The State of Retail Post-Pandemic

How to optimize and get the most out of 2021

2020 – Well, it could have been better. Retailers have pivoted and adapted like they’ve never done before – on shoestring budgets, with little planning, and a lot of virtual duct tape. So, the biggest takeaway we can all agree on? No one can afford to run their business in 2021 the same way. Plus, we all want a little bit of normal back, even if it’s a new normal.

We saw retail buying trends that no one could have predicted. What consumers are buying, and how they’re buying it have forever changed. Before the coronavirus hit the U.S., just over 15% of retail sales were online or otherwise outside of a physical storefront in January of 2020. By the time April rolled around, that number shot up to about 20% of sales, and since then came back down to about 16% of sales by the end of September. It’s been a retail rollercoaster to say the least.

Now, the big question – what can retailers do to plan better, smarter, and more cost effectively going forward? The answer lies in staying connected with consumers and meeting their new and ever changing expectations. Let’s break it down…

Customers Expect More

The rush of new and existing consumers using delivery apps, curbside and in-store pickup, and home delivery will continue, so retailers need to be prepared. If they were using a third party provider for any of these services just to get up and running, now is the time to consider bringing it in house to make it a more efficient part of the Omni -channel shopping experience.

A recent NY Times article highlighted how restaurants that focused on using app-based delivery services post-pandemic – out of necessity – are now feeling the financial strain of this initial quick fix. With many of these apps charging fees of 30 percent or higher per order, restaurants are now looking to invest in software of their own to handle their delivery services, so that they’ll actually see an ROI long term and meet the new expectations of their customers. This is not just a competitive advantage anymore, it’s a necessity.

Customer expectations will continue to be higher and customer service even more paramount. Shopkeepers and their staff are having a moment and upping customer service at every level will only benefit retailers. Personalization is also a big part of this picture. Customers want to feel special and that they are getting a product or experience that is unique to them. And they love to share their experience, so customer reviews and feedback are more important than ever

The New Retail Landscape

Retailers are going back to school, so to speak. here’s a lot to learn about social commerce, the new retail calendar, the blended retail experience, and so much more. Raconteur reports’ The Future of Retail highlights some areas retail should expect to focus on including the return of brick and mortar, the personal shopping experience, setting a higher customer service bar, smart supply chains, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As our world continues to evolve, settle and find its new way of being, the retail shopping experience will need to adopt right alongside. Creating a seamless shopping experience will allow retailers to adapt to any unplanned shifts in buying habits or trends. Smart supply chains will be imperative as we saw how frustrated consumers were during the pandemic by lack of inventory, hoarding and delivery delays. Retailers who may have put physical retail first and digital second in the past, will most likely be making a shift to thinking digital first.

Social media selling, apps and AI will be more important than ever. In fact, experts see AI powered search as one of the most important tools in online retail. Consumers who may have only been dipping a toe into the pool of buying via social media are doing in a bigger way than ever before. Small business is also having a moment, so shopping small has its benefits whether you’re an emerging business or a large retail brand looking to connect with more small businesses. The retail calendar could look different, so putting solutions into place that allow retailers to adapt to whatever the future looks like, will allow them to work smarter and faster

It’s all about the Data

Put simply, retailers need to make sure they are putting software solutions in place for 2021, and the focus should be on data. Many retailers were already under pressure prior to the pandemic, struggling to adapt to a growing online world and seeing lower margins amid trying to keep up with the competition. The Covid-19 outbreak has just added to all of this.

Today, every shopping journey is connected. We’re living in an Omni-channel world. That means a retailer should be able to link data insights from a customer’s online behaviors, in-store shopping, and use this insight to see opportunities to improve the customer experience. Data points the way forward and shopping data helps connect the dots.

The reality is that shopping data is already being collected by everyone from search engines to delivery services to social media companies. Retailers need to be accessing this data as well. Consumers leave a digital footprint everywhere they go and at every interaction. Shopping data can influence everything from what products are in a store, to where they’re located, to how the store layout and even where the physical store location. Data doesn’t just help a retailer’s online shopping strategies – it can drive decisions in store too.

Tools of The Trade

So, what are the software needs at retail to help set the stage for this new retail landscape? It revolves around Development as a Service (DaaS). That’s programming and coding on a project basis that connects machine learning, data science, and AI to your store’s apps, website, and more. Making a retailer’s back of store, brick and mortar, online marketplaces, logistics, and the customer experience work together. creating a multichannel approach to connect everything that makes a retailer work better, smarter, and faster. Whether it’s Point of Sale (POS), Order Management Systems (OMS), or Customer Relationship Management (CRM), you need all of these key parts of your business to work together seamlessly.

Retail Software should focus on:

  • E-commerce
  • Inventory control
  • Point of Sale (POS)/payment processing
  • Order Management Systems (OMS)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Interestingly, retail sales through November 2020 (excluding gas, auto and food services) rose 6.6% as compared to the same period in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This means that some retailers are already adapting and adopting to grow their businesses forward. At the end of the day, any new software should be a growth tool that is an extension of a retailer’s business, not an unnecessary burden.

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