Bracing for the Long-term: Five Key Lessons Retailers Can Learn From the Covid-19 Crisis

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No one really knows what the world will look like after the Coronavirus pandemic. The only surety is that things are bound to be different. The crisis has already ushered in an economic downturn in the US and seems certain to leave a mark on how consumers spend. It is no surprise, therefore, that retailers are and will be on the receiving end of this pandemic.

$40 billion. That's the estimated amount the SARS outbreak cost the global economy. Experts across the country believe the novel Coronavirus could cost the US four times as much. It's only April, but we've already seen widespread closure of retail stores- whether voluntarily or involuntarily- and there are no signs of this trend slowing down. What does this mean for retailers going forward?

Whether your store saw a dip in traffic early this year or you are optimistic for a lucrative post-Coronavirus season, this article covering retailer tips will be helpful. We will explain the critical lessons you can gather from these unprecedented times. Plus, how you can drive your retail business to long-term success.

1. Planning for the Long Haul

In previous years, brands focused on managing their finances over the short-term. However, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers need to go above and beyond their 'normal' financing strategy.

Brands need to make critical decisions about investments. This way, they'll understand which are mandatory for business success both in the short-term and long-term. Such initiatives include:

  • Clear and measurable outcomes traceable at regular intervals (after every week).
  • Provide quick product value through feasible cost savings. Given the likely reduction in demand, revenue growth is best off as a prospect.
  • Deviate from small, un-fungible teams that suffer from single points of failure. Alternatively, brands need to relocate workers from other teams to reinforce delivery.

When a program is mission-critical, brands need to support it with the appropriate level of executive focus. That boils down to great marketing insights. The bottom-line? Retailers need to make the right financing decisions now more than ever.

2. Seeking the Perfect Emotional Connection

It is common knowledge that buying-decisions thrive based on consumer emotions. Having a concise framework for emotional drivers will help retailers deliver products tuned to customer value, during, and after the pandemic.

In this context, we've picked the ones we think are the most relevant:

A sense of wellbeing seems vital. Enterprises need to devise ways to satisfy the wellbeing of their customers, both emotionally and physically. For instance, they can start by streamlining the shopping experience to save customers' time.

A sense of confidence and security in the future can work magic. Brands must assure customers that what is happening now is only a passing storm that will wither SOON. They need to provide a positive mental picture of what the future holds. In light of the current pandemic, Pandora issued a statement saying:

"For your reassurance as a customer, all our jewelry is packed in a polybag inside our anti-tarnish pouches, free from contact."

3. Coping with Germaphobia

The pandemic is unlikely to end with the elimination of COVID-19, but rather, a vaccine. Coronavirus variants can crop up again in the year 2021, and a long-term pandemic remains a real possibility. Unlike before, when customers were not germ-cautious, a new reality awaits retailers. Hands-free deliveries may become an inevitability. For instance, salad bars, self-service food products, and communal buffets are likely to be less welcome. Brands will need to craft hands-free consumer experiences with a focus on hand hygiene.

4. Redefining Societal Contexts

With the outbreak of COVID-19, a new polarization may set in on us. Financially, people have to deal with the setback in various ways. Some are spending less, while working remotely. Some are on compulsory furloughs. Others, unfortunately, have lost their jobs.

Retailers have to adapt and show empathy if they want to remain relevant to customers now and into the future. They should shun from using an enthusiastic tone. Rather, finding ways to help the community through the pandemic should be their main priority. Going forward, their messaging should depict the kind of things people want to hear. That includes staying in control and obtaining basic supplies.

Many grocery stores are leading the pack, lending a hand to the most vulnerable (including National Health Service staff) to do shopping safely by providing extra delivery services.

5. Marching Towards the Digital World

Even before the virus became prevalent, most retailers were experiencing a behavioral change. Digital shopping had disrupted the growth of many product categories- entertainment, books, and electronics. Others were in the initial stages of their transition to virtual shopping.

The Coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the shift to digital retailing. As consumers continue to practice shelter-in-place orders, eCommerce orders for home essentials have become a means to an end for most Americans. Based on figures from Apptopia, the number of daily downloads for renowned grocery apps Shipt, Walmart, and Instacart has skyrocketed since February. Many Americans are trying out online digital shopping service for the FIRST time, too.

This trend has a significant impact on retail brands. As a result of order surges and delivery costs, digital shopping orders are less rewarding compared to typical in-house purchases. Retailers will need to come up with ways to boost the online unit economics of fast-moving products (for instance, groceries). Furthermore, the online experience doesn't naturally allow for new product trials, impulse purchases, or immediate consumption buys. Retailers all over the country will need to innovate digital means to rejuvenate these habitual behaviors.

Parting Shot

Every one of these factors will notably impact commerce as we know it, but this is not a bad thing. At least not entirely. Brands will emerge as a vibrant and essential part of consumer life. The secret to maximizing this off-season? Go digital, plan for the future, and seek to connect with your customers emotionally. We also hope that the lessons mentioned above will help you become ingrained in the consumers' life.

Need a helping hand? Rakuten Super Logistics can help you with any of your eCommerce fulfillment and logistics concerns. We know what it takes to run a successful eCommerce business, and we have the resources to make that possible. Request a quote today!