable future).

Mobile points of sale and contactless payments helped one of Sweden’s leading garden centres, to easily enable click & collect and curbside pickups. The result was an increase in sales by 50% in one month, compared to the previous year.

5. Data & Analytics

When you have a unified view of your omni data, it makes it easier to manage inventory and orders. This enables you to maximize your inventory availability, minimize your excess inventory, and, together with omni insights, make the right decisions at the right time.

When you have a unified commerce platform, it’s simple to access all inventory everywhere and manage orders in a cost efficient way, and you’ll use less capital by maximizing inventory availability and minimizing excess inventory.

What’s more you get a single real-time view of all in-store, online and ‘elsewhere’ inventory, smooth processes, and tools to improve accuracy. With real-time data the stores become the master of their stocks and store associates take greater ownership and responsibility over inventory management.

Accelerate your digital transformation today, turn your high levels of stock into cash, and provide your customers with a better service.

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