From ever-changing consumer behavior to unprecedented demand on the supply chain, COVID-19 has forced change across retail.
Despite cities beginning to reopen, many companies will continue practicing work-from-home measures. Shutterstock / fizkes
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly been marked as a time of disruption across all industries with mass amounts of uncertainty leaving consumers and businesses to adapt ever-evolving reactions.
The world moved quickly into “new normals” with worry and fear driving consumer behavior. Worried for health and cleanliness, consumers opted for contactless transactions and many adopted hoarding behaviors. Shifts to e-commerce have perhaps been the most consistent across industries. As early as mid-March, surveys conducted by retail predictive analytics company First Insight found 75 percent of consumers admitting personal shopping behaviors had been impacted. Early reports found initial declines in U.S. shopping though saw great increases as consumers began shopping for items conducive to spending long periods of time at home and consumer markets who have historically shopped in-store pivoted to e-commerce.
The coronavirus outbreak also put a spotlight on supply chains, which experienced unprecedented disruption. Almost immediately, as consumers began panic-buying, demand for essentials was amplified, leaving distributors without historical sale data to inform supply decisions. In many cases, labor shortages impacted fulfillment as well. Companies like Amazon faced a surge in demand for deliveries during the crisis, but drivers and warehouse workers feared contracting the virus or struggled with care for children who had been sent home from school.
More than ever, companies needed a way to manage supply chains remotely and in many ways, the crisis served as a tipping point for digitalization. New models have emerged during the pandemic, including a “supply chain of the future” created by First Insight and Li & Fung, which uses Voice of Consumer analytics for better product and pricing decisions.
As companies continue to navigate ongoing disruption, WWD asked industry solution providers and thought leaders to share advice for times ahead.
Greg Petro, chief executive officer of First Insight
“Magnify. Accelerate. We control our own destiny. COVID-19 has shaken retail’s reality to the core. COVID-19 is not a disruption, it’s an accelerant. It has magnified and accelerated everything that is good and everything that is bad. In order to adapt and succeed in the new retail market, retailers and brands need to accept and acknowledge what’s happening in the environment, particularly with consumers. We must overcome a fundamental lack of customer understanding to succeed. We control our own destiny.
“In today’s new world there’s a brand new, constantly changing consumer, and with that comes the need for new leadership. Retail executives need to take a position and point of view around their products. Now more than ever retailers need to stop and look forward, not backward. With no reliable historical data, looking in the rearview mirror is no longer useful. There’s no way to forecast your way out of this situation. It’s time for an industry change, with actionable solutions.
“The key to recovery is implementing voice of customer analytics, strong data-driven product strategies, and strategic digital solutions. Understanding the ‘new’ evolving consumer as they navigate this new world requires leadership to change their behavior to understand and keep up with consumers’ constantly changing needs, wants, and points of view.”