Restrictions on retailing are starting to ease as government officials and public health experts gain more insight into the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. As retailers prepare for customers to return, they need to start thinking carefully about how to respond most effectively.
Here are six things retailers can do to hit the ground running and maintain their competitive footing:
- Accelerate Timelines
Retailers will emerge from lockdowns with constrained cash flow. Customers may still be leery of leaving home or spending freely. These realities might seem to argue for a take-it-slow, wait-and-see approach.
But what if your competitors retool during the economic downturn and come back stronger when conditions improve? The only thing worse than months of economic misery would be to discover the competition has been eating into your market share.
Development strategies like Agile and DevOps give companies wide latitude to implement new technologies with speed and effectiveness, which can bolster competitiveness.
- Build Trust
Do all you can to reassure customers, employees and vendors that their safety and welfare comes first. You can do this with solutions such as:
- Curbside pickup to help customers maintain social distance.
- Contract-free mobile applications that eliminate cash and automate transactions.
- Virtual try-ons that use digital tools to help people envision how products will fit.
- Digital marketplaces that help you reach out to untapped groups of customers and suppliers.
As long as the pandemic lasts, consumers will fell anxiety about human contact. With the right technologies, you can help ease their concerns and lock in their loyalty.
- Eliminate Friction
As you implement trust-building solutions, always think about reducing the number of things people must do to complete their orders.
If you’re using curbside pickup, for instance, make sure it’s extremely easy for consumers to find out where they need to be when they arrive in your parking lot. Location-based technologies may be able to optimize this process. If people are using a cashless transaction app, make sure to minimize the number steps between the buying decision and closing the transaction.
Frictionless commerce is one of the best ways to craft an unforgettable customer journey.
- Optimize Supply Chains
A slowdown in business activity provides an opportunity to optimize your supply chain, from trucks to warehouses to employee staffing. Analytics software and learning algorithms can scan data from throughout your supply chain and find inefficiencies that would otherwise go undiscovered.
Moreover, solutions like robotic process automation (RPA) can eliminate repetitive tasks and make your workers more productive, which can streamline supply chain processes and improve customer service.
- Combine Human and Machine Intelligence
For all the hype about artificial intelligence and machine learning, it’s important to remember that the best solutions use automation to help people work smarter.
Shoot for mixed-cognitive outcomes that use learning algorithms to mimic distinct human behaviors while freeing people to do what machines cannot: connect with customers on an intuitive, purely human level. For instance, learning algorithms can ensure that people find the best examples of the products they’re hunting for, while marketing and merchandising professionals can use their imagination to craft alluring messaging and irresistible offers.
- Leverage Data and Next-Generation Technologies
Mobile commerce apps, optimized supply chains and trust-building retail solutions generate massive volumes of data that retailers can leverage to customize their shopping experience. Two advanced technologies can help:
- Augmented reality. The newlyweds shopping for a sofa want to know what it looks like in their living room. The teen shopping for sunglasses wants to know how they’ll look on her face. Augmented reality (AR) uses data to insert visual layers into mobile and desktop apps to give consumers a better idea of how a product fits into their world.
- Conversational commerce. Chatbots and voice-activated apps provide low-touch solutions that are ideal for safety-minded consumers.
The Experience You Need to Reopen Retail
At DMI, we have the combination of people, skills and strategic insight retailers need to rebound from economic uncertainty and get back to the business of making their customers happy. We’ve worked with retailers of all sizes in multiple sectors, and we have a full suite of retail solutions to improve outcomes at every link in your chain, from supplier to customer to service after the sale. Our dedicated Accelerated Solutions experts use Agile and DevOps methodologies to deliver powerful solutions on tight timelines. Finally, our human-centered approach helps you meet the needs of today’s mobile consumers.
–John Blackburn, executive vice president, commercial