Covid-19 and the retail sector: the opportunity behind the crisis

Covid-19 and the retail sector: the opportunity behind the crisis

When tackling any crisis, it takes the right amount of courage to imagine feasible alternatives to the traditional way of life. It was like this back in 2001 when the events of September 11 forced the entire world to raise the levels of attention and brought the sense of security to the top of basic needs with consequences to how we travel and live within a community. This was also the case in 2003 when the SARS epidemic in China gave a boost to the development of e-commerce and the affirmation of digital giants such as Alibaba.

It will also be the same in the post-Covid era: the way of selling and buying, of relating, of moving in space or of working will change forever. How to make this precipice a stepping stone? The potential to make the most of this change is all within our reach.

It is difficult, almost impossible, to imagine that retail can take advantage of a global pandemic that has thrown the entire planet into recession.

Yet the reality is different: set in the New Normal – i.e. the world transfigured by Covid – every business can be reconfigured and rearranged, according to innovative assets, to better seize market opportunities.

How? HBR mentioned this in a recent article, underlining the urgency to act before it is too late.

The risk? That of being excluded from a market where new habits are already consolidated: after all, a study conducted by the European Journal of Social Psychology states that on averageit only takes 21 to 66 days to form a new habit. In other words: the very long days of lockdown that saw us closed at home last spring, were more than enough to make us significantly change our consumption styles.

This is the starting point for companies that want to relaunch their business, asking themselves “what changes have influenced the behaviour of my target and how this will change the way they buy and consume”? Analysing each transformation in detail, even if apparently not inherent to our business sector, can bring out hidden and useful facts to be exploited as a recovery lever.

For example, the lockdown in Italy and the obligation to stay at home – to go through this 24 hours a day in all its troubles – have relaunched the restructuring sector, marking a + 19.4% compared to the previous year. Around the world, closed schools with home-bound children – and parents forced to entertain them – have meant millions of new subscribers to children’s TV channels, including Disney+.

n short: just intercept a need to reshape your business offer and relaunch.

The second step is to evaluate whether the changes refer to existing or completely new trends and, above all, if they promise to remain unchanged over time or will be just a flash-in-the-pan.

Regarding customer experience, the shift of customers from brick & mortar retail to online shopping had already begun before the pandemic: Covid has only accelerated and consolidated an emerging phenomenon. Is it an enduring trend that deserves an all-in effort? When evaluating this, be careful to always and only rely exclusively on consolidated data and not to rush to conclusions: according to market analyses, consumers will not completely abandon the brick & mortar store – so lowering the shutters and turning on e-commerce could prove to be a flop – but rather there is the promise to integrate into two business models, to reap the benefits from both possibilities.

What’s the solution in this case? Opening up to multi-channels, enriching the physical experience with digital tools that guarantee immediacy and speed and enhancing the online experience with services capable of restoring humanity and a physical relationship.

A winning ally is ShopCall: the video call shopping tool that allows shopkeepers with a brick & mortar store to receive customers by video call, to accompany them through the store advising them on their purchases, and to those who only have e-commerce to personalise the online shopping experience by putting a face to it and offering human and real-time assistance.

How to reshape your retail business?

Armed with hard data and fresh trends to ride, it’s time to reshape businesses to seize the market opportunities. Here are some tips to reconfigure a winning business model, structured for the post COVID-19 era.

1. Aim to expand the boundaries

The regular and neighbourhood clientele, the delight of small local businesses, can become an albatross in times of crisis and renewal: talking to a few can be too risky. It’s best to exploit the lifeboat of technology to finally get out of physical boundaries and reach new customers. To do this, the most effective and fastest channel is the online one, whether it is e-commerce or video call sales: a smartphone is enough to project your physical showcase in the virtual world and communicate to a wider clientele. In one click, each barrier disappears and the target becomes exponentially more numerous. And with this, earnings too.

2. Offer value to get value

The generation of value must lead to a virtuous circle, where both the consumer and shopkeeper are beneficiaries. And if it is easier to give more to your customers in the store – perhaps with a more attentive and accurate service – the same commitment should also be applied online. If you are the victim of lockdowns or restrictions or, simply, you want to combine the digital shop window with the brick & mortar one, do not forget to always provide a quality service to customers, going far beyond a functional and efficient, but sterile online shopping experience. Put your heart and humanity into it, building a relationship while focusing on visibility and relevance. A video call, for example, can completely transform the way you sell on the internet, according to ShopCall.

3. Invest, invest, invest

In times of crisis, the temptation is to batten down and save, in the hope of better times to come. Which perhaps, may take longer than expected to arrive. To survive you have to dare and invest, aiming to carve out a well-defined competitive position on the market.

What are the 3 levers to focus on to re-emerge? Technology, innovation and customer services that improve the customer experience and generate value: here is the winning combination is not only to survive the crisis but to grow and expand the reach of the business in the world to come.