Three tips for retailers in a time of profound disruption

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As customers struggle to manage extraordinary disruption to their daily lives, it is more important than ever for retailers to deliver on the brand promise, creating a digital experience that instills a sense of partnership, trust, and value in the customer.

Retailers are experiencing an unprecedented level of market volatility as the current global public health crisis creates a host of financial, workforce, and supply chain concerns. Drawing on more than 50 years of experience advising clients across industries through countless financial, political, and social events, we offer retailers the following tips to manage the current environment without compromising service or convenience:

  1. Streamline the digital experience.

Many retailers will experience an influx of new online customers in the coming days and weeks. This shift places much of the burden of change on customers, many of whom are not digital natives and have varying levels of familiarity with online shopping.

To reduce friction, retailers should minimize the number of clicks within the customer journey, ideally taking the shopper from discovery to purchase with as few actions as possible. Brands should also lower the barrier to entry, removing gateways that require the user to enter their address, account information or other personal details prior to purchase. Finally, retailers can consider expediting the shopping experience for repeat or returning customers by personalizing the homepage with products and offers based on the shopper’s buying history.

  1. Push customers to digital channels.

While many retailers’ digital channels remain open for business, they may not be top of mind for all customers. Retailers should consider a multi-touch promotion strategy designed to build awareness of e-commerce options and push shoppers to these digital storefronts.

For example, retailers can take advantage of foot traffic near temporarily shuddered physical locations by posting information and offers featuring web, mobile, and app-based shopping options. Companies can also consider bolstering digital advertising campaigns, running ads on news, entertainment or other relevant sites that match their customers’ core demographics. Finally, companies can develop or promote a loyalty program in order to build a meaningful digital relationship and encourage customers to remain engaged on digital channels.

  1. Shift to autonomous stores and services.

The current global health emergency has raised a multitude of concerns about how to best protect the health and wellness of retail employees while continuing to serve the public. One option to limit interaction between staff and customers could be through autonomous stores and services.

For example, in Norway, grocery chain Coop launched its first fully autonomous store. This 24/7 location allows the company to manage high labor costs while also providing customers with premium levels of service and convenience. Though the concept may seem complex, setting up an autonomous store or retrofitting an existing location is a relatively straightforward process. Based on our experience with an EU-retailer, we estimate that such a project could be completed in as little as eight weeks on an accelerated timeline.

As customers struggle to manage extraordinary disruption to their daily lives, it is more important than ever for retailers to deliver on the brand promise, creating a digital experience that instills a sense of partnership, trust, and value in the customer. For more on how retailers can respond to today’s challenges and build long-term resiliency, please download our recent whitepapers, Imagine…there’s no retail and AI to the future.

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