Future-Proofing Your Business in the Era of COVID-19

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 21 Jul 2020

In the last three months, e-commerce has expanded and accelerated faster than ever before. With more need for speed and the demand for adaptability, the pandemic has become one of the driving reasons why a digital focus is more critical than ever.

The COVID-19 outbreak was unprecedented, and as a result, companies had to pivot sooner than expected. What was three year’s worth of groundwork had to be implemented within three months. Thanks to quick thinking and innovation, these times have helped businesses navigate the ways to stay strong in a crisis. So, how does a company stay flexible, agile and prepared for the next unprecedented event? 

Digital offerings became a necessity during the pandemic, with many customers using it as the only viable platform during lockdown. As a result, Australia was once three years behind the US and UK for e-commerce, but is now ‘on par’ with the leading countries, catching up in the span of 90 days. 

According to Scott Rigby, the Head of Digital Transformation, APAC at Adobe, APAC experienced a 56 percent decline in revenue streams over the next 12 months. Despite this, 84 percent are planning to increase their digital offerings in the next 12 months. 

While increasing a digital offering, many retailers need to consider creating a unified approach to tech. There are inevitable headaches that are adjacent to sudden changes, including multiple solutions to manage. From these various solutions comes the inconsistent brand experience across varying channels, slower time to market and disconnected data. 

Retailers who rely on technology that is not enterprise-grade often experience a delay in the competitive market – they can not see the latest trends in real-time or action them as they go. As far as customer experience goes, the faster you can adapt and pivot to each change in the market, the better the experience will be for the consumer. 

COVID-19 Struggles and Recovery

Australia’s wide population distribution across the country is one of the catalysts for its slower expansion into e-commerce. However, the pandemic forced the country to catch up with the rest of the world. Following the peak of the pandemic, Australia became ‘on par’ with the US and UK markets. As such, the “traditional commerce transformation is being commodified,” said John BouAntoun, Commerce Practice Lead at Deloitte Digital.

Luckily, companies that were built on a ‘solid foundation’ sat relatively safe and sound during the pandemic. “Good foundation companies could pivot quickly,” explained Marcella Larsen, the Retail Industry Executive at Microsoft. However, for retailers without this foundation, there were apparent issues to be faced. “How do I create an online experience as good as the in-store experience?” Larsen explained to Power Retail. Relying on a cloud-based service or a platform that allows flexibility, agility and the opportunity to shift and pivot during a crisis is the answer. You can find out more about Adobe’s fast start services and partners here

All companies need the flexibility to adapt and survive to upcoming changes and challenges. During COVID-19, the rapid closure of China’s supply chain drove thousands of retailers to a halt. When considering the global supply chain in the future, companies must dip their toes into the water of other sources. “How do I shift my sourcing to other parts of the globe – so if there are any disruptions in one region, it won’t affect my business?” asked Rigby. 

Services that were once on the backburner have returned to the spotlight as a direct result of the pandemic. Subscription boxes have seen a ‘resurgence’, and may well be the future of retail. The reason for this? “They are working on an ongoing relationship,” BouAntoun explained. 

Suzie Young, the Head of Digital and Direct Marketing at Signet, understands how important it is to manage stock and supply during a time of crisis. “We went back to basics,” Young told Power Retail. “Luckily, we went into COVID with three months of stock across the country.” While Signet had a robust ERP reporting platform, the company had to work closer together than ever to get back to basics and ‘put the customer first’. 

The Future of Digital Commerce

So, what should retailers focus on to create a robust and sustainable future? According to BouAntoun, retailers should put their trust in personalisation, data, insights and customisation. “Remember, it’s not a one-off interaction with your customer; it’s ongoing,” he explained. 

Putting the customer first is always at the forefront of a company’s mind. However, as the pandemic caused shock waves throughout the industry, the expectations of customers changed dramatically. “The future is personalisation,” Young told Power Retail. “It’s gone leaps and bounds in a BTC platform.” Retailers should ensure their offering includes personalised content, product recommendations and featured services. 

While the pandemic was a chance for e-commerce to expand and catch up with the rest of the world, it also gave businesses the perfect reason to discover untapped possibilities. In a time of a crisis, companies that are fully equipped with the right tools can help the team get back to basics faster, and continue putting the customer first when they really need it.

Power Retail is dedicated to providing critical and live e-commerce retailer benchmarking data and shopper insights for the online retail industry. Click here to find out more about Power Retail E-Commerce Intelligence or here to sign-up for the free weekly Pulse Newsletter for more essential online retail content.

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