Retail and Coronavirus

Retail in the time of COVID-19

Corona Virus Retail

The rapid spread of “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” which causes COVID-19 or the coronavirus disease has officially infected more than hundred thousand people across the Globe as off 7th March 2020. As scientists are still struggling to get a conclusion over the extinction of the virus, retail is surely turning into one of the worst hit industries due to the outbreak.

Retail Industry has faced major disruption majorly through technological advancement in the last two decades. Especially the last 5 years have seen a complete change in consumer behavior affecting the way they buy products. The advent of omnichannel is perhaps the culmination of such changes in human buying pattern. Retail industry has always come out with a consolidated approach in facing such “happy” challenges. However, in all due respect to our prediction and artificial intelligence, the COVID-19 outbreak has caught the industry by surprise.

Supply Chain Disruption

How Global Supply Chain is Getting Effected by COVID-19

Perhaps most disrupted is the supply chain. And unfortunately, supply chain is the core of retail business across the globe. As warehouse across China are closing shutters, the global supply chain is facing a war-like crisis. The crisis is not only circling around the brick and mortar but even to e-commerce giants like Amazon. This is absolutely an unprecedented condition where both production and supply-chain are affected simultaneously. The condition is going to get worse with each passing day. I have never seen senior executives of retail so unsure about the days to come.

Consumer behavior changes in crisis

Consumer behavior is also going to change ridiculously as the crisis spreads more. According to Amazon and Target, consumers have started staking daily use products which is seeing a 15% rise in demand. With COVID-19 also rises the rumors which is at times deadlier than the disease itself. People in many country have started stocking essential materials at home. Unnatural buying pattern often introduces an imbalance over the supply chain mechanism.

Abandoning brick-and-mortar stores

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According to a report by Coresight Research, shopping malls are still the third largest place of abundance after public transport and international travel. But countries like Dubai or Thailand has definitely reasons to worry. Dubai has an expatriate driven economy but more importantly Dubai Expo 2020 is to attract over 25 million visitors from over 192 countries. The inflow of tourists has decreased significantly over the last one month. Without a quick resolution to the COVID-19, the situation will remain uncertain and enough for giving sleepless nights to those invested heavily for the biggest event in UAE.

Retail will survive COVID-19

No doubt that retail will survive this threat. But what retailers will do during this time? There are always two ways to look into a problem.

  • I give up and leave it to the almighty
  • I take preventive actions and prepare myself for the next threat.

Undoubtedly, I prefer to go with the second option.

Best time for the CIOs to introduce changes

Those who are looking for a process change and system change, this is the best time to implement changes. Retail is changing and omnichannel or mobile-commerce is here to stay. But it requires huge effort for a CIO to implement the changes within the company. Most of the time, the day-to-day operational challenges prevent significant changes to take place. As the footfalls in store is bound to reduce, it is the right time to introduce changes within the company. It may sounds a bit harsh but a reality. System changes always brings some elements of risk. The risk is minimal when the transactions are less. Again, it may sound a bit odd but a realistic one for sure.

Omnichannel Retail

The advent of COVID-19 has proved once again the importance of omnichannel. If one of the channels of sale does not work, have the other channel ready. But irrespective of the channels of sale, you cannot compromise over the control. If you have a system that becomes your single source of truth, you have less to worry. It is time for retailers to implement a uniform Order Management System (OMS) that connects all channels seamlessly while providing a real time visibility of your stocks and inventory.

The consumer demand will grow. While the impulsive buying may reduce for sometime, the need based demand will not reduce. The supply-chain issue is also temporary. Utilise the unpredicted dull season to do something constructive and long-term for your organization.

Use Social Media to Spread Awareness

One of the greatest challenge in this time is mis-information. Half-baked knowledge based over mis-information is spreading across the society. It is important that retailers use their social media handles more diligently than ever. Talk to your digital marketing agency and devise a plan of action. You need to talk to your consumers to educate them about the situation and how you as a brand is taking utmost care of your consumers. You need to instill confidence in people who are morally down. You need to bring them back.

Life will go on…

Human civilization is strong enough to tackle a virus. More than anything COVID-19 is not that fatal as it was with SARS or EBOLA. It is just a phase and it will be over soon. But life will not stop so is retail. It is time to exercise the power of true globalization and treat the globe as our common home. It is no more your country or our country. The virus on the hindsight has united the world like never before. Let us fight it together. But don’t forget to utilize this time to achieve operational excellence by trying new methods and technologies.

Read it at LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/retail-time-coronavirus-sunando-banerjee/

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